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Alex Campbell Interview Transcript

September 18, 2000
Alex Campbell ,
Deputy Minister for Northern Affairs
PO Box 5000
LaRonge, Saskatchewan S0J 1L0
W - 306-425-4207
Fax - 306-425-4349


You're the Deputy Minister of Northern Affairs in the province of Saskatchewan. Do you want to talk about what you do or how you came to do this work? Or,


 First, a little bit of who I am I guess and how I ended up in Saskatchewan. Primarily my career started off working at the local government level, developing local governments and working in northern communities, starting off in northern Manitoba promoting local government as well as trying to work in communities on community development itself and how to, get a community of people to work together.

Is that where you grew up?

I grew up in Moose Lake, Manitoba. Northern Manitoba. So my interest has always been working in remote communities because I grew up in a remote community to start, a community of a populace of about 1000 now, on a good day. And, at some point, at some time it was like a lot of remote northern communities; it was just a flying community. I used to remember when I was growing up, bureaucrats coming into the community on a small plane, a charter plane, coming on a float plane to come to meet with community people to try to organize as they sat because they thought these communities were unorganized. So, I saw that change growing up in Moose Lake where people were working together harmoniously, there was no differentiation between who is treaty and who is Metis who is another, individual, other races, eh, so. There wasn't any of that and people really chipped in to help each other when there were problems in the communities. Some family members in the community might go hungry, everybody chipped in to help that particular family, going out to hunt. Just getting some food for these families, and so the community really worked together well in that concept. That's the way I like to remember Moose Lake is that nice, harmonious, type of community in northern Manitoba. When development started to happen of course, changes, I saw changes starting to happen. By having these white bureaucrats coming into the community. And, in a 3 piece suit and briefcases meeting with local leaders and saying, this is not the way to do business, we're going to organize you, the water is not safe to drink, you need facilities for sanitation purposes. The list goes on about how they wanted to develop us because we were so unorganized and primitive in our ways. So they came in and, in the mid '60's I guess, '64, I remember my dad we were sitting around the table saying that these people came in to organize, and explain who we are as people. And he went on to say, he explained about how we should have a boundary, a municipal boundary, the way we know it now, a community council boundary as opposed to a treaty boundary. So, they started developing the community, of course, building houses and building roads and then telling us that on this side of the road is the treaty, on this side of the road is the Metis community. I saw two of everything going up in the community, two firehouse, two administrations, two, schools, 2 of everything, so there was, so that separation started in the community where people started to compete. And this war against each other as opposed to working together, eh? The other significant change I saw was when they constructed the all-weather road for the community. And again we didn't have much exposure to alcohol, drugs, and stuff like that. But in 1968 when they finished connecting the all-weather out to the community from the Pas, that's when we started to see more of these social problems, alcohol related problems, drug related problems, coming into the community. And they're at a high right now, they've been going steadily high, they're getting worse in that community. To the point even where some of the leaders of that town condoning these practices, so, another way of making money and using your own people to make money. So that's where it started, ever since I left Moose Lake. So I left and I worked in the Pas for about 7 years, in trying to make sure the communities are involved in some of this business making and local government affairs do understand what development means. What it means to modernize and become civilized in this world of ours according to some of the others outside the community and the region. So those things like that I tried to advocate that side of the scenario. Where I wanted to make sure that my own people understood where they would be going to before they started in that direction. But it's hard to change or facilitate against the change in modern society. When things are going to change, they change and you can't do anything about it. But the one thing I can do, though, is help educate of what these things are that are coming and how to combat some of these negative impacts that are coming in. So I worked with 7 communities in the Pas and the surrounding area, in the area of training municipal councils on how to do budgeting, financial management, cash flows, preparing budgets, doing workshops, municipal board workshops and stuff like that. I worked in the Pas and then I worked in Thompson for a while. Thompson, Manitoba. Almost 13 communities there that were in local government, community development work and as well I worked in the Dauphin region as well which is more southern part of Manitoba. I have about 12 communities there that were under my management, supervision, whatever you want to say.

We stayed in Riding Mountain.

That's right, yah. And again, it's in the related local government development training was my area of expertise, I guess if you want to say that. And then I moved up to the Northwest Territories and I worked in the eastern arctic for 4 years and it introduced me to a different level of thinking, I guess, in regards to modern technology. The area that I had just left in northern Manitoba wasn't as modernized or technically up there as the Northwest Territories was as the time. Because when I first joined the northwest territories' government I'm working in that region, it seemed like everybody had their own computer, workstations, when in northern Manitoba I was still working on the old typewriters. So all this was new to me. Now computers were taking over the world. So I got a sense of that as well and of course they're illiterate when it comes to the computers and the technology that they had. I was fighting the change, but I had to learn very quickly on how to use that as well, cause that was one of my, one of my roles was to facilitate putting in these computerized accounting systems in these northern communities.

So you've got to understand it.

Yah. But I started, before I moved to the northwest territories, I was a real bureaucrat, I started, I lost my sense of direction there for awhile. Because I became one of the bureaucrats that was flying into these communities and developing my own people. I was starting to lose sight of that and that's one of the reasons I wanted to move north and rejuvenate and restart my process. I had 7 years of doing local government work and starting off by saying, okay, we want to make sure communities understand these things before we go there. But in those 7 years I started to dictate more on how what is right for your community, as opposed to what are the real needs, eh? So when I moved up to the Northwest Territories the pace was slower, communities were more traditional, time wasn't of any importance. So that brought me back and told me that look, government is not the be all and end all of everything. There are other ways of doing things. What really brought, in fact it was early in my tenure in the northwest territories, about 6 months into the job I guess, I was at a meeting where I was, I had just finished doing a municipal evaluation on the community itself. And now I was going to be reviewing my evaluation with the council. And then in the middle of my presentation of all these things that should be improving the administration, somebody yells out in inuktikut, the language, the local language there, something that I didn't understand, and everybody just took off. Here I was this southern, I guess, southern bureaucrat mentality sitting there. Wondering what just happened, the people just took off on me, eh? And this is not supposed to happen, this is not the way it is in the.

We're having a meeting here!

Meetings are supposed to be adjourned and meetings are supposed to be this and that, right, so, it so happens that there was a whale that came into the bay so everybody went out whale hunting.

The whale was more important than work.

That's right, for three days I was there trying to organize, trying to get back to my meeting, but I couldn't get it going! So, that's when I realized that things are more important to people in these small communities than going through a municipal evaluation that they don't know anything about. So I decided, at that point I came back to work as well, and started doing more real community work. Like if my boss is in, saying that I need this and that today, I'll say, well we might get it done next month or next year, depending on the pace of this community. So I started working with communities. It's their time, it's their lives, and they're the ones who are going to live here, not me, you know, so whatever works for them. So that's how I worked.

Big change.

In that process. So I was doing that there for 4 years and I moved across, I moved back to Manitoba for a while to, to an environment field. I worked for the Manitoba government in the environment field. Regulating there, some of the projects that were going in northern Sask. Mining, forestry, stuff like that. I didn't last very long there. I wasn't, I'm not a regulator, I'm not an enforcement type of person and that's the way these positions evolved to be. Initially the government had great ideas to involve the communities in the north in their environmental management. Co-management processes, but the new government coming in, that was their big-ticket item. 6 months into their administration, the north wasn't a priority. So they started taking some of those initiatives that they said they were going to do off the table, so we were restricted to be more enforcement as opposed to environmental management and protection for the north, so, I didn't last long. So I moved up back to the Northwest Territories, but this time, to the West Side. Just about an hour from yellow knife, an hour's drive from Yellowknife. Northwest. A small community called Fort Rae. And there I worked with the Dogrib community. 5 communities. And again, from northern Manitoba, where we, northern Manitoba still didn't have the facilities for washrooms or that kind of thing, not as modern, eh? The government was in these communities in full force. And then in the Northwest Territories the eastern part they were automated, a lot of computers that administration, but the communities were more traditional, eh, But they were thinking that traditional lifestyles couldn't be followed. And then in Fort Rae, there is a particularly 2 of the communities in that region were more, about 20 years behind.


Yah, in its development. So one community in particular, Snare Lake they called it. Snare Lake was a breakaway community from Fort Rae. So a whole bunch of people from Fort Rae moved up north and started this community Snare Lake which was more of a traditional community with trapping, hunting, you know, they moved there to get away from government and to get away from the modernization, eh? So, and here I was again, back in this role, I was a regional superintendent, I had to develop these communities, these 5 communities and the administration, management of the community. And when I first moved, traveled into Snare Lake, it was like I said, going back 20 years in time, eh? Well there were still these log houses, wood stoves, caribou hides hanging inside the house, outside the house, being dried. Smoke houses all over the place. It was nice. It was a nice feeling going back. When I was going back, to me it was going back in time, eh? That's what I remember, back then elders doing that when I was just a little kid in Moose Lake. So, here's these old ladies walking around with moccasins and pissrubbers, you know, the old style of dressing. It was interesting to see that and then, and I said, we're not going to, I'm going to work very hard to help this community to maintain this. The very little I put into this community to destroy it, the better job I will do in my own feeling. But as a couple of months of progress in these communities, and one of my mandates, of course, is to deliver them these things, and of course, health, start going into Snare lake saying we need sanitation facilities and in your water, water pumphouse treatment station. We need people with proper toilets and facilities. What's required again, you know? So, this is the, I moved back in to the mid 60's, saying, this is 1990 in Snare lake, thinking about the same thing, now I'm part of this big government machine, eh,

You're the guy in the plane.

That's right. I 'm the guy in the plane, that's how I saw myself. I'm the guy in the plane going into this community and saying, you need a water treatment facility here and we're going to purchase 2 tractor trailers for you so that one of them can haul and take away garbage, one of them can pick up the honey buckets and take them to the dump. And we need a road here and a road there; we might put an airstrip over here. Oh, by the way, Mr. Migway, your house is right in the middle of the road, the road allowance, you're going to have to move your house. You know? And then I said, that's when I started looking for other work. So I said to myself, I'm going to start a law office. So I ended up in the, I did that for 3 years, but the last year into this, so that's when it really hit me when I went into snare lake and said, oh, there's something wrong here, eh? So I moved to Ottawa to work for the land claims organization. It's the land claims organization that initially negotiated the agreement with the federal government as well as the territorial government was involved in their, setting up the Nunavut territory. Nunavut territory was part of that agreement. Upon signing of the agreement the government agreed to set up the Nunavut territory. So the agreement was signed off and they were looking for a chief executive officer to come and implement the agreement and then that's where I got hired. Cause I knew the Inuit from the eastern arctic days, I worked with them for 4 years, so they knew me, so they were quite happy to see me coming and work with them. So I did that for 5 years out of Ottawa. We had an infrastructure set up in Ottawa and one of the first things I said to myself was why are we in Ottawa when the Inuit are in Nunavut? So, I set up the organization and I dispersed it and decentralized it to Nunavut. Their headquarters is in Iqaliut. So there's only 2 people working in Ottawa now, out of a, 54 at that time. There must have grown by now. So, but,

That's a big change.

So the rest of them went to the Northwest Territories and I went to Nunavut. And what's left is just a liaison, and 2 people there, eh, a clerical person and a liaison person to work with telegram down there.

So I did that for, 5 years. It was a lot of work, a lot of traveling, I guess I was,

You were based in Ottawa?

I was based in Ottawa. But I traveled to Nunavut, I set up three regional offices and one headquarters and the headquarters was in Iqaliut. After the dust settles that's how. And it was setting up land. A land administration office, an implementation office for the organization and as well, at that time, working for the two levels of government, the federal government and the territorial government at the time. To negotiate the Nunavut government itself. 1999 what's going to be there as a structure, what resources do we need money wise, infrastructure wise, people wise, language wise, and then the regulatory structure.

And what's the relationship between the two governments.

That's right. Yah. So I did that for five years, leading that process through all these organizations, worked on the board of directors, and so on. And then, after doing that this job came up in northern Sask. And I heard good things about this particular administration and the government of Sask. The good work that they're doing in the north in the mining industry and I wanted to come here, more curious then ever just to see what it's all about and how I can help facilitate change in northern Sask. And the opportunity came up, when the deputy minister's job came up I applied for it. And I got it. Two weeks later I had the job.

And you moved from Ottawa to,

Yah, I moved from Ottawa to LaRonge. Yah. After I bought a house, a month later I moved. But, what's always attracted me, you asked me the question, why northern affairs. My heart has always been in the north, working in the north. I didn't want to move to Nunavut. Because I have been there and I just wanted to take a break from all that. All that work and travel back and forth. And I wanted to focus on my family situation. And joining the government, I know would give me that time to think!


That's right.

Did your family move to all these places?


Your oldest kid is 22?

Yes, he's been with us all along.

22 years ago is Northwest Territories?

In the Pas.

So that was,

So he was with us in the Pas and in the northwestern territories and Ottawa, and now he's in Ottawa.

So how many kids do you have?

5-- 4 girls and one boy.

And how old is the youngest?


Four? It's an education!

Yah, yah. That's right. See my kids have been upset at times, we're uprooting them from their friends and moving them to other places. But other kids in these communities envy them because they have been in the Northwest Territories, they have been in Nunavut, northern Manitoba, they have been in Ottawa. Now they, they still don't see the benefits,

They don't understand how,

They don't understand that. But I'm sure once they're mature enough they'll understand that they've been almost in all of Canada. You know.

3 or 4 times so far as you've told a story you said, I realized I was going the wrong way, I was losing my way, or, what was it that lit that light for you and what was it that rekindled your. What was your grounding at those points when you felt turned away from what you saw as the wrong way to go?

Well, just experiencing the change, I guess, in Moose Lake, and seeing these, bureaucrats coming into the community. And seeing myself as one of them I think is a big downer on me, what it comes to carrying the work for the government and facilitating policy. So I think that's what brought me back to realization to say, look, these communities might not want government, these communities may just be happy the way they are, you know. And that's true once you initiate something, they start depending on whatever that initiative is. That's how it mushrooms, to me it gets worse. Like communities before government, before modern society, learned how to work together, live together, hunt together, be happy together, die together, do you know what I mean? And living together in togetherness. When you started seeing change, people started getting apart, coming apart. Most of the people, I think 50%, maybe 75% of the people in Moose Lake I'm related to, you know, most of them don't know that, when I go back in Moose Lake they don't even know who I am, or I don't know who they are, even though they're my second cousins or first cousins, you know? Yah. So that's how bad it's become, that separation.

What sustains you in the work, what keeps you getting up in the morning?

What sustains me is what, getting up in the morning and saying, what can I do today, with people here in northern Sask. That will make a difference for them. Incrementally, by the way, with their lives in the long run, what can I do as a senior policy maker of this government to facilitate progress in such a way that it involves people and they're in agreement with that progress, you know. That's how I see myself when I get up every morning. I'm like a small person, you know? A Joe blow on the street as opposed to the big logging companies, the big mining companies. I'm not too worried about them, they'll take care of themselves. But what I'm concerned about is what do we leave after for these people? What do we leave for La Ronge. If La Ronge was in such a state that they depend on mining money for their industry, what's there for them once these companies leave? Nothing.

What are they mining in the north?

Uranium. So, anyway, that's what sustains me is trying to move that along.

I know you're working to create collaboration and community beyond what people think their community is. Who do you see as your peer, who is the us, who is the, who are the other people doing the work that you think of as your team, or you're your fellow workers in the enterprise?

In government, it's hard to say who is on your team, eh? But I would say my the people that are on my team are the educators the social development promoters, at the community level. I think this is where I struggle with my role as deputy minister as opposed to the actual delivery people at the ground level, is that I lose that perspective, that community perspective, eh? Sometimes. I think community people and the front line people working out there are my peers. That's the way I've always viewed it. And I never lose, I don't think I've lost sight of that fact. And that I know what, what these people are trying to do and what they're trying to deliver these communities, you know? And I try to bring that experience at this level to sensitize the rest of this government in Sask. To say look, that's not what communities are telling, are saying here. You know.

Are you, are you overall hopeful?

Am I what?

Hopeful. Are things going to work out are things going to go better?

Oh yes, I'm always hopeful, I'm always hopeful, I'm always optimistic. Just to go back to your question, what do I, when I get up in the morning what do I want to see done, I guess that incremental difference the working with one of the northern people here, assisting them, do something for that day. It's progress.

To help some of the other organizers that will be looking through this, or just reading this, understand what those incremental steps are, what are some examples of that progress? I described it to one other person as, what are the magic moments, what are the, what is an example of when it really works well, what does it look like?

Good examples of what's working well, I guess, is when you when we're at a point where an organization and the communities are able to deliver their own their own services, their own programs, their own infrastructure, and to top it all off if we can give them the tools that they can do this on their own, you know, and that there's no hierarchy telling them what's right for their community. I think , if a community comes to us and says this is what's going to work for our community, this is what we propose to government. This is how we want you to work with us in this community. I think if we were there, I think that's the it's a way of going back to what I left in my own community before, before I started venturing out. That was before, it's a little bit of bringing that back, bringing the community back, back to the community level, and saying, these are our priorities, the children, the young people are our priorities, educating them is our priorities, educating them in our culture, in our language is a priority as opposed to government coming around and saying, we need your education level at this certain level, we want you to speak English no matter what, you know, we want you to learn the European history as opposed to the Native history, you know. So, it's that kind of thing, if that kind of a process was in these communities I think that I would be doing my job in northern Sask. If I left an organization in the north that can prioritize themselves, prioritize their relationships to themselves, prioritize what's important to them, have some decision making capacity in partnership with government, because the government has to be there, you know. If I at least leave those 3 things from this job. I'd be happy.

In this province there's a great history of pretty aggressive struggle. Starting with guns in the long ago history of this province. And I know in native and aboriginal affairs there have been a variety of approaches, some of them very angry. Where do you see that? What's happening with that and what role does that play and how do you relate to or react with that? Are you sort of on the other side of the table from some of it in some ways, how does the conflict and that kind of stuff play out now, in Canada in organizing, especially in northern affairs?

Well, one of the things that I try to do is listen to what the people are saying. I'm not reading into it; I'm not reacting to it. Its really my immediately, but listening to what they're saying, come down and hear them out and we as government, or myself, I'm trying to promote some compromise along the way where everyone is happy. I think that is my approach anyway. And, confrontational issues never, there's never resolving anyway, there's always room for compromise and if you listen to, for example, if we listen to northerners right now, what they're saying is okay, mining, and forestry companies and whatever else companies are in the north, they're not saying stop that, because you can't stop it, but they're saying, okay, how can you give, how can you leave some benefits here so that there's lasting benefits for us when you leave? How can we facilitate you taking on some initiatives in the north where we can benefit from the long run? They're saying that to mining. If you dig up a gaping hole in one of our communities, outside of our communities, how is, x community going to benefit from that in the next 20 years? You've been here 20 years, so you leave, now what? Make sure you leave something behind. So I don't think that's very much to ask industry. And what they're looking for is resources, when asked resources to get things going in these communities. Some business is going, some development corporation is going, community development organization is going, that's what they're looking at. So if industry can contribute to that process somehow, I think that would be a good step in the direction. Also they're telling government, we want to be part of the decision making, we want to be partners, as opposed to you setting up this advisory body and saying, this is the co-management body, you're an advisory body to government. What they want is you government and we community sit down together and commentating and decide on issues that effect the north jointly. If the government sees that and listens to people, they're not going to take away that full authority from government, but they want to work with that. I see that, more on lands, it's scary to me when it comes to land issues right? They don't want to be part of the decision making, they don't want to take control of the land, you know, and everything they want some influence on deciding how that land is going to be used. They want to be able to tell the government we need this area protected for fishing and trapping and traditional lifestyles; we need to protect that. They don't want the government coming in and saying, oh, history shows that there's a good geological site over here we'll protect that and leave that for future development. Or this area is good for the nature and trees and, and leave that as an ecosystem area, or whatever. And it's, scientists, and, what do you call them? Archeologists and people like that coming into the north and saying this is what's good for you, we're going to protect this area, we're going to use this area. The communities are saying, you let us decide that with you. You know, I think a lot of the confrontational issues affecting the aboriginal peoples in government could be avoided if we just listened and did what facilitated the people, what the people wanted, you know.

I want to follow up on the question about the aboriginal people in government. You've been in 2 provinces and 2 territories, well, you created a territory. Your professional career has been in government. I'm wondering what is the experience of being a first nations person in government.

Let's see, when I was working in the community, and when I was working at an officer level, like at a regional office, in a government office and then working in the at that level, the grass roots level, there's things that I wanted to have an influence on, there's things that I wanted changed. My way of thinking is thinking that the rest of the community thinks this way. All right, so, I have this grass roots experience, and I have this aboriginal perspective experience, eh, so, I said to myself, what if I become a senior person in government, so that's what I've been working for is being that senior person, so that I can influence some of these policies that are being made by government. , I have some perspective on these things, that I've had experience. I have an aboriginal perspective, without jeopardizing my own personal values and beliefs of being an aboriginal person. I would find myself very difficult to be in a senior management position of negotiating a land claim with the aboriginal organization, I wouldn't. I believe that government, if the land wasn't government's in the beginning, why are they negotiating to give some of it back?

That's one way that your values would play out.

That's right.

You wouldn't even take that role.

I wouldn't even take that role. I took advantage of this role in the Inuit organization because somebody else did the negotiations and made the agreement, but I'm there to do the implementation of that agreement, and influencing change. As opposed to giving away, getting our land back in some way. So that's the deal I made with myself, I would never take a position like that. The other thing that I would struggle with is being a welfare worker. I think I would struggle at, even a welfare administrator in a community, I would struggle with that because it's not the way to go. These people want to get away from welfare. So administering welfare is just like you're condoning the that process, you know what I mean? So there's 2 areas here that I find myself difficult. If somebody tomorrow offered me a job in those two areas, I would say no, I wouldn't take it, but I think in all other cases I try to have a balanced approach to the issue, eh? Cause I also understand that I there's modern technology and we'll never be able to go back the way it was. You can make a difference on what we want set up for ourselves. That's the way I view it anyway. And, language is one of them. I kick myself right now, one of the things I did earlier in my, in my process was I decided that our kids' first language would be interest English. Because English will be the language of the future. That's how I thought back 20 years ago. Now I'm kicking myself and saying, now all my kids are losing their language. You know, they understand when we speak, but they can't talk it. SO. Now I'm trying to teach them to speak. 10 years later for my oldest daughter.

And what is the language you would teach them?


Cree. I have friends in Toledo who are Hungarian Americans with the same struggle. If the language is the culture, and how can you have the culture without the language, it's really a battle.

Yah. See the other thing I struggle with right now is my five kids, to me I have a home, I can always go back to Moose Lake, that's my home. My five children, they don't have a home. Their home is where we hang our hat for a couple years. And to me that's not right, you know what I mean?

So you have to try and make that.

That's right, I have to try and make that connection where they will call something home. The home that I call they don't like.

They don't like Moose Lake.

They don't like Moose Lake, they like going to see their relatives and their grandparents, but that's about it, eh, they don't want to live there. There's nothing there. And that's the reason why I left Moose Lake because there was nothing there. But it doesn't have to be like that; there's something there if you make it happen. So, anyway. That's another,

It's a struggle; it's a struggle.


I'll be talking to folks in other parts of Canada and in Australia where there have been a variety of struggles over the role of aboriginal people, and I hope a lot of different organizers and activists in immigrant communities of all kinds. What questions or observations do you have for them, I mean, in the sense that this is a conversation across, you know, not just a man and a tape recorder. What questions do you think I should ask them and what questions do you think are interesting for them, for other activists and organizers in other communities?

Hmm. Interesting question. I guess, it's not really a question, but I would like to know their experience, from this information that you're gathering, what kind of experiences, are they similar to what we're experiencing here? Are we reinventing the wheel every time we do something in the aboriginal community or trying to promote something in the aboriginal community? I'll get back to it.

The, as I said, we'll try to connect people, very quickly, as soon as we have text, we'll put the text up on the web site and that can really begin the dialogue in that sense. And also try to get people together in the same place at the same time.

I guess one of the questions I would have is, what the aboriginal communities in the other countries, how do they view land? Is it similar to northern Sask. Is it similar to Canada, the way the aboriginal people here in Canada view land as it's supposed to,

Say more about that, would you? How do we view land here?

Well, I had a, quite the debate the other day about, I was reading this article in the paper, the Saskatoon paper, saying that, some guy was commenting that aboriginal, what do aboriginal people want and we're giving them everything in the world, that shouldn't be given away. What more do they want? Do they want free taxes, they want free this. They've got land. And then I said to this person that I was speaking to, one of my colleagues, was arguing, that, everybody has to respect the law, everybody has to respect the jurisdictions, and European colonial processes that's here now, and he was saying that the Aboriginal people have to learn to accept this, that's the way it is right now. But to me, land ownership itself is the problem. As first inhabitants of this world, the aboriginal people have the right to the land. That's fine, I guess, it's up to people that work with that process, but, I was telling this person I was talking to is if you step back 1000 years ago, before any Europeans came here, who was here? Aboriginal people, the indigenous people were here, right? Isn't it common sense that it's the aboriginal's land? It's the aboriginal's land before whoever came over, Columbus came over? He didn't know how to answer that. He said, well, you guys weren't organized, you were primitive. I said, who said we were primitive? You know. I said, we had our own way of selecting our chiefs, we had our own way of selecting our elders, our medicine men, and we had systems in place already. We had gatherings, we had, all kinds of things happening. Well, we were arguing about what is happening in Burnt Church, eh? I was reading this article, but it involved talking about this Burnt Church situation, I said, if you just listen to that process, I said to my colleague, all the native fishermen are asking for over there is, just a little piece of the pie. I believe someone was saying that they make about 5 million, something about 5 million, whatever, the industry the fishing industry is 5 billion I think, on the East Coast. I said, the Burnt Church people are only looking for maybe 2 million or 5 million of that, for their community. I said, listen to what the arguments are, they are not wanting the whole shot, they just want a piece of the action, and for that piece of the action they want to be able to say how they manage the fishery, but, that's my talk!

It's a very interesting question, because the argument over whether anybody can own the land, much less who should own the land, and then which people should own the land, it's like slicing salami that way.

That's why I stopped short about when I said that aboriginal people, indigenous people were here first. But who is to say that it was their land, that's why I said, it isn't their land, I just said, you know, they were here first, so they should at least be consulted on how this land is managed. I said. If I go in there and throw you out of your land and took over, how would you react? I'd take you to court, he says. Well there you go! You know that's what the aboriginal people are doing!

Here we go! That's right.


Do you have anything else to say as we wrap this up, I mean, I guess, go ahead,

No, that's fine, go ahead.

I was just going to say you've been in government and in charge, you've refocused and reevaluated your position over and over again to get back to your core values and your core position. Do you see yourself as a community organizer, as a change agent, as a social justice agent?

I like to see myself as both, eh? I want to see myself as a community organizer, but I also want to see myself as a as a tool for these community organizations. In my current role, these community organizations come to me and say, Alex, can we work with you in this, in this area, and how we can make changes to some of the policies. So I see myself in both, a community facilitator and then also being used by these people, you noticed I said being used? Being used by these facilitators to make change at the policy level. SO, that's how I want to be used.

Well good, thank you very much for your time.

No problem.