Fonds 321 - Northwest Territories. Office of the Commissioner fonds

Title and statement of responsibility area

Title proper

Northwest Territories. Office of the Commissioner fonds

General material designation

  • Multiple media

Parallel title

Other title information

Title statements of responsibility

Title notes

Level of description


Reference code


Edition area

Edition statement

Edition statement of responsibility

Class of material specific details area

Statement of scale (cartographic)

Statement of projection (cartographic)

Statement of coordinates (cartographic)

Statement of scale (architectural)

Issuing jurisdiction and denomination (philatelic)

Dates of creation area


  • 1882-2006 (Creation)
    Northwest Territories. Office of the Commissioner (1870-present)

Physical description area

Physical description

ca. 10.51 m of textual material and other material

Publisher's series area

Title proper of publisher's series

Parallel titles of publisher's series

Other title information of publisher's series

Statement of responsibility relating to publisher's series

Numbering within publisher's series

Note on publisher's series

Archival description area

Name of creator

Administrative history

In the early 1870s, the Northwest Territories had the status of a colony and was governed by Ottawa. The Privy Council of Canada appointed the Commissioner who was responsible to the federal minister in charge of administering the northern territories when residents had no elected representation. In 1905, the Northwest Territories Act provided a four-member appointed Council to assist the Commissioner in administering the Northwest Territories, but no members were named until 1921. Under Sections 4 and 5 of the Northwest Territories Act, the Commissioner had sole Executive authority for the Government of the Northwest Territories subject to instructions that he was given by the Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs or the Governor in Council. Between 1905-1919, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police had widespread power and influence extending from the community level to the senior levels of government. During this time the Commissioner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police was the Commissioner of the Northwest Territories. In 1919, the Deputy Minister of the Interior became the Commissioner, beginning a practice that lasted until 1963.

In 1964, the position of Commissioner became a full-time responsibility. The Territorial Government for the first time since 1905 opened offices completely separate from those of the Department of Northern Affairs.

Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, the gradual transfer of power from the Commissioner to elected ministers was evident. In 1980, the Commissioner was still the formal head of government in the Northwest Territories and chaired the Executive Committee and the Financial Management Board. The Commissioner also had line responsibility for the Department of Finance and the Department of Information. In 1981, the role the Commissioner played in the governing of the Northwest Territories was changing. Although the authority of the Commissioner, as defined by the NWT Act remained unchanged, executive members to the Northwest Territories Council began to assume increased responsibility for departmental and executive functions. 1981 was the first year an elected member assumed senior financial departmental responsibilities. Following this partial reassignment of portfolios, the Commissioner retained direct responsibility for the Departments of Information and Personnel and continued to chair the Executive Committee and the Financial Management Board.

During the 1980s, the devolution of responsibilities from the Commissioner's office to elected ministers continued. The Departments of Information and Public Works administered by the Commissioner and Deputy-Commissioner, respectively became the responsibility of elected members of the Executive Council, and therefore all but the Department of Personnel was under ministerial control. The Minister of Finance assumed the chairmanship of the Financial Management Board and the Commissioner took over the deputy chairman's position. 1984 marked the first time that an elected Government Leader was chosen by the full caucus, and the first time that all eight of the Executive Council members were elected. The Commissioner continued to chair the Executive Council, with the Government Leader taking the role of deputy chairman. With the devolution of portfolios to elected ministers of the Executive Council, the Commissioner ceased sitting with members of the Legislature in committee of the whole. These steps represented recognition by Ottawa of the increased political maturity of the Government of the Northwest Territories and signified a process leading towards full responsible government.

In 1986, the Commissioner turned over the chairmanship of the Executive Council to the Government Leader. With this symbolic act, the Northwest Territories, in practice, achieved responsible government, as elected ministers took full responsibility for the conduct of government. Furthermore, the responsibility for the Department of Personnel, which was held by the Commissioner, was taken over by the Government Leader in 1986.

In 1988, the Commissioner and staff moved to new offices in the Courthouse building. The relocation represented a small but important constitutional step because the physical separation helped to define more clearly the distinct and differing functions of the Commissioner and Executive Council.

An important function that was consistent within the office of the Commissioner was the presence of the Commissioner within the lives of the people of the north. The Commissioner spent much time traveling to all communities in the north, which facilitated an on-going dialogue with residents in the communities. Travel provided an opportunity to meet with band and municipal councils, private groups and citizens and to hear individual and community concerns. The Commissioner was also present at many official openings and speaking engagements and toured the north with royalty, Prime Ministers and Governor-Generals of Canada. The office of the Commissioner also operates the Commissioner's Awards Committee. This committee considers nominations and makes recommendations to the Commissioner regarding awards, which are presented to people who have done an exceptional public service or by acts of bravery. Today the Commissioner's role is largely one of ceremony. The Commissioner continues to travel the north, grant the Commissioner's Award, opens each session of the Legislature and signs territorial bills.

The following were the Commissioners of the Northwest Territories: Adams G. Archibald (1870-1872), Alexander Morris (1872-1876), Hon. David Laird (1876-1881), Hon. Edgar Dewdney (1881-1888), Hon. Joseph Royal (1888-1893), C.H. Mackintosh (1893-1897), F.W.G. Haultain (1897-1905), Lt. Col. Frederick White (1905-1919), W.W. Cory (1919-1931), H.H. Rowatt (1931-1934), Dr. Charles Camsell (1936-1946), Dr. Hugh L. Keenleyside (1947-1950), Major-General Hugh A. Young (1950-1953), R.Gordon Robertson (1953-1963), B.G. Sivertz (1963-1967), Stuart M. Hodgson (1967-1979), John H. Parker (1979-1989), Daniel L. Norris (1989-1994), Helen Maksagak (1995-1999), Daniel Joseph Marion (1999-2000), Glenna F. Hansen (2000-2005), Anthony W.J. Whitford (2005-2010), George L. Tuccaro (2010-present).

Custodial history

Scope and content

This fonds consists of approximately 10.51 meters of textual material, 153 black and white and colour photographs, 52 audiocassettes, 2 CDs (SDII format), one 16 mm film, a Umatic videocassette, 12 maps, 5 oversized textual documents and two scrolls. This material was either collected or generated by the Office of the Commissioner.

The bulk of the textual material is dated between 1960-1980 and consists of Commissioner Hodgson's chronos; Commissioner Parker's chronos; Senior Executive Secretary and later Deputy Commissioner Robert S. Pilot's chronos; reports from Commissioner Hodgson's and Commissioner Parker's Tours throughout the Northwest Territories, and correspondence between Federal Cabinet Ministers and the Commissioners' of the Northwest Territories. There are also files containing memorabilia such as cards, travel brochures, commemorative programs, invitations and certificates. In addition, there are administrative records, subject files, correspondence, minutes of meetings, organizational charts and reports relating to economic development, financial services, personnel, housing and constitutional development, labour standards and relations, administration of justice, as well as the proposed Mackenzie Valley pipeline and a proposed Great Slave National Park. As well, this fonds contains portions of Commissioners Norris' and Maksagak's chronos for 1991-1995, Commissioners Hansen's and Whitford's chronos for 2005-2006, and files from the NWT Coordinating Committee from 1988-1990. The fonds also contains files related to the Royal Visit of Queen Elizabeth II in 1994. Furthermore, there are files relating to the Polaris Mine Project and the operation and administration of the community of Port Burwell. The fonds also includes files relating to the administration of the Commissioner's Awards program (1968-2006).

The photographs are dated between 1961-1979 and document official functions, Commissioner's Tours of the north, dignitary visits and Centennial Celebrations. An additional six photographs show the Commissioner's Awards medal, medallion, and rosette.

The audiocassettes contain sound recordings of Hamlet Council meetings, Town Council meetings, public meetings and speeches made by Commissioner Hodgson. The two CDs contain recordings of meetings held in 1978 between Commissioner Stuart M. Hodgson, Chief Alex Arrowmaker and Members of the Legislative Assembly, Thomas A. Butters and R. Whitford, concerning the development for Snare Lakes.

The 16 mm film documents the 1977 visit of His Royal Highness Prince Andrew to the Northwest Territories. The film was entitled "Journey to the Top of Canada." There is a copy of this film in Umatic format.

The scrolls are dated between 1972-1973; the first scroll proclaims the transfer of land from the Yukon to the Northwest Territories and the second scroll establishes the aforementioned parcel of land to be the Norah Willis Michener Game Preserve. There are also two newsletters from the NWT Pavilion at Expo '86 in Vancouver, British Columbia. The oversized textual documents are a 12x22" certificate commemorating the laying of a cairn by Prince Andrew at Cape Columbia, NWT on July 12, 1977, a 10x15" certificate commemorating the laying of a cairn by Princess Margaret of the Netherlands on Beechey Island in June 1978, and two posters advertising the Commissioner's Awards programs.

12 maps and one oversized zoning schedule were donated via the Legislative Assembly Library from the Office of the Commissioner. The maps mainly detail town plans of Hay River, Inuvik, and Yellowknife during 1965-1973.

Notes area

Physical condition


Language of material

  • English
  • Inuktitut

Script of material

  • Latin
  • Unified Canadian Aboriginal Syllabics

Location of originals

Availability of other formats

Restrictions on access

Access restricted under the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

Terms governing use, reproduction, and publication

Finding aids

Finding aids in various formats available; see accessions for details.

Associated materials

Related materials


Physical description

ca. 10.51 meters of textual material; 173 photographs : b&w; col. prints; 52 audio cassettes; 2 CDs (SDII format); 1 film : 16 mm and 1 Umatic videocassette (copy); 17 maps; 4 architectural drawings ; 5 oversized text documents and 2 scrolls.


Copyright held by GNWT. Copyright for G-1992-035 and portions of G-2008-011 held by Bill Roozeboom Productions Ltd., portions of G-2008-011 held by John Evan.

Alternative identifier(s)

Standard number

Standard number

Access points

Place access points

Name access points

Genre access points

Control area

Description record identifier

Institution identifier

Rules or conventions

Language of description

  • English

Script of description


    Acquisition area