Northern control of resources
Peckford says Antoine is on the right track

Arthur Milnes
Northern News Services

NNSL (Feb 15/99) - Premier Jim Antoine's call for increased Northern control over oil, gas and mineral rights has drawn praise from a veteran of similar battles with Ottawa.

Brian Peckford served as premier of Newfoundland and Labrador from 1979 to 1989. During that time he negotiated the Atlantic Accord -- a deal governing the exploration and development of resources off his province's coast -- with Ottawa. Peckford says Antoine is on the right track.

"I completely relate to it," he said Thursday, while in Yellowknife. "What he is saying is very, very sound. But the people (of the NWT) have to be very strong to ensure they have both a say in and direct revenue from any future developments here."

Now a private consultant, Peckford has been in the NWT for the last couple of weeks working in the area of community development. He was the keynote speaker at Linx '99 -- Community Development Conference -- that took place last Thursday to Saturday in Yellowknife. It was sponsored by various GNWT departments and Aurora College.

Peckford also said he has been encouraged to hear what is coming out of the NWT in these pre-division days. While saying land claims could be among the most important political topics all Canadians must face in the coming years, Peckford believes many in the NWT are on the right track in this regard.

"In the West, you have this mixture of people -- First Nations people, the Dene people, the Metis with the white people -- who seem to me...are saying, in the absence of land claims, 'Let's get on with it,'" he said. "'Let's get on with development the land claims settlements into the development afterwards.'"

During a talk with Yellowknife students, Peckford -- who sat at the table as the Charter of Rights was created and saw the Constitution brought to Canada from Britain in 1981-82, and who was premier while the Meech Lake Accord was negotiated -- said Canadians had to deal with the reality of rights for the country's First Nations.

"As a civilized people, we have done a disservice to the First Nations of this place," he said. "We have to get this resolved so we together can build a country."

"You (students) have to take a position on it as a voter and as a citizen."

He also criticized Prime Minister Jean Chretien for not bringing Assembly of First Nations National Chief Phil Fontaine to the table as the first ministers discussed the Social Union -- a framework deal concerning the preservation and development of Canada's social and economic union -- in recent months.

Antoine told News/North from Ottawa last week that he had raised this issue in person while the prime minister and premiers discussed the Social Union at 24 Sussex Drive.