Treaty 11 talks on track
Final agreement expected in the fall

Jorge Barrera
Northern News Services

Rae-Edzo ( May 29/00) - The journey towards the Final Agreement between the Treaty 11 Dogrib, the territorial government and the federal government has been slow but steady.

All parties seem optimistic heading into the next round of negotiations, which will be held Tuesday at the Go Ga Cho building, in Yellowknife.

"So far, the meetings I've attended have been very positive," said Dogrib Grand Chief Joe Rabesca. "Things are panning out."

Pat Scott, GNWT negotiator, is also optimistic.

"The last four months have been productive," he said. "Ninety per cent of the hard work has been done," said Yves Assiniwi, chief Dogrib Treaty 11 negotiator with the federal government.

When the agreement-in-principle (AIP) was signed Jan. 7, in Rae-Edzo, it was hoped a Final Agreement would be available to go to the Dogrib people this summer.

Now, however, the treaty is not expected to be settled until the fall. The federal government has to review the language surrounding "certainty."

"The current language surrounding certainty: cede, release and surrender is a bit offensive," said Assiniwi.

The GNWT is not worried about the delay.

"From our perspective it's not tragic. There's still a lot of work that has to be done," Scott said.

For the Dogrib, the delay is a minor obstacle.

"We've been working on this for many years," said Rabesca. "We are closer; we know we will get there."

Some of the outstanding issues surround the Intergovernmental Agreement, which governs the distribution of services like education and health.

The GNWT and the Dogrib have to outline their jurisdictions in the provision of these services.

Another issue surrounds the structure of the community government.

Two levels of governments are currently in the works -- a Dogrib First Nations government to handle all affairs pertaining to Dogrib interests, and community government made up of an elected chief and community council. Only a Dogrib can run for chief.

But the details are still being hashed out.

It was also noted that the Dogrib deal is unique.

"The combination land claim and self-government agreement is the first of its kind in the North," said Scott, adding that it is similar to agreements reached by the Inuit in Labrador and Nisga'a in British Columbia.

The AIP forms the basis for the final treaty. The main difference between the two is that an AIP is not binding.