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Pipeline's missing link

Deneron says support is strong, but DCFN's input needed

Derek Neary
Northern News Services

Fort Liard (May 04/01) - There's support in the Deh Cho for a Mackenzie Valley natural gas pipeline, but the Deh Cho First Nations need to get on board, according to Harry Deneron.

Aboriginal Pipeline Group representatives from the Deh Cho hosted a strategy meeting in Fort Liard last week. While there was representation from most of the region's First Nations, the DCFN's executive was absent.

"The grand chief needs to make more effort to participate in these kinds of meetings, so that we can parallel our thinking," suggested Deneron, the former chief of the Acho Dene Koe, who was instrumental in getting oil and gas exploration and development started in Fort Liard in 1993.

"I believe there could have been some effort to have somebody here. It's a bad time to be dodging any meetings like this. Deh Cho needs all the communities to be represented."

Michael Nadli, grand chief of the DCFN, was attending an aboriginal law conference in Yellowknife at the time of the Fort Liard meeting, for which he said there was very little notice.

"The APG kind of pulled this thing last minute," Nadli said. "They can't just cut in and say, 'There's a meeting in Fort Liard. We want you to be there.' I have an advance schedule that I try to work by to maintain commitments that I make."

DCFN chief negotiator Chris Reid and assistant negotiator Herb Norwegian were also in Yellowknife to tend to prior commitments last week, Nadli noted.

There was also no representation from Fort Providence, Kakisa and Trout Lake at the Fort Liard meeting.

Deneron pointed out that the territorial APG meeting held in Fort Simpson last June was extended by two hours while the DCFN grand chief deliberated over signing a memorandum of understanding to support the pipeline.

"In my view, the distance by that organization has just been getting wider," Deneron said. "They (the people in the communities) need to eat, they need to provide bread and butter for the next 10 years while (the DCFN) deals with differences of politics with Ottawa. Our communities need to survive."

Conditional support

Nadli said the DCFN's support for a Mackenzie Valley pipeline is still contingent upon advancing self-government negotiations. He noted that other regions have settled land claims and are in position to take full advantage of economic development, but in the Deh Cho jurisdiction over the lands is still unclear. In the meantime, the DCFN is also working to establish an economic development arm to address business opportunities in the future, he said.

Deneron remains optimistic that the necessary support for the pipeline will ultimately be there at the June territorial APG meeting, which will be held either in Fort Simpson or Hay River.

"This pipeline is strictly a business venture that we're looking at... We're still going fairly well here... I want this thing to happen," Deneron said.

Deneron said he is prepared to step down at the upcoming June APG meeting. He said the next APG representatives will carry out a different mandate.

"This is where the big stuff comes in... the next meeting will be very important," he said. "There's got to be full support or none at all."