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Federal government bends a little

DIAND official commits to addressing DCFN's pipeline concerns

Derek Neary
Northern News Services

Fort Providence (Oct 05/01) - The federal government isn't making any promises, but it is willing to meet with Deh Cho leaders to address issues surrounding a Mackenzie Valley pipeline.

NNSL Photo

Federal negotiator Robin Aitken, left, and Lorne Tricoteaux, associate regional director general for DIAND, meet with the Deh Cho First Nations negotiating team in Fort Providence. - Derek Neary/NNSL photo

Lorne Tricoteaux, associate regional director general for DIAND, delivered that message following self-government negotiations in Fort Providence last Thursday.

"We are committed to trying to get down to the real issues," Tricoteaux said.

Tricoteaux said he believes responsible economic development can take place in conjunction with self-government negotiations.

The two sides agreed to meet again later this month and again in November to try to sort out the sticking points, such as resource revenue sharing and participation in an environmental assessment.

Despite the overtures, DCFN chief negotiator Chris Reid told Tricoteaux that the federal government has abandoned its responsibilities by not involving the Deh Cho in creating a streamlined regulatory process for the pipeline until recently. He added that the Deh Cho will require funding for support staff to be an effective participant in those discussions, and will demand to be given equal status with DIAND in that process.

Tricoteaux said the DCFN hadn't been invited until after it signed its Interim Measures Agreement because it was unlike settled land claim regions, which have their own resource management boards. He said funding will be provided to the DCFN for technical and support staff.

Reid also chided the federal government for not defending the DCFN's pipeline concerns as legitimate while the GNWT has been publicly critical.

"The GNWT is urging industry to ram (the pipeline) through," Reid said. "The Deh Cho, frankly, doesn't need a Mackenzie Valley pipeline."

DCFN Grand Chief Michael Nadli dropped a strong reminder that self-government negotiations could come to an abrupt halt at any time. He said the Deh Cho could turn to the United Nations for support in recognizing their treaties. He also said going to court is yet another option.

"It's something that we don't discount at this point," Nadli said.

Tricoteaux said when such cases go to court, the justice often rules in favour of more negotiating.

"We do not see litigation as the most appropriate manner in which to resolve rights. There's always risk in that for yourselves and ourselves."