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A customized workshop

Oil and gas information in laymen's terms, from aboriginal point of view

Derek Neary
Northern News Services

Fort Providence (Aug 30/02) - It was an introduction to the oil and gas industry from an aboriginal perspective, and with a Northern twist.

Delegates from eight Deh Cho communities -- only Kakisa and Fort Liard lacked representation -- took part in the "Aboriginal Oil and Gas Management" workshop at the Deh Cho First Nations' boardroom last Tuesday through Thursday.

Facilitators from The Banff Centre led participants through topics such as geology, land administration and royalties, with an emphasis on the North.

"To me this is one of the good ones," acting Deh Cho Grand Chief Stanley Sanguez said of the workshop, adding that everything was presented in laymen's terms.

"People are really starting to understand now what it means, the oil and gas industry."

Even with a solid understanding of industry, the Deh Cho First Nations won't support development without first achieving an interim resource development agreement with the federal government, Sanguez acknowledged. That agreement would give local aboriginal people a share of resource revenues.

"That's the first priority," he said.

Other subject matters discussed last week included: finding and producing oil and gas; employment and business opportunities; seismic methods; pipeline costs, construction and jobs; and environmental and cultural issues.

The recurring environmental concerns related to flaring and pipeline safety. Some delegates said they were worried about pipeline leaks or breaks. There was some assurance offered that pipeline companies have safeguards in place to prevent catastrophes, but "there's no 100 per cent guarantee," said Hay River Reserve delegate Lyle Fabian, a geographic information system technician familiar with the industry.

Stella Pellissey, lands and resource officer for the Pehdzeh Ki First Nation, organized the workshop, which was funded by First Nations and the territorial and federal governments. Pellissey said education and capacity building are essential.

"When those two (conditions) are satisfactory in every community, I don't see a problem moving ahead with development," she said, adding that land management is another key component.

Pellissey said he didn't extend invitations to industry executives last week because their input would only "add to the confusion."