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Aklavik chief angry over pipeline contract

$500,000 public meetings project may have to be re-tendered

Chris Puglia
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Aug 05/02) - The federal government's apparent decision to award a lucrative contract to former cabinet secretary John Bayly and Terriplan Consultants for community consultations on a Mackenzie Valley pipeline is drawing fire.

Chief Charlie Furlong of the Aklavik Indian Band said Friday the government has breached its Gwich'in land claim obligations by ignoring proper tendering procedures. He said the aboriginal community should have had a chance at the $500,000 project.

"The land claim agreement says all economic activities will be consulted with the local aboriginal groups ... the government should have at least made us aware" said Furlong. "There is a legally binding agreement."

Furlong said aboriginal companies have similar expertise as Terriplan.

The federal Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development said it will ask for bids on the project if a company with similar qualifications as Terriplan comes forward.

"We find it in our capacity that we may find the right qualifications," said Furlong.

"I am contacting the leaders along the valley to jointly submit a proposal to Indian Affairs, that will see Gwich'in, Sahtu, and Deh Cho companies and individuals doing this work for the government in our traditional areas," he said. "The government will do the right thing -- if they don't they will be in breach of their obligations."

Furlong said he doesn't believe legal action will be necessary, but he didn't rule it out.

Kevin O'Reilly, research director with Canadian Arctic Resources Committee, said the $500,000 could have gone to the Northern regulatory boards commissioned to conduct environmental assessments for the Mackenzie Valley pipeline.

Their mandate includes public consultations, he pointed out.

"There seems to be a fair bit of overlap between what the boards are doing and what's going into the contract. I don't want to hear any excuses from DIAND that they don't have any funding for participants in environmental assessment if they can find money for this kind of contract," O'Reilly said.

Bayly stepped down as principal secretary to Premier Stephen Kakfwi earlier this year amid criticism of his role in secretly taping phone calls between MLA Jane Groenewegen and then conflict commissioner Carol Roberts. Terriplan Consultants is a Yellowknife firm specializing in research and project management.

-- with files from Jennifer McPhee