Email this articleE-mail this story  Discuss this articleWrite letter to editor  Discuss this articleOrder a classified ad

Deh Cho chief accuses feds of stealing cash

Derek Neary
Northern News Services

Fort Providence (Mar 08/04) - The federal government has snatched away any potential benefits from a proposed oil and gas cash bonus system, said Deh Cho First Nation Grand Chief Herb Norwegian.

During self-government negotiations, the Deh Cho lobbied for the right to have oil and gas companies bid on a lump-sum payment for exploration rights to a parcel of land.

That new money -- in addition to existing royalty payments to Ottawa -- could help fund a future Deh Cho Dene public government, the DCFN said.

"It's robbery in broad daylight," the Grand Chief of the Deh Cho First Nation said.

But now, Ottawa's planning to keep the extra profit, said Norwegian.

"They are a corrupt government," he said.

The federal negotiator doesn't see it the same way.

"Until we agree on a revenue-sharing agreement between Canada and the Deh Cho, how are we supposed to agree on the sharing of the cash?" federal negotiator Robin Aitken said recently.

The interim resource development agreement already sets out a provisional funding formula, said Aitken. Under that arrangement the Deh Cho will receive a small percentage of federal royalties from the Mackenzie Valley.

It currently works out to approximately $1 million per year for the Deh Cho, DCFN legal counsel Chris Reid said, insisting the cash bonus system could have provided millions more.

The Deh Cho have also demanded oil and gas companies be forced to negotiate agreements with Deh Cho communities affected by development, he said.

Those deals would address environmental standards (such as flaring and limiting cutlines), economic benefits (including compensation to hunters and trappers) and job creation.

Yet the federal government has rejected most of the Deh Cho's terms and conditions for an oil and gas exploration cycle, said Reid.

"It's a complete brick wall in Ottawa. They listen to industry," he said. "They just want to do exploration the way it's always been done."