Making waves in Kakisa
The federal department has sent an invoice to the band office seeking $259.20 for private commercial radio authorization.
Using a transmitter that the Dehcho First Nations provided for translation equipment, the Kakisa band started its own radio station, 89.7 FM, in January 2004.
Chief Lloyd Chicot who volunteers as a disc jockey said the transmitter has a range of less than a kilometre.
His understanding was that a licence would only be required if the community boosted its reach, he said. The First Nation has no plans to discontinue its broadcasts, he added.
He noted that the First Nation will discuss whether it will pay the invoice at a band meeting.
A licence is the government's way of keeping track of who is using a public resource, according to Rolf Ziemann of Industry Canada.
"The radio frequency spectrum belongs to everybody," he said.
The law authorizes Industry Canada to seize radio equipment but Ziemann, who is based in Fort Smith, said "we don't operate that way."
"We try to do things by dealing with people first. We talk to them, maybe write them some letters," he said, but noted that the maximum fine for illegal use of a radio apparatus is $10,000.
In Kakisa, Chicot goes on air to read community announcements and wishes residents a happy birthday in English and in South Slavey a few times a week. He also wants to get local youth involved in the project, he noted.
Band manager Ruby Landry said the elders, who also enjoy the old-time music played on the station, are pleased with the local broadcasts. Like the chief, Landry doesn't agree with the Industry Canada invoice either.
"We didn't even know we were doing anything wrong," she said. "We thought we were doing something really good here. The people really liked it."