Find a job
Oil & Gas
Best of Bush
Leave a message
Government ready for negotiations
Northern News Services
Published Thursday, March 19, 2009
"We're ready to go," said Tim Christian, chief federal negotiator on the Dehcho Process.
On Feb. 25, at the winter leadership meeting Dehcho leaders and representatives passed a resolution that confirmed the completion, approval and implementation of the land use plan is the highest negotiating priority, but allows negotiations towards an agreement in principal to occur at the same time.
The resolution provided some flexibility on a decision made at the last annual assembly.
"We were quite pleased they have decided to modify the resolution and to take out the hard sequencing," he said.
The Dehcho Process negotiations stalled last June as a result of the original resolution prioritizing the order that negotiations had to follow.
According to the resolution, the Dehcho First Nations (DFN) would only negotiate lands, resources and self-government agreements in principal if Canada approved and agreed to implement the Dehcho Land Use Plan.
That resolution made it impossible for the federal government to move forward in the negotiation process, said Christian.
"The hard sequencing was very difficult for us. We just weren't able to negotiate in that way," said Christian.
The federal team has been instructed that the parties have to ratify an agreement in principal before the land use plan will be implemented. The Dehcho negotiation team knew that before they went to the assembly, said Christian.
Following the assembly the federal team tried to clarify if the resolution was committed to hard sequencing.
The summer and then the fall federal election intervened before the groups met again in November. At that point it was made clear the DFN negotiators didn't have any flexibility, said Christian.
When asked if Canada could have shown some flexibility, Christian replied that Canada needs to maintain consistency and fairness with respect to other agreements and negotiations across the country.
With the negotiating issues resolved Christian expects talks will move forward.
"Both sides are prepared to get down to work and move towards an (agreement in principle)," he said.
The parties were scheduled to meet this week to decide on a work plan for the next year.
The nine-month delay in the negotiations, however, has left behind some hard feelings. At the winter leadership meeting some delegates accused the federal government of playing games with the Dehcho.
Christian said that's not what Canada is doing.
"I think we're very serious about trying to reach an agreement," he said. "I'm actually reasonably hopeful now we can move along and make some progress."
Grand Chief Jerry Antoine isn't convinced.
"Given all the delays I don't see that the federal government is committed," said Antoine.
The Dehcho First Nations is, however, committed to resolving the crown, first nation relationship, Antoine said.