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National park a step closer
Ottawa and Lutsel K'e Dene sign framework agreement

Paul Bickford
Northern News Services
Published Monday, April 12, 2010

CALGARY, AB - A milestone agreement has been signed on the long road to creating a national park in the East Arm of Great Slave Lake.

NNSL photo/graphic

Environment Minister Jim Prentice, left, and Chief Steve Nitah of Lutsel K'e Dene First Nation sign a framework agreement in Calgary on April 7 for creating a national park reserve in the East Arm of Great Slave Lake. - photo courtesy of Mike Ridewood/CP Images; and Parks Canada

On July 7 in Calgary, the federal government signed a framework agreement with Lutsel K'e Dene First Nation (LKDFN) for the creation of a national park reserve.

"It is a major milestone," said Chief Steve Nitah of the LKDFN, adding discussions began 40 years ago on creating a park.

Nitah said the framework agreement commits the federal government and the LKDFN, representing the Akaitcho Territory, to serious negotiations.

"We hope to finalize an agreement in two years, if all sides agree to it," he said.

A delegation of 15 people from Lutsel K'e made the trip to Calgary to witness the signing ceremony.

While the agreement creates the possibility of establishing a park and expresses that intention, Nitah said, "There's no guarantee a park will be created."

However, he added, "The possibility is strong."

The framework agreement commits the two parties to negotiate a park establishment agreement for the approximately 33,000 sq. km. under consideration.

It is an essential step to enable Environment Minister Jim Prentice, who signed the agreement, to recommend the creation of a national park reserve to Parliament.

"This milestone agreement brings us substantially closer to creating this national park, and permanently protecting one of Canada's most precious Northern landscapes for future generations," Prentice said in a news release.

The minister, who is responsible for Parks Canada, said he was also pleased to announce that, as part of the framework agreement, LKDFN's preferred name for the area - Thaidene Nene - has been adopted to identify the national park reserve.

Thaidene Nene means 'land of our ancestors' in the Chipewyan language.

A memorandum of understanding on creating the park was signed between the federal government and LKDFN in 2006.

Nitah said the framework agreement will deal with such issues as a park boundary, the relationship between LKDFN and Parks Canada, financial compensation, management, access for traditional users, and rules for use of the park by the people of Lutsel K'e and the Akaitcho Territory and others.

The chief said Lutsel K'e wants to protect the area because of its importance to the people's language, culture and spirituality.

"We want to ensure that area remains the way it is for future generations," he said.

Nitah said creating a park would mean a major economic boost in Lutsel K'e from employment and spin-off businesses, although he recognized some people believe that would not be as lucrative as a mine.

"Mining companies come and go," he said, saying a park is permanent.

The proposed national park reserve features the spectacular Pethei, Kahochella and Douglas Peninsulas of Great Slave Lake; Christie Bay, the deepest body of fresh water in North America; the Lockhart River's canyons, Tyrrell Falls and Parry Falls; and an abrupt transition from boreal forest to tundra.

The area also features important cultural features, including traditional hunting and fishing areas.

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