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Northwest Territory Metis Nation feels ignored by De Beers Canada
Organization wants to be consulted on proposed Gahcho Kue diamond mine

Paul Bickford
Northern News Services
Published Friday, June 22, 2012

The Northwest Territory Metis Nation (NWTMN) is objecting to not being consulted on De Beers Canada's proposed Gahcho Kue mining project.

"De Beers is ignoring the aboriginal rights of the NWT Metis Nation," said president Betty Villebrun. "We can't support a project when our issues are being ignored."

The proposed diamond mine is located 280 km northeast of Yellowknife and 80 km southeast of the existing Snap Lake Mine.

"We have grave concerns about the Gahcho Kue project's effect on caribou, water quality and habitat in our traditional territory, effects which would adversely change the NWTMN way of life, particularly harvesting," Villebrun stated in a June 14 news release.

The NWTMN has sent letters to Premier Bob McLeod and John Duncan, the minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, regarding what it sees as inadequate consultation by De Beers Canada on the Gahcho Kue project.

Attempts to get a response from De Beers Canada to the Metis Nation's concerns were unsuccessful.

Ken Hudson, a director of the NWTMN and president of the Fort Smith Metis Council, said there have been some meetings with De Beers on the Gahcho Kue project, recalling one in Hay River about eight months ago and another in Yellowknife two years ago.

"It's not like we're completely ignored here," he said. "We just don't like their tactics because they cater to the Treaties and give them money to do research on their historic use of the area and they just completely ignore us in those kinds of requests."

In particular, he pointed to the announcement in April that De Beers Canada was providing funding to Fort Resolution's Deninu Ku'e First Nation for it to gather traditional knowledge and study land use in the area of the Gahcho Kue proposed mine.

"They cater to Treaty Indians, but they don't really offer the same level of concern with the issues that are coming from Metis people," Hudson said. "We don't get the full recognition."

In the few instances when the Metis Nation has met De Beers, he noted the company controlled the meetings with strict agendas and the meetings were basically information sessions on what it planned to do.

"There are no real detailed answers to our questions," Hudson said.

The Northwest Territory Metis Nation is currently finalizing negotiations with the federal and territorial governments on a land and resources agreement-in-principle, which will include recognition of existing harvesting rights of indigenous Metis members.

The Gahcho Kue project is within the boundaries of an NWTMN interim measures agreement.

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