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Delving into the Dehcho Process
Members examine agreement-in-principle in detail during working sessions

Roxanna Thompson
Northern News Services
Published Thursday, August 15, 2013

Dehcho First Nations is holding several sessions to engage members on the Dehcho Process and the agreement-in-principle.

Approximately 25 representatives from nearly all of the member groups of the Dehcho First Nations (DFN) participated in the first working session between Aug. 7 and 8 in Fort Simpson.

West Point First Nation and the Fort Simpson Metis Nation representatives were not able to attend.

The session began by looking at the history of the Dehcho Process and how it's currently structured, said Alison de Pelham, DFN's acting executive director.

Participants then reviewed seven chapters of the agreement-in-principle related to harvesting. The meaning of each clause was explained in plain language and then discussed, de Pelham said.

"It was very much an exchange of information and ideas," she said. "It's given us a lot of feedback."

Before mid-October, DFN plans to hold three more sessions on social and cultural topics, governance and financial and technical chapters.

Based on input from participants, the next session, set for Aug. 27 to 29, will allow more time for discussions.

The sessions are about engaging people with the agreement's content, said de Pelham. DFN doesn't want any surprises about the details later on and so the members can speak with confidence when they decide if they want to accept the agreement, she said.

Cherl Gargan, a member of the Fort Providence Metis Local's board of directors, said this was the first time she had read any of the agreement-in-principle, calling it "very intense."

Gargan said she hadn't realized before how important each word of the agreement is because they can be interpreted in different ways.

Gargan, who intends to be at the next three sessions, is planning to speak with members of the Fort Providence Metis Local and stress how important it is that they get involved and understand the Dehcho Process. She's going to focus specifically on the youth, "because they're our future."

On the second day of the session, participants looked at land selection and retention.

In June, a resolution was passed stating DFN would be seeking no less than 80,000 square kilometres of land through the Dehcho Process that will be selected as a single, contiguous block.

Participants at the session looked at what land will be chosen to become part of Dehcho Ndehe, said de Pelham. Factors such as traditional land use, economic development, community priorities and the Dehcho Land Use Plan were examined.

"It was really an interesting conversation," she said.

Grand Chief Herb Norwegian said DFN has already gathered the information, through traditional land-use and occupancy studies and mineral assessments, that will be used to decide which areas will be chosen.

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