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Pushback for pit's prolonged permit
Eight months after gravel project extension, Dehcho Assembly to decide next steps

April Hudson
Northern News Services
Thursday, July 9, 2015

Deh Gah Got'ie First Nation and the Fort Providence Metis Council are calling for Dehcho First Nations' support against a gravel pit whose expansion was approved in November.

NNSL photo/graphic

Fort Providence Metis Council vice-president James Christie said his community still fights a gravel pit's approved extension June 24 during the Dehcho Annual Assembly. - April Hudson/NNSL photo

Cherdon Enterprises, which has been conducting quarry operations since September 2008, applied to the Mackenzie Valley Land and Water Board to extend the terms of its land use permit by two years. On Nov. 6, the board issued a decision approving that extension.

Deh Gah Got'ie Chief Joachim Bonnetrouge and Fort Providence Metis Council vice-president James Christie said that decision was final, despite both groups expressing concern with the extension.

On June 24, Christie told a gathering of regional First Nation representatives at the Dehcho Annual Assembly that he wants the application followed up on.

"The application, in our view, was full of misleading and false statements, so we pointed this out in our comments. But all our objections (were dismissed)," Christie said.

Christie said the board's decision does not sit well with him.

"It should not be that simple to dismiss us," he said. "That is supposed to be the end of the story - there is no appeal or anything."

In application documents available on the board's website, Bonnetrouge told the board Deh Gah Got'ie feels Cherdon misrepresented itself in the extension application by suggesting it had the support of the community.

Additionally, Bonnetrouge raised some specific concerns, including a fire Cherdon Enterprises allegedly started to clear overburden along their lot perimeter, which was "improperly monitored and resulted in the surrounding forest catching fire."

Bonnetrouge further added that Cherdon Enterprises had not put effort in to promote employment or training of band members.

"Specific promises regarding offering discounts on materials to (First Nation) members never materialized as planned and have left the First Nation with a feeling of mistrust regarding this operation and the owner," he said.

Fort Providence Metis Council president Clifford McLeod could not commit to an interview by press time, as the pit joins other outstanding matters from the assembly that have yet to be voted on.

"There is still a resolution on (the) table regarding the pit expansion," he said in an e-mail.

In his annual Chief's Report on June 15, Bonnetrouge said Deh Gah Got'ie has "put up a good fight" against the pit's extension, but said they have few options left.

"(Our) latest info is that (Cherdon Enterprises) is under the GNWT master permit along the highway corridor, and therefore we can only challenge (it) if all Dehcho communities unite and challenge this policy/legislation," Bonnetrouge said.

However, a response from the Department of Lands said many of the First Nation concerns were not "specifically relevant" to the extension application.

Additionally, Cherdon Enterprises owner Don Plante said in response to Deh Gah Got'ie and the Fort Providence Metis Council that he was "confused" at their opposition.

"I am the only contractor in Fort Providence who provides gravel to the community. I have supported the community of Fort Providence for many years and have always tried to hire locals where possible," he said.

"We have always tried to be in compliance with the terms and conditions of our land use permit."

The board's decision said that concerns raised during the review have been mitigated or are outside the jurisdiction of the board.

"The board's processes are restricted to the matter at hand, in this case the extension of an existing permitted activity," the decision stated.

A week after the board's decision was released, on Nov. 13, the board's executive director, Zabey Nevitt, said in an e-mail that decisions of the board are final and binding. Appeals can only be made to the NWT Supreme Court.

The Dehcho Annual Assembly will be holding a leadership teleconference soon to deal with its outstanding resolutions.

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