Canada Reneges on Agreement with the Dehcho / Issues Prospecting Permits in the Dehcho Territory

Canada and the Dehcho First Nations signed an Interim Measures Agreement (IMA) on May 23, 2001. The IMA is intended to reduce conflicts by providing for joint Canada/Dehcho decision making pending the negotiation of a Dehcho final agreement on lands and governance. Section 39 of the IMA clearly provides that no new Prospecting Permits will be issued in the Dehcho territory without the support of affected Dehcho First Nation communities. (Prospecting Permits are issued under the Canada Mining Regulations and give the holder the exclusive right to stake for minerals).

In early 2004, federal officials began to hint that they intended to renege on s. 39. In late December, 2005, DFN communities were informed that Canada had received applications for 37 prospecting permits in our territory. On January 19, 2006 a letter was sent to DIAND’s Mining Recorder stating clearly that all of the applications related to areas where our members have constitutionally entrenched Treaty rights which would be impacted by the permits. We also advised that the legal status of the land in respect of which those applications relates is still in dispute pending the completion of the Dehcho Process negotiations, and that our communities had not been consulted regarding the issuance of Permits in these areas. Therefore, our communities do not support the issuance of the proposed Permits.

Despite our January 19, 2006 letter, which was signed by representatives of all Dehcho communities which would be affected by the Permits, Canada issued the Permits yesterday. DIAND claims that it received approval for the Permits at a meeting held in Hay River on October 20, 2005. This is false and dishonest. The October 20 meeting was held to discuss the draft Dehcho land use plan and where prospecting permits might be acceptable if the land use plan is approved and implemented, something Canada has so far not committed to do.

We are shocked and offended that DIAND is apparently now attempting to claim that the October 20 meeting gave support for the issuance of Prospecting Permits, or that that meeting was intended to “fulfill obligations relating to prospecting permits pursuant to the Dehcho Interim Measures and Interim Resource Development Agreements”. They know very well that this is not correct and we will not tolerate flagrant violation of our agreements with Canada. We also warn anyone considering staking in our territory without first consulting with affected communities: Any staking without consultation will result in immediate and aggressive action to defend the integrity of our land!