Dehcho Leader Offers Lump of Coal for Indian Affairs Christmas

Coming out of a two-day land claims negotiation meeting here yesterday, Grand Chief Herb Norwegian of the Dehcho First Nations, offered a Christmas “lump of coal” to Indian Affairs Minister Jim Prentice.

Canada has reneged on its promise made in the Settlement Agreement with the Dehcho just over a year to implement the Dehcho Land Use Plan (LUP) as soon as possible. Canada is now holding the LUP hostage to an AIP, refusing to complete until there is an AiP on the Dehcho Process.

“Prentice deserves a lump of coal for Christmas for the way he’s treating the Dehcho process.” Norwegian said.

In May Prentice offered the 39,000 sq km of land and monetary compensation of $104 million. The Dehcho have Aboriginal right to 212,000 sq km of the southern Northwest Territories and have been negotiating with the federal government since 1999.

“The DFN has been consistent all along,” Norwegian said, “our people want to manage our own land. We see the approval and implementation of the Dehcho Land Use Plan as key tool to getting certainty in the Dehcho. It is in the interest of everyone that LUP is implemented as soon as possible. We thought Canada would be honourable enough to keep the Agreements its already made with the Dehcho”

At the Special Assembly held at the end of November, DFN’s 4,500 Aboriginal people reaffirmed their commitment to co-management of their traditional territory through the Land Use Plan (LUP) which would balance conservation values with long-term sustainable economic development.

The Land Use Plan was developed using both traditional knowledge and western science to create a balance between development and conservation land use zones in the Dehcho Territory. Negotiators for Canada said Prentice rejected the LUP wanting more land to be available for development and arbitrarily leaving 40% for conservation. Dehcho negotiators are asking Canada to provide real data to back up their demand and recommending that technical information be used to finalize the plan rather than political posturing.

Prentice is also insisting the Dehcho proceed to negotiate an Agreement-in-Principle before he’ll approve and implement the LUP. The Dehcho negotiators refused this process and Canada’s attempts to tie the LUP to the completion of an AIP.

Norwegian, who sat through the sessions, was clearly frustrated with Prentice’s approach. “We are still after all these years waiting for Canada to catch up with us. Land use planning is the alternative to extinguishment of our rights.”

Dehcho negotiators presented guidelines for revisions to the plan, which is designed to form an integrated land and resource management regime and outline in detail how a balance between resource development, and social and economic constraints can be achieved.

Dehcho negotiations have asked Canada to come back with a real offer on land ownership noting that Canada’s offer is the same what is the Tlicho Agreement where population is about half of what it is in the Dehcho. Negotiations also continue on self-government and jurisdictions for Dehcho governance.

For further information contact:

Grand Chief Herb Norwegian 867 874-1249