Dehcho Refuse to Join Mackenzie Valley Review Boards

FORT SIMPSON, NT — March 19 — The Dehcho First Nations (DFN) will not participate in boards set up under the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act (MVRMA), according to a letter from Grand Chief Herb Norwegian last week to the regional director-general of Indian and Northern Affairs (INAC) in Yellowknife.

Norwegian explained that the DFN leadership considered an INAC request to nominate Dehcho members to sit on two boards – the Mackenzie Valley Land and Water Review Board (MVLWB) and the Mackenzie Valley Environmental Impact Review Board (MVEIRB) – and found them to be “illegitimate and constitutionally inapplicable to us and our Territory.”

The boards were established under the MVRMA as a result of the Gwichin and Sahtu land claims agreements, and imposed on the DFN without consent or consultation. The DFN have consistently objected that the boards are merely window dressing for continued federal control over lands and resources in the NWT.

Nevertheless, the DFN have attempted in good faith to work within the MVRMA regime, especially the parts which mandate land use planning boards for the NWT. Under the Dehcho Interim Measures Agreement signed in 2001 Canada and the DFN agreed to use the land use planning provisions of the MVRMA to jointly develop a Land Use Plan for the Dehcho Territory. In a 2005 Agreement, Canada agreed to implement the Dehcho Land Use Plan “as soon as possible after the Plan’s completion.” The Plan was completed last year, but now Canada has reneged on its promise to implement the Plan.

Recently, federal negotiators informed Dehcho negotiators that the Dehcho Land Use Plan would not be implemented until the DFN first agree to a land selection quantum in the treaty negotiations. Federal negotiators also said that the land use planning provisions of the MVRMA only applied to “settled areas” of the NWT and not to the Dehcho Territory. “In other words, said Norwegian, “Canada wants to impose the MVRMA on the Dehcho – except those parts which would require Canada to honour their agreements and participate in good faith in the land use planning process.”

“Once again Canada has reneged on agreements it made in 2001 (IMA) and 2005 (Settlement Agreement) where they promised to implement the Land Use Plan as soon as possible after the plan’s completion, without regard to AiP negotiations,” Norwegian wrote to INAC regional director Bob Overvold.

Instead of participating in the MVRMA regime, the DFN have been “strengthened in our resolve not to allow the MVRMA to be imposed on the Dehcho Territory. Instead we will continue towards establishing a stand-alone Dehcho Resource Management Authority.”

For further information please contact Herb Norwegian, 867-695-2355/2610, Fort Simpson, NT.