Dehcho Response to Canada: The Integrity of the Land is Still Our Priority

Grand Chief Herb Norwegian will meet reporters at a news conference to discuss the status of land and governance negotiations with Canada. DFN Leaders met this week in Fort Simpson to discuss the proposal which Canada recently made to end decades of disagreement as to who owns the lands and resources of our homeland.

Athough Canada has characterized its proposal as an “offer” to resolve the Dehcho land claims, in fact Canada’s proposal was a counter-offer in response to the Dehcho Proposal which we tabled in 1998. The Dehcho Proposal offered to share the lands and resources of our homeland with all Canadians instead of dividing it into small parcels of First Nations land and large parcels of Crown land. The Dehcho Proposal is a unique and fair way for the Dehcho Dene and Canada to co-exist and maintain the integrity of the land which has sustained us for thousands of years. Earlier this year Canada announced its counter-offer: a conventional land claim agreement based on “land selection”, which would see our people owning a paltry 17% of our homeland.

This week our people reaffirmed their support for the innovative Dehcho Proposal. The Dehcho First Nations have never surrendered our title to our lands and our Treaties with the Crown confirm that we are the governing authorities of our land. We will continue to share our lands and resources, but these realities must be addressed in any  agreement to resolve uncertainty with respect to ownership and jurisdiction in our homeland.

At the same time, our people took the bold step this week of agreeing to enter exploratory discussions with Canada on the possibility of resolving our disagreements on the basis of Canada’s land selection policy. We will give Canada the opportunity over the coming months to explain to us precisely what a land claim agreement based on the federal policy of land selection would look like and how it can address our concern that the integrity of the land be maintained. We will then consider whether to negotiate an agreement based on land selection.

Our people also made it very clear this week that we expect to see Canada honour its existing agreements with us. We have been negotiating for years with Canada to resolve issues of ownership and jurisdiction over our lands. At the same time, under an important agreement we signed with Canada in 2001, we have been working cooperatively with Canada to develop a comprehensive Land Use Plan for the Dehcho territory. The Plan, which includes a pipeline corridor, is complete and has been approved by the DFN. Canada and the Governmentof the NWT are refusing to approve the Land Use Plan and have said they want tofinalize it through the negotiations process. Our people reaffirmed this week that they must see Canada show good faith and honour its agreements by implementing the Land Use Plan.

For further information contact: Grand Chief Herb Norwegian

at: 867-874-1249.