As you know, the DFN is engaged in the Dehcho Process negotiations with Canada in an effort to reach agreements to resolve serious outstanding issues. I am writing to ask each of you to clearly respond, on behalf of yourself and your Party, to four questions which concern the relationship between Canada and the people of the Dehcho. Please respond no later than January 10, 2006. We will then publicly release the responses of each candidate.
1. In 2001, Canada and the DFN signed an Interim Measures Agreement (IMA). The IMA contains a commitment by the parties to establish a joint Land Use Planning Committee with a mandate to develop a draft Land Use Plan for the Dehcho territory. The draft Plan is now complete, after extensive and thorough consultations with Dehcho communities, all governments and industry groups. The draft Plan provides for a balanced approach to conservation and development. The draft Plan has received high praise from many groups across Canada, but Canada has still not committed to implementing the Plan, despite the fact that federal representatives jointly controlled all phases of the development of the Plan. Will you and your Party promise to fully implement the Dehcho Land Use Plan within six months of the election?
2. Section 39 of the IMA clearly provides that Canada will not issue new prospecting permits under the Canada Mining Regulations anywhere in the Dehcho territory not without the support of affected First Nation communities. Over the past two years, however, federal officials have failed to honour this part of our IMA and have issued prospecting permits despite opposition from Dehcho communities. Will you and your Party promise to fully honour and implement the IMA, including section 39?
3. In the Dehcho Process negotiations the DFN seek an agreement with Canada which will recognize a Dehcho government which will be a public government and the primary government for all residents of the Dehcho. Indeed, in 2001 Canada signed a Framework Agreement which commited Canada to this objective as well. We have made it very clear, the Dehcho Process negotiations began in 1999, that we will not negotiate an agreement based on “land selection”. With this objective clearly in mind we have also negotiated several interim agreements with Canada. Very recently, however, Canada’s negotiators have informed us that they only have a mandate to negotiate an agreement with the Dehcho which is based on the typical Comprehensive Land Claim land selection model. This is unacceptable and completely at odds with all of the interim agreements which we have signed with Canada. Will you and your Party commit to giving Canada’s negotiators a mandate to negotiate an agreement with the Dehcho which is not based on “land selection” but rather on recognition of a public government which is the primary government for residents of the Dehcho?
4. A recent report by the Canadian Arctic Resources Council (CARC) has illustrated, once again, how Canada’s system of resource management in the NWT has resulted in a massive give-away of natural resources to multi-national diamond and oil and gas companies. The DFN believes the current system should be replaced by a market based, competitive bidding system, similar to Alberta’s, in which natural resources are sold to the highest bidders rather than given away at artificially low royalty rates. Several studies have shown that competitive bidding system could generate hundreds of millions of dollars which could be used to finance social programs and governance in the north. Will you and your Party promise to immediately reform the resource royalty regime in the north to incorporate competitive bidding, and also promise that any revenue collected from resources extracted from the Dehcho territory will be shared equitably with the Dehcho First Nations?
Thank you for taking the time to respond. We look forward to receiving your responses to these questions by January 10.
Herb Norwegian, Grand Chief
Cc: DFN Leadership