Oil Sands Truth: Shut Down the Tar Sands

Akaicho Land Trust "Largest Ever" [Doesn't Include Entire Thelon Region]

Akaicho Land Trust "Largest Ever" [Doesn't Include Entire Thelon Region]
By LEA STORRY, SRJ Editor 30.NOV.07

Some historic and sacred places of the Akaitcho Dene First Nations have recently been protected for the time being by Ottawa. Approximately 62,000 sq km of land have been preserved from further development.

“It’s a good news story,” said Dennis Bevington, Western Arctic Member of Parliament (MP). “It says a lot about the hard work and efforts the Akaitcho Dene First Nations have put into this.”

Chuck Strahl, minister of Indian affairs and northern development (INAC), made the announcement last Wednesday, Nov. 21. The Ramparts River and Wetlands adjacent to the Mackenzie River as well as a section of the East Arm of Great Slave Lake are the designated sites

The government of Canada has been engaged in ongoing land, resource and governance negotiations with the Akaitcho and the GNWT. This withdrawal identifies and protects some areas for five years while negotiations proceed.

“We [New Democratic Party] have been trying to get the government moving ahead on claims. It just makes sense all around,” stated Bevington.

Bevington explained the minority government makes it easier to move on particular issues such as land claims. However, there are still outstanding concerns.

“You can make promises and move claim processes ahead and then settle the claims – only to find 20 years later the government hasn’t kept its promises.”

The MP also noted the agreement is a convenient way for the Conservatives to look “greener” amid criticism Canada isn’t doing enough from the rest of the world.

“It does build environmental credibility. But the [federal] environment minister [John Baird] said he wasn’t taking any opposition critics to the Bali meeting in Indonesia.”

United Nations climate-change talks will be held there next month. Bevington added the Conservatives stance on the environment leaves little to praise.

“Their approach to the major polluters, like the tar sands, is to down play it and allow the industry to expand without concern for the land, air, animals and people.”

Steve Ellis of the NWT Treaty 8 Tribal Corporation said they’re happy with the land withdrawl news.

“It’s been a long waiting game and people are getting quite impatient to settle the claims.”

Lutsel K’e Dene First Nation and Deninu Kue First Nation could not be reached for comment.

Land withdrawal and industry

Land withdrawals provide certainty to industry about which land is open for new development. A land withdrawal clearly maps out which areas are protected from new development and which areas are open for development. This means that land which is withdrawn is not available for mineral staking, leasing or sale.

The Upper Thelon Basin is not part of the Akaitcho land withdrawal. According to Jake Kennedy, INAC communications officer, the department has been working on an interim land use plan to be developed and implemented incorporating the cultural values of the Thelon area.


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