Dehcho Process at crossroads
Paul Bickford and John Curran
Northern News Services
Published Thursday, April 10, 2008
K'ATLODEECHE/HAY RIVER RESERVE - There was not a lot of optimism about the Dehcho Process coming out of last week's leadership meeting on the Hay River Reserve.
Deh Cho leaders were disheartened following a report on the negotiations with the federal government.
"I feel that Canada is negotiating in bad faith," said Jerry Antoine, interim grand chief of Dehcho First Nations (DFN), following the meeting.
One key area of concern is land selection.
Antoine said Ottawa is linking land selection with the extinguishment of rights.
"For me, I'm not willing to give up the land, and Canada has to understand that we do have a relationship. It's called a treaty," he said, adding Ottawa wants titles, privileges and interests to the land to be surrendered, and then it will negotiate the Crown's side.
"That's basically what they're offering and that's not acceptable."
Antoine said Ottawa is also offering far less land than DFN wants.
"It's not even close to what we're looking at," he said.
In November, Ottawa tabled its bottom-line offer as 45,810 square kilometres, while it would control the roughly 169,000 square kilometres not included in the claim. DFN previously stated it wanted a minimum of 70,000 square kilometres.
Following the meeting, Jean Marie River Chief Stan Sanguez said DFN should not accept what the feds are offering.
"We're still in talks with Canada so we need to push them as far as we can and we'll see where we're at when it's time for our summer assembly," he said. "I think we should be looking for at least 50,000 to 60,000 square kilometres."
Other leaders also expressed concern about the process.
"It seems like it's at a standstill," said Chief Berna Landry of the Deh Gah Got'ie Koe First Nation in Fort Providence.
The DFN negotiating team will begin a regional tour to each community this week, said Sanguez.
"That way they can talk to the people and hear what they think," he said.
Antoine said the Dehcho Process is now at a crossroads.
The talks, which began in late 1999, concern regional land, resource and governance issues.