New team to tackle uranium
Acting chair Cindy Gilday not on new committee

Paula White
Northern News Services

NNSL (Dec 21/98) - The chief and band council of Deline have appointed a new member to the committee set up to address uranium contamination concerns.

"Some members had resigned, so they had to refill the vacant seats," said Chief Raymond Taniton. He did not say who resigned or why.

The new six-person committee, Taniton said, was formed about a month ago. There is only one new member -- Leroy Andre. In an interview Thursday, Taniton did not include former acting chair Cindy Gilday's name as a member. He did say the committee is expected to appoint one of its members as chair sometime this month or early next month. Taniton said Gilday may act as a consultant to the committee from time to time.

"If they (the committee) need help on certain things, they can get Cindy to help them," he said.

Taniton said following the appointment of the chairperson, the committee is expected to set up a meeting with government officials in January. Aside from Andre, the other members of the committee are Morris Neyelle, Gina Bayha, Paul Baton, Joe Blondin and Hughie Ferdinand.

Gilday could not be reached for comment.

The radium mine was first developed on the eastern shores of Great Bear Lake in the early 1930s. Dene used to transport ore from the mine until the 1960s. Deline Dene maintain there is a high rate of cancer deaths among the men who worked as ore carriers.

A committee was appointed by the Deline Band Council about a year ago to petition the federal government to perform health and environmental assessments in the area and to compensate the Deline Dene for any damage that may have been done. It presented a report to the government in June of this year, which included a list of 14 points it wanted addressed. These include immediate crisis assistance, acknowledgement of responsibility and cleanups.

The Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development (DIAND) has already committed $146,000 in funding to do a study on the extent of contamination in Great Bear Lake from the radium mine.

But Carole Mills, manager of the Contaminants Division at DIAND, said no money has changed hands because the Deline uranium committee wanted to reassess the extent of the work they want done. When DIAND and the committee meet in January, Mills expects the two groups will negotiate what needs to be done and what "we can do the next fiscal year."

"We're still committed to working with the community to address the issue," Mills said.

"We're pleased that progress is being made to work together on the issue."

Mills said there has been an environmental study done in the past 10 years at Great Bear Lake, the results of which indicated contamination levels in the fish and the water did not pose a threat.

"But the communities had difficulties accepting those results," she said. "So that's why it's important for government and the communities to work together on future studies."

The groups involved in developing a strategy to deal with contamination issues are Health Canada, Natural Resources Canada, DIAND and GNWT Health and Social Services. Mills said one of DIAND's roles is to co-ordinate meetings between the government and the Deline committee.