And then there were two
Aboriginal groups withdraw, but steering committee still chugging along

Richard Gleeson
Northern News Services

NNSL (Jan 11/99) - The committee charged with advising the government on the Diavik review process is down to half its aboriginal membership.

But at a meeting held Thursday it was decided the committee would continue its role of advising the government on the process being used for the environmental review of the proposed diamond mine.

"Generally, it was agreed by the aboriginal groups that were there that the committee still has a role to play, that it's being effective and will continue," said Environment Canada's Steve Harbitcht, chairman of the committee.

The North Slave Metis Alliance and Treaty 8 are still represented on the committee. Treaty 11 has never accepted the seat it was given on the committee, and the Kitikmeot Inuit Association withdrew at the beginning of December.

KIA president Charlie Evalik said his organization has decided to focus its manpower on analysing and commenting on Diavik's environmental impact statement.

"I've got limited resources for this, and I needed my people to focus on commenting on the report instead of going to steering committee meetings," said Evalik, noting attending a meeting takes away one person for two or three days.

Evalik said the KIA is not pulling out of the environmental review, and probably would not have withdrawn from the steering committee had the deadline for public input been extended earlier.

About 10 days after the KIA withdrew, the deadline, which was Dec. 31, was extended to March 8.

Meanwhile, Dogrib Grand Chief Joe Rabesca repeated a message he has sent all along. At a meeting with Diavik on Wednesday, Rabesca said his people's first priority are settling their land claim, something he expects will occur this summer.

"That's what we were told at the general assembly in Wha Ti last summer, is take care of the land claim first," said Rabesca.

"I told Diavik that and they were kind of pissed off at me, but that's okay. I told them the people gave me a mandate and I'm going to follow it."

Rabesca said he's also concerned about the pace of the review.

"One thing for sure is we don't want to be rushed, not like BHP again," said Rabesca the day after the meeting.

Diavik is hoping its project will be approved some time this summer, allowing it enough time to use the winter road next year to ship goods and materials required for construction of the mine.