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More cash for green groups
Aboriginal co-management boards and committees welcome the increase to funding

Michele Taylor
Northern News Services
Monday, September 4, 2017

A $6.2 million cash increase will give a much needed boost to Indigenous environmental organizations which in turn will inject money into the respective communities.

The additional 40-per-cent increase of investment funding will in part support Inuvialuit, Gwich'in, Sahtu and Tlicho co-management boards and committees that were established under their respective treaties. That increase will see annual core funding support increase to $21.7 million from $15.5 million.

The new multi-year funding agreements, supporting environmental co-management and community participation in the Northwest Territories, was announced Aug. 24 by Carolyn Bennett, the veteran Liberal minister who was days later appointed minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs in a cabinet shuffle in Ottawa.

In the NWT, 33 boards and committees in the territory oversee and carry out land use planning, regulation of the use of land and water and, conduct environmental assessments and reviews of large or complex projects.

"These boards and committees play a critical role in land use, environmental assessment and resource regulation in the Northwest Territories," stated Bennett in a news release.

"Funding renewal was long overdue as most of these funding arrangements were set over 14 years ago and no longer reflect operational needs."

She also stated the importance of establishing a modern funding regime for boards and committees which support the spirit of those treaties.

Ethel Blondin-Andrew, chairperson of Sahtu Secretariat Inc., said with the redefining of minister Bennett's portfolio that Indian Affairs is much different than it stood previously.

"I was with minister Bennett on Friday, we went to Naats'ihch'oh park and we had some discussions," said Blondin-Andrew. "Minister Bennett's portfolio has been redefined or modified so it's kind of a different day today from where Indian affairs was last Friday."

She added that contract priority is also high on the list for the Sahtu.

"We want to keep the economic benefits for contracting within our settlement area which is where our land claims prevails. Why do land claims agreements if you don't uphold them.

"Why do self-government agreements if you're not working at giving the people economic autonomy as well as political?"

Blondin-Andrew said she is looking forward to working with newly appointed minister of Indigenous Services, Jane Philpott.

"I'm really interested in working with Philpott on the procurement policy for remediation and reclamation," she said. "I want to see them deal with the land claim in groups in a way that respects the claim."

Dene National Chief Bill Erasmus stated in a separate release Aug. 28 that the Dene people will be working to engage their full treaty and Aboriginal rights.

He also stated that the Dene Nation is hopeful that the splitting of responsibilities into two defined areas under Indian and Northern Affairs will help turn things around.

"An economic resource development plan needs to be developed jointly with the Dene so stability is the goal rather than 'boom and bust' initiatives," he stated. "The Dene Nation welcomes minister Philpott to her new role in the federal cabinet, we have confidence in her ability to work effectively with us."

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