Yk Dene charged
DFO action angers Ndilo community

Dane Gibson
Northern News Services

NNSL (Oct 08/99) - The prospect of facing a possible $300,000 fine was the last straw for Ndilo Chief Fred Sangris.

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans levied two charges against the Yellowknives Dene First Nation and the Deton'cho Corporation for destruction of fish habitat on Back Bay and for the deposit of a "deleterious substance" into water frequented by fish.

"For 60 years Giant mine has been destroying habitat in Yellowknife Bay. In the last 60 years, we've had elders that contracted cancer from drinking water and eating fish from this bay. We've had children die," Sangris said

"We don't believe the small amount of gravel that was put on the shoreline harms fish or habitat. Let's not concentrate on our small infill project, let's concentrate on the whole bay. In all these years the operators of Giant mine have not been charged for the devastation of our traditional habitat, water and environment."

The charges were laid because of a 1997 project. The Ndilo band used gravel to build up a small portion of the shoreline directly across the bay from Giant mine.

DFO arctic habitat co-ordinator, Julie Dahl, said the effects of Giant mine on the bay aren't relevant here. Industry, she said, is regulated and limits are set to ensure Giant mine discharge into Baker Creek, which runs into Back Bay, doesn't reach hazardous levels.

"It's a totally different discussion. They have physically filled in an area that is a known fish habitat area and that is in direct violation of section 35 of the Fisheries Act," Dahl said.

Fishery officer Robert Luke said the maximum penalty for a first offence is a $300,000 fine and six months imprisonment. He added that Ndilo is still Crown property so any development on the shoreline is still under the authority of the Crown.

Sangris disagreed with each of DFO's claims and was unwilling to separate the two issues. He said the irony is clear when you read DFO's own Giant mine water licence renewal recommendations from last year.

The DFO report states: "Back Bay is the receiving environment of mine effluent. The DFO is primarily concerned with the potential for long-term impacts associated with ammonia. Specific forms of ammonia can be highly toxic to aquatic life."

The report also said the DFO is concerned about the "subsequent potential for water quality degradation."

That said, they went on to recommend a maximum water licence term of five years.

"The DFO is good at focusing on one thing and not the big picture. Treaty rights exist today, we're Treaty 8 members, and that gives us the right to conduct activities in our villages and our lands without licence or permits," Sangris said.

"What I'm hoping is that these charges will open the doors and shine a light on the devastation that Giant mine has done here."