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Dehgah Alliance moves forward

Stephan Burnett
Northern News Services

Fort Simpson (Mar 21/05) - In what might be seen as a radical change in attitudes, a new organization has been formed that will move forward with its own considerations regarding the construction of the proposed Mackenzie Valley Pipeline.

The creation of the Dehgah Alliance Society is not just about making money and landing oil and gas contracts for the Deh Cho people, it's also about acquiring information to make solid agreements on impacts and access, according to Dehgah Alliance president and Liidlii Kue First Nation Chief Keyna Norwegian.

The Dehgah Alliance Society was officially formed Feb. 3 out of the old Deh Cho Pipeline Working Group.

Not everyone is happy with the formation of this society.

Richard Lafferty, a delegate with the Fort Providence Metis, recommended that all Deh Cho communities be represented within the group.

So far the society only includes communities located along the proposed Mackenzie Valley natural gas pipeline corridor.

K'atlodeeche Chief Roy Fabian has said the community of Hay River will be impacted by trains, trucks, ships and an influx of people coming as a result of the pipeline and should be included in the society.

Norwegian argued the hands of the DFN have been tied by litigation the organization has brought forward on the potential pipeline development and its subsequent environmental reviews.

"We felt that our hands were tied on the issues. We decided that it's best to try to get away from the Dehcho First Nations," Norwegian said, explaining why they formed the new organization. "We need to move forward. The Dehgah Alliance Society is totally separate and able to get some movement."

One of the first things the society will do is organize a conference to examine the social and economic impacts of the Mackenzie Valley Pipeline.

The conference will take place in Fort Simpson, April 12 to 15.

Executives from Imperial Oil are being requested to attend, along with executives from TransCanada Pipeline and the Aboriginal Pipeline Group. Other speakers include RWED Minister Brendan Bell and other ministers of the territorial government.

The main topics on the agenda will be: socio-economic impacts; small business training; education and the pipeline; communities and the pipeline; infrastructure and transportation. Participants will also talk health and social issues, employment opportunities, economic development opportunities, access and benefit agreements and action plans for agreement implementation.

"For the first two days we're trying to get as many people as we can to answer questions we have about the pipeline," said Norwegian.

The last two days will be for Dehcho First Nation members only, when Norwegian expects strategizing will occur on how best to tackle the access and benefits agreements. The DFN feel they have been getting the run around from the various players involved instead of receiving straight answers to substantive questions.

"With that in mind, the people of the Deh Cho would have a forum to listen or ask questions," said Norwegian.

Hart Searle, spokesman for the Mackenzie Gas project and Imperial Oil, was surprised by the development and said he wasn't sure whether Imperial would be sending any representatives.

"As with any other request for attendance, we'll take a look at it," said Searle.

The contentious issue of representation will also be discussed once again at the conference, said Fabian.

- with files from Derek Neary