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More pipeline dissension

Derek Neary
Northern News Services

Hay River Reserve (Mar 04/05) - A rift over pipeline negotiations led to another spat among Deh Cho leaders at a meeting held last week.

Richard Lafferty said all Deh Cho aboriginal organizations should be represented in pipeline negotiations.

Richard Lafferty, a delegate with the Fort Providence Metis, recommended that all Deh Cho communities be represented on Dehcho First Nations' pipeline working group.

Keyna Norwegian, chief of the Liidlii Kue First Nation, argued that Dehcho First Nations (DFN) already agreed to allow the Deh Gah Alliance Society to take over impact benefits negotiations with the pipeline proponents.

The Deh Gah Alliance Society only includes communities located along the proposed Mackenzie Valley natural gas pipeline corridor: Wrigley, Fort Simpson, Jean Marie River, and Kakisa. The smaller number of representatives allows for decisions to be made more efficiently, according to Norwegian.

She noted that DFN agreed to turn over pipeline working group funding to the Deh Gah Alliance Society during a December tele-conference. For the DFN to do anything else now would signal confusion, she suggested.

Norwegian added that the Deh Gah Alliance Society has already made headway in timely negotiations with Imperial Oil and the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development. She tried to assure her peers that the society is negotiating with the interests of the entire region in mind.

Fort Simpson Metis Nation President Marie Lafferty warned that if DFN takes away momentum from the society, pipeline benefits will surely be lost.

"You might as well forget it," Lafferty said. "We're not going to get anything. We're going to be screwed."

Herb Norwegian, grand chief of DFN, acknowledged that DFN agreed to transfer funds to the society, but insisted that the group must consult all the Deh Cho communities, not just travel south to be oil and gas conference "groupies."

Keyna Norwegian threatened that she and other Alliance Society members would walk out of the room if a vote was held on the motion to include representation from all communities. That would have resulted in a loss of quorum.

K'atlodeeche Chief Roy Fabian countered, "You're playing a dangerous political game here at the table."

He said it's not right for some communities to "railroad" the others. Fabian contended that his community, even though it's not on the pipeline route, will be impacted by trains, trucks, ships and an influx of people to build the pipeline.

The contentious motion was tabled until after a pipeline conference is held in Fort Simpson in April.

"In April we'll fight over it again," Fabian predicted. "That pipeline was meant to divide this region... we're a conquered nation now."