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Georges Erasmus, chief negotiator for Dehcho First Nations, answers delegates' questions at a leadership meeting held at the Hay River Reserve last week. Grand Chief Herb Norwegian listens in the background. - Derek Neary/NNSL photo

Leaders want end to impasse

Derek Neary
Northern News Services

Hay River Reserve (Mar 04/05) - Five months after filing the first of two court challenges against the federal government, Dehcho First Nations' chiefs and Metis presidents have instructed their negotiators to get talks back on track with Canada.

DFN launched its legal action in September, maintaining that the federal government has denied the Deh Cho meaningful participation in an environmental review for the proposed Mackenzie Valley pipeline. DFN also wants federal commitments on benefits from the pipeline.

On Feb. 23, DFN leaders held an in-camera session at the Hay River Reserve to discuss negotiations strategy. Asked for an update on the stalemate with the federal government, Grand Chief Herb Norwegian said twice, "I'm not at liberty to talk about it."

However, he did reveal that he would be in Ottawa again during the second week of March. He said he is hoping to meet with Andy Scott, minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development.

The Deh Cho's leaders have remained patient and tolerant throughout the past five months, according to the grand chief.

"They see there will probably be something positive coming out of this (process)," he said.

Lloyd Chicot, chief of the Ka'a'gee Tu First Nation in Kakisa, said he's confident that the deadlock with the federal government will soon be broken.

"It seems slow, but each meeting (the federal negotiators) are starting to move from their original position," Chicot said.

"In the long run I think it looks positive."