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Communities pool resources

Roxanna Thompson
Northern News Services
Thursday, August 23, 2007

A recent governance workshop held in Jean Marie River is part of a larger relationship being fostered between three Deh Cho communities.

From Aug. 13-14 representatives from Jean Marie River, Nahanni Butte and Trout Lake were invited to take part in the Deh Cho Regional Governance Workshop co-ordinated by staff from the Department of Municipal and Community Affairs (MACA).

NNSL photo

Drummers Peter Squirrel, left, and Dominic Elleze of Fort Providence along with Angus Sanguez, a Jean Marie River band councillor, prepare their drums for a drum dance. The dance was held as entertainment during a governance workshop held in Jean Marie River. - photo courtesy of Tammy Neal

In addition to providing useful information for the community's leaders, the workshop was a good first step towards working together, said Tammy Neal, the band manager for Jean Marie River First Nation.

"It's important to keep good relations with your neighbours," she said.

The three communities have entered into a joint venture agreement.On July 16 the agreement was made official when it was signed by Chief Morris Vital of Nahanni Butte.

The agreement is between the Sambaa K'e Development Corporation, the Jean Marie River Development Corporation and the Tthenaago Development Corporation. Together they are now partners in a numbered corporation that's being referred to as the Tri-Corporation until a name can be chosen.

The impetus behind the agreement was the Mackenzie Gas Project, said Chief Stan Sanguez of Jean Marie River.

A large portion of the pipeline will run through the traditional lands of the three communities but separately none of the three has enough resources to bid on contracts related to the project, said Sanguez.

By joining together, the development corporations of the three communities will be able to pool resources including manpower and money to purchase equipment, said Sanguez.

"The small communities, we need to work together," he said.

Although the pipeline was the original starting point, now that work surrounding it has slowed, the corporation is also looking into other ventures, said Rick Phaneuf, general manager of the Sambaa K'e Development Corporation.

The current project is to join the grocery stores in the three communities.

After rebuilding the store in Jean Marie River, the three will be joined together to create a number of benefits, said Phaneuf. Together the stores will make a buying group, which will help with the purchase of groceries at a lower price. The stores will also be able to hire a professional retail manager who will keep a check on the accounts receivable which are often a problem area, said Phaneuf.

"This should turn out to be a significant benefit to all three communities," he said.

Customers should see a reduction in prices as well as an improvement in selection and quality, Phaneuf said.

To bring the stores together, a consultant will be hired to determine the process. Phaneuf said it could take between six to eight months to finalize."

Other areas that the Tri-Corporation is looking into include signing a joint venture agreement with a large catering company that will work on the pipeline and signing an agreement with an airline to start a scheduled service into the communities.

"There's really nothing we aren't interested in. If it's business we're interested in it," said Phaneuf.

Also on the list is the possibility of conducting oil and gas exploration in an area called Arrowhead, located between Nahanni Butte and Trout Lake.

From Sept. 10-12, representatives of the three communities along with Fort Liard, and Fort Simpson are expected to meet in Trout Lake to discuss how the area could be opened.

The area was chosen at an earlier meeting held in Fort Providence from July 4-6.

Although the Sambaa K'e Development Corporation will be hosting the meeting, it isn't directly related to the Tri-Corporation.

All parties have agreed that the corporation won't get involved in political process of land claims or opening land for exploration. If the bands open an area, then the corporation will move forward, said Phaneuf.

Although other joint venture agreements between communities have failed in the past, Phaneuf said there's a lot of support for this agreement.

"Everybody is looking to see a success," said Phaneuf.