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Con/Rycon confusion

Adam Johnson
Northern News Services
Published Friday, August 31, 2007

YELLOWKNIFE - Con/Rycon residents were left confused about their future after a last-minute council motion attempted to transfer their land to the city, rather than directly to lease holders.

NNSL Photo/Graphic

Municipal and Community Affairs deputy minister Debbie DeLancey, right, discusses the transfer of title to lands around the Con/Rycon trailer park during a Yellowknife city council municipal meeting. Community services director Grant White is at left. - Adam Johnson/NNSL photo

"We'll just have to wait and see," said one resident, who did not wish to be identified.

At Monday's city council meeting, Coun. David Wind attempted to pass a motion that would see the leased land transferred to the city from the GNWT's Department of Municipal and Community Affairs (MACA) before it was parcelled out to lease holders. This would reverse a motion passed in July to transfer that land directly to lease holders from MACA.

"We have it available to us to seize the moment," Wind said while pitching the motion to his fellow councillors.

It all started with a letter from MACA Minister Michael McLeod, telling councillors that the proposed plan might cause extensive delays. If MACA were to handle the transfer, the land would have to be sent back to consultation with the Akaitcho Dene. This process could slow or even halt the transfer if the Akaitcho had any objections, he told councillors. This might be compounded by potential changes at the GNWT with an election coming up.

A transfer to the city, he wrote, could be done in a matter of weeks. Under the current plan, Con/Rycon residents are expected to gain title to their land in January.

These assertions were echoed by MACA deputy minister Debbie DeLancey during a committee meeting earlier that day.

"There is no certainty that we would be able to meet the city's request," she said.

Mark Heyck, who has sat on the committee overseeing the land transfer since 2001, was strongly opposed to the motion.

He said assumptions that the city could handle the file faster were false, as managing 27 lease transfers was beyond what the city's land office could handle.

"The city's capacity to do this is simply not there," he said.

"It's going to take far longer."

Further, the deal would require the city to take on the GNWT's remediation costs for the site (around $720,000), which could be paid through sale of the leased lands.

"This is a huge liability both environmentally and financially," Heyck said.

While Coun. Paul Falvo initially supported the motion, he said talking to Con/Rycon residents had changed his mind.

"(Residents think) waiting a little longer to do things right is in their best interest," he said.

Wind said he had concerns that consultation might kill the project, and that the direct transfer from MACA would set an ugly precedent.

"I'm reluctant to see this land subjected to further and further consultation," Wind said.

The motion to reconsider a previous motion requires a two-thirds majority to pass, or six of nine city councillors. Four were opposed Councillors Lydia Bardak, Mark Heyck, Paul Falvo and Shelagh Montgomery), and the motion was defeated. Had the motion passed, it would have required yet another vote to change the initial motion.

For over a decade, Con/Rycon residents have been fighting to gain title to the land their homes were built on before the closure of Con Mine.

The process has been delayed again and again by legal and land claim issues.

Three residents of the area came to council to take in the proceedings.

None of them knew what to make of the decision, and did not wish to be identified in Yellowknifer.

They indicated they wanted to get their land as soon as possible, but were unsure about which option would ensure that.