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Chief negotiator steps down
Tim Christian looks back over seven years of Dehcho Process negotiations

Roxanna Thompson
Northern News Services
Published Thursday, February 17, 2011

DEH CHO - Dehcho First Nations Grand Chief Samuel Gargan is viewing the retirement of the federal government's chief negotiator in the Dehcho Process as an opportunity to renew the negotiations.

Tim Christian, who has been the chief federal negotiator on the Dehcho Process since 2004, is retiring at the end of March.

"We've made fairly good progress under his watch," said Gargan.

"He's established good working ethics on how he moves on issues."

With a territorial election coming this fall along with a possible federal election the negotiating parties will have to reconnect with both levels of government. Christian's successor will play a part in that, Gargan said.

"This gives us an opportunity to renew our relationship with the new government that may be in place," he said.

A new federal negotiator is expected to be in place on April 1 but there has been no word from Indian and Northern Affairs Minister John Duncan on who it will be. The Dehcho First Nations (DFN) would like to be part of the process of selecting a replacement, said Gargan, who said that message has been relayed through their lead negotiator Georges Erasmus.

Gargan would like to see the new negotiator attend DFN's leadership meeting in April and set the tone for the continued negotiations.

Christian said he's leaving the negotiations at a high point.

"I think it's in the best place it's ever been," he said.

Christian started in 2004 on the out of court settlement with DFN.

"That was a pretty rough set of negotiations," he said.

A settlement was reached that provided the foundation for a revived Dehcho Process and more funding for that process. Christian was then asked to join as the chief federal negotiator.

For Christian, the next highlight was in the summer of 2006 when Canada tabled an offer that included a cash and land component.

"That was a pretty controversial time," he said. "The Dehcho weren't very happy with the offer Canada made."

DFN's thinking, however, changed over time and its negotiating team was given instructions to negotiate a comprehensive claim that will include a land quantum. Since then the negotiations have taken a more positive, business like tone, said Christian.

At the negotiating table this change has been characterized by hard work on the agreement-in-principle chapters. Christian hopes that at the next session several harvesting chapters will be closed to finalized.

"Things have moved along quite considerably," he said.

There are, however, some serious outstanding issues remaining, the largest of which is the land quantum.

The groups are not close on that issue and have decided not to tackle it until progress is made in other areas, Christian said.

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