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Negotiations progress with Imperial Oil

Roxanna Thompson
Northern News Services
Published Monday, February 7, 2011


Progress is being made but there are still a lot of unanswered questions surrounding the pipeline access and benefits agreement that Dehcho First Nations is negotiating with Imperial Oil.

The Dehcho First Nations' Access and Benefits Negotiations Team met in Yellowknife from Jan. 18 to 19 to review its progress and map out its next steps. Chief Jim Antoine of Liidlii Kue First Nation chairs the team made up of chiefs from the communities with vested interest in the Mackenzie Gas Project including Wrigley, Jean Marie River, Kakisa, Fort Simpson and the Hay River Reserve.

"We know what we need to get done," Antoine said.

One of the top items on the to-do list is informing Dehcho First Nations' (DFN) members and leadership about the state of the access, benefits and harvesters' agreements.

The team needs to get feedback about whether negotiations are on track and to get direction for the next stages, Antoine said.

Antoine plans to travel with Grand Chief Samuel Gargan to the communities early this month to speak about the issue. A similar presentation will also be given at the winter leadership meeting that will take place in Fort Simpson from Feb. 22 to 24.

Questions about the access portion of the agreement include how the project's proponents, including Imperial Oil, will pay for the use of the land for the pipeline. In all other cases in the territory involving pipelines there has been a one-time fee for access. Some DFN members have asked for an annual amount, Antoine said. Options will be presented to the membership.

As part of the benefits from the pipeline, but outside the scope of the negotiations, the negotiating' team has been examining the possibility of joining the Aboriginal Pipeline Group.

DFN would have to raise a significant amount of money to help pay for the pipeline but would also receive significant revenues over the course of 25 years, Antoine said.

Some DFN leaders still have concerns about having ownership of the pipeline. Antoine said he personally favours the idea but Liidlii Kue First Nation will act in accordance with the rest of DFN.

The negotiating team has also been examining how First Nations along the pipeline route can be involved in the contracts related to the project.

"We don't have the capacity to take on any major part of the contract," Antoine said.

"We need to get ourselves ready and start looking at joining up with someone huge."

Although no monetary amounts have been settled for the access and benefits agreements, DFN still has to decide which groups will get a share and how much they will be given.

One option is to give all the First Nations and Metis groups in the Deh Cho a portion of the money based on criteria including population and land base.

"We've got to tackle that," Antoine said.

Progress is being made on a third area of negotiations, the harvesters compensation agreement, he said. Antoine said overall the negotiations with Imperial Oil are progressing.

"These are tough issues to deal with and someone's got to do it and we are doing it," said Antoine.

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