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Chief Harry Deneron, left, on behalf of Acho Dene Koe First Nation and Premier Bob McLeod for the territorial government signed an agreement-in-principal in Yellowknife on Feb. 13. Nahendeh MLA Kevin Menicoche was a witness to the signing. - photo courtesy of the GNWT
Negotiations move forward
Acho Dene Koe First Nation and Fort Liard Metis sign agreement-in-principal

Roxanna Thompson
Northern News Services
Published Thursday, February 20, 2014

Acho Dene Koe First Nation and the Fort Liard Metis' land claim and self-government process has taken a major step forward.

On. Feb. 13, Chief Harry Deneron signed an agreement-in-principal in Yellowknife at the Legislative Assembly with Premier Bob McLeod. It has taken Acho Dene Koe First Nation (ADK) and the Fort Liard Metis almost six years to reach this point. ADK signed a framework agreement in July 2008, with the territorial and federal governments allowing it to negotiate its own agreement, apart from the Dehcho Process.

The minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC) still needs to sign the agreement. Then the next step will be the negotiations of a final agreement, which will include topics such as land, harvesting of plants, wildlife and fish, public community government and financial payments. Once it is finished the final agreement will be the first community-based land and resources agreement in the territory.

"I think it's going to be beneficial for the Northwest Territories. It will be beneficial for the Acho Dene Koe First Nation," McLeod said about a final agreement.

Having a final agreement will make for better relations with and more recognition for ADK, he said.

McLeod said that it felt good to be part of the signing of the agreement-in-principal.

"Any time we do a signing it's evidence of the hard work of the negotiators and that we're continuing with the constitutional and political development of the Northwest Territories," he said.

The expectation of the 17th assembly is that with land claims negotiations progressing a number of signings will be made during its term, said McLeod. He hopes that the speed at which negotiations with ADK have progressed will continue and that the final agreement will be reached before 17th assembly concludes in one and a half years.

Although this was just an agreement-in-principal, McLeod said there was still a sense of the signing being an important moment.

"Each one of these are important in their own right and have their own historical

significance," he said.

Deneron declined to comment until the minister of AANDC signs the agreement.

Not all of the First Nations in the Deh Cho are pleased with the signing or with the press release the territorial government sent out to announce it.

The Nahanni Butte and Sambaa K'e Dene Bands sent out a joint release on Feb. 17 as a reminder that the agreement-in-principal has to be signed by the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada before a final agreement can be negotiated, and that agreement is subject to a court-ordered consultation process.

In November 2010, the two bands jointly filed an application for judicial review of the federal government’s decision not to consult with them prior to signing a land claim agreement-in-principal with ADK. The three First Nations have traditional lands that overlap.

In her findings, Justice Anne Mactavish ruled that once an agreement-in-principal was reached, the federal government has a duty to, "engage in deep, meaningful and adequate consultation" with Trout Lake and Nahanni Butte.

That consultation was to, "develop workable accommodation measures to address their concerns with respect to the determination of lands and resources forming the settlement area or settlement lands of ADKFN's land claim, and the regulation or management of such lands and resources."

According to their press release, the two bands don't oppose the essential provisions of the agreement-in-principal, but strongly object to the proposed size and geographic extent of the settlement area as well as the selection of fee simple lands, lands ADK and the Fort Liard Metis would own, within the Nahanni Butte and Trout Lake First Nations' primary land use areas.

The First Nations said the territorial government should have respected and honoured their rights by noting these outstanding concerns in their press release.

Neither Chief Dolphus Jumbo of the Sambaa K'e Dene Band nor Chief Mike Matou of the Nahanni Butte Dene Band could be reached by press time for comment.

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