Athabasca Residents Explore Future Of Development

Friday, November 27, 2009 at 15:16



The future of development in the Athabasca region was the number one issue at a gathering yesterday in Fond du Lac.


The Athabasca Territorial Government is holding a land and resources conference, with delegates from the three Denesuline bands and four neighbouring muncipalities have been invited to share their views on the best way to proceed with development.


Concerns over fisheries, mine rehabilitation and traditional hunting practises are just some of the topics that have been discussed so far.


One of the people watching yesterday’s session was Alex Mercredi.


The Fond du Lac teacher says he’s glad the conference is taking place.


He says many local residents want a better sense of what companies are doing in their area.


“We talked about the environment here, we talked about education — just basically, ‘let us know what you guys are up to, and therefore we can have a cohesive dialogue to understand both parties,” Mercredi says.


He adds that type of understanding is a common thread companies can use to help build stronger relationships.


The Prince Albert Grand Council’s Athabasca vice-chief, Don Deranger, says he feels the far north will benefit from speaking with one voice.


Deranger explains that government and industry will be more prone to listen to the issues that way.


He says one of the first things they want to do is develop a protocol for government to follow.


“We’re asking for to get a protocol so that they can deal with the region, with the Athabasca land use management area, and how to resolve some of the issues that are being confronted,” Deranger says.


He adds that the Athabasca Territorial Government continues to wait for a response from the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission.


The communities in the far north recently filed a judicial challenge against the CNSC over its failure to consult them about recent changes to a license at a mine.


Meanwhile, Fond du Lac chief Napoleon Mercredi says two main viewpoints seem to dominate discussion over how to proceed with industrial development in the Athabasca region.


Mercredi says younger people are more inclined to look at the economic benefits jobs could bring, while elders wonder what will happen to the land.


Mercredi says it’s a healthy conversation that needs to be balanced carefully.


“If you’re looking from my young people’s point of view — because they haven’t been around long enough, so their preference is work and contracts for them, but if you look at the elders, they want to make sure the water is protected, the land is protected, and that’s what they’d like to see,” he says.


Mercredi says he is keenly interested in how development from the Alberta tarsands is affecting the Athabasca River, along with acid rain.