K’atlodeeche First Nation (KFN) has launched legal action over what it says is unauthorized construction of cabins on its traditional territory.

The lawsuit in the Supreme Court of the NWT – filed on May 5 and amended and refiled on June 29 – is against the GNWT, the Northwest Territory Métis Nation (NWTMN), and the Hay River Métis Government Council (HRMGC) and its president, Trevor Beck.

In a July 16 news release announcing the lawsuit, KFN explained the action calls for a halt to the unauthorized construction of new cabins within its traditional territory – Kátł’odeeche Got’ı̨e Ndehe.

The news release noted that KFN has expressed general concerns about unauthorized cabin construction to the federal and territorial governments for many years.

“Over the past four years, KFN has prepared an inventory of all cabins within its territory, including unauthorized cabins, and presented this information to the Lands Department of the GNWT, along with a proposal to address the cabin management issue,” the news release reads. “KFN has had no response from the GNWT to its proposal.”

KFN is alleging that the NWTMN, HRMGC and Beck have recently begun establishing a cabin at Whitesand River in the Buffalo Lake area and another at Birch Creek without authorization from the GNWT or the consent of KFN.

“They claim to have ‘recognized (section) 35 rights’ to build cabins in our territory,” Chief April Martel stated in the news release, referring to the Canadian Constitution. “In fact, the NWTMN, HRMGC and its members only started to assert rights within the KFN territory after they began moving to the Town of Hay River.”

Chief April Martel says K’atlodeeche First Nation will no longer tolerate the infringement of its treaty and Aboriginal rights and titles.
NNSL file photo

Martel said those asserted rights have not been recognized or established by any government or in any court, and not by KFN.

“KFN will no longer tolerate the infringement of its treaty and Aboriginal rights and titles, the disrespectful actions of the NWTMN/HRMGC and its members within Kátł’odeeche Got’ı̨e Ndehe, or the disregard for its own laws and agreements by the GNWT,” stated Martel.

KFN is insisting that existing rights, laws and agreements be respected by all parties.

“The GNWT should set an example of honorable conduct and uphold its laws and obligations,” stated Martel. “The NWTMN, HRMGC and its members should show respect for the First Nation in whose territory they now reside, rather than constructing cabins without authorization on lands that are not rightfully theirs.”

In its news release, KFN noted it has also formally requested that the GNWT enforce its own legal obligations under the Territorial Lands Act and uphold the Honour of the Crown in accordance with Treaty 8 and the Dehcho Interim Measures Agreement with respect to unauthorized cabin construction.

“The GNWT has refused to do so and continues to allow new cabins to be established without consultation or authorization,” the KFN release stated.

Beck had no comment on the legal action.

No immediate reaction was available from the Northwest Territory Métis Nation or the GNWT.

Paul Bickford

Paul Bickford is the reporter for Hay River Hub.

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