The Gwich’in Tribal Council is calling out the Northwest Territories premier for issuing a “red alert” to Ottawa without first talking to Indigenous groups.

The council is “surprised” Bob McLeod didn’t reach out before denouncing federal restrictions on oil and gas exploration in the Beaufort Sea, especially given the premier’s frustration with Ottawa for imposing those restrictions without first consulting with the territorial government.

A discussion ahead of McLeod’s Nov. 1 statement would have been appropriate, the council said Friday, considering McLeod’s reference to a “re-emergence of colonialism.”

“We would have thought the premier would engage us before advancing such a strong position, just like the GNWT is saying it should have been consulted prior to the federal government’s new five-year ban on new oil and gas development in the Arctic,” stated Grand Chief Bobbie Jo Greenland-Morgan of the Gwich’in Tribal Council in a news release.

“The premier and the GTC (Gwich’in Tribal Council) both understand that in the modern treaty context in the NWT, land claim groups don’t just participate in decision making – we are the decision makers.”

Last week in Ottawa the premier laid into the Liberal government over the five-year moratorium on new oil and gas exploration licenses in Arctic waters, which he says came down without consultation.

The moratorium, said McLeod, represents “but one example of our economic self-determination being thwarted by Ottawa.”

In an interview last week, the premier said it isn’t fair that southern jurisdictions benefit from oil and gas production, while the North is hit hardest by climate change.

The Gwich’in Tribal Council says it is pleased to help governments understand its interpretation of the Gwich’in Comprehensive Land Claim Agreement, and would welcome an open conversation about the future economic development in the North.

“It is clear in the present case that both levels of government have room for improvement,” stated Greenland-Morgan.

“There are lessons to be learned about how nation-to-nation dialogue should take place with land claim groups.”

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