Parks Canada has effectively excluded the North Slave Metis Alliance from the development of Thaidene Nene Park, President Bill Enge told News/North last week.
Situated along the eastern edge of Great Slave Lake, the proposed national park would cover approximately 14,000 square kilometres, in addition to the adjoining land that would fall under territorial protection. In his comments, Enge expressed concern over the development’s consultation process and possible affects on the Alliance’s right to harvest caribou in the area.
In its response to the Alliance’s concerns, Parks Canada wrote that while the Alliance has no land claim in negotiation with Canada, it does have court-recognized rights to harvest caribou on the land. It said it would consult with the Alliance on any management plan that “may adversely affect their asserted rights to harvest.”
However, the Parks Canada development description “continues to ignore, and thus erase,” its significance to the Alliance and its Aboriginal rights bearing Metis members, wrote the Alliance’s manager of environment Shin Shiga in an April 25 response. Shiga cited the Supreme Court of Canada decision that declared the Alliance members’ Aboriginal rights, which included harvesting rights in the area now being proposed for the park.
Noting the Parks Canada document also didn’t initially name the Alliance, Shiga said the omission “suggests a failure to consider and mitigate any impact on NSMA members’ rights.“
In Parks Canada’s response to the Alliance, it wrote that it had “mistakenly excluded vital information” — meaning referencing the Alliance by name — in the development description released on April 5. It added that the May 16 version named the Alliance and noted its claim to the national park reserve.
Following Parks Canada’s response, Alliance President Bill Enge told News/North the federal government and GNWT had categorized Indigenous groups in a “hierarchy of order.” The Alliance received neither an establishment agreement, nor a seat on the park’s management board and an impact benefit agreement, he said.
“How else could we describe it but a hierarchy of order where we’re being excluded from everything?” he said, adding that the Crown’s treatment isn’t aligned with the Government of Canada’s reconciliation goals.
“Dead last in this hierarchy of order is the North Slave Metis Alliance, (which) both Parks Canada and the Northwest Territories has seen fit to leave out,” he said.
Parks Canada stated it was in consultations with the Alliance, which Enge described as “light consultation, if we can even call it that.” He said there was one meeting with Parks Canada and more meetings with the GNWT, where “nothing of substance emerged.”
“They are required by law to consult and accommodate the North Slave Metis people. We are very concerned and righteously indignant we are being left out of the same considerations that the other parties are being provided.”
“It’s cold comfort to hear that Parks Canada says to the public, ‘we’re going to have direct consultations or hear directly from the concerns of the North Slave Metis People,” he said.
In response to the Alliance’s letter on the development description, Parks Canada reiterated that it would consult with the Alliance.
“Parks Canada will consult directly with NSMA as it will with other Indigenous governments and groups with regard to the exercise of their hunting and other traditional activities rights,” it stated. “The management body does not have, as part of its mandate, jurisdiction over Indigenous rights-based activities.”
However, Enge said these were “hollow words from Parks Canada.”
“They don’t give us any assurance and they sure don’t speak to equitable and fair treatment at the hands of the Crown when they have completely left us out of the process,” he said.
Parks Canada declined News/North‘s request for comment.