The Yellowknives Dene First Nation (YKDFN) could restore support for the Slave Geological Province Corridor depending on the new minister of Infrastructure and the Premier respecting commitments made under the previous minister, the First Nation said on Wednesday.
YKDFN withdrew its support for the Slave Geological Province access project in August and said in a letter that its support for the GNWT funding request to Ottawa was “provided under false pretenses,” and that the territory’s “antiquated” procurement process holds back the economy.
The Slave Geological Province project proposes to extend mineral extraction potential over the next decade by building an access road with hydro lines into the eastern region of the NWT, up to the border of Nunavut, according to the GNWT Department of Infrastructure.
Jason Snaggs, CEO of the YKDFN, clarified in an email to NNSL Media that the First Nation has not yet recommitted support for the Geological Province project, and doing so “is dependent on the condition that the commitments discussed with and made by Premier (Caroline Cochrane) and the previous minister of Infrastructure and adhered to by the new minister of Infrastructure.”
In an earlier news release on Wednesday, YKDFN chiefs Edward Sangris and Ernest Betsina thanked Katrina Nokleby, MLA for Great Slave, for her service when she was the minister of Industry, Tourism and Investment and minister of Infrastructure.
“(We appreciated) the progress that was made towards Indigenous economic reconciliation under her leadership on the Slave Geological Province Corridor and Taltson Hydro Expansion Projects,” they said.
The chiefs added that they look forward to working with the new executive council and Diane Thom, the new minister of Infrastructure, to make progress on the Slave Geological Providence Corridor and other major infrastructure projects.
“Following some initial missteps, we appreciated the commitments made by the Premier, the GNWT and the former minister of Infrastructure for YKDFN participation in the Slave Geological Corridor project,” they said.
They also applauded the appointment of Julie Green as new health minister, along with the other new cabinet appointments.
“Economically, the NWT is at a critical juncture. Indigenous, territorial, federal and municipal governments must work together to move projects forward that will stimulate the economy, create employment, attract investment and ensure a bright future for all Northerners while respecting Indigenous traditions, culture, treaty rights and title,” the chiefs stated.
Last August, the GNWT secured $40 million for pre-emptive work on the 413-km, two-lane gravel route. Thirty million dollars of that money came from the federal government, with the remainder coming from the territory.
Those funds were intended “to support environmental regulatory reviews and planning studies to advance the Slave Geological Province Corridor,” according to the department.