YKDFN satisfied after meeting with feds on Giant Mine apology, compensation

Edward Sangris, Dettah chief of the Yellowknives Dene First Nation,demands an apology and compensation from Giant Mine. (Mariah Caruso/CKLB)

The Yellowknives Dene First Nation (YKDFN) says it is one step closer to receiving an apology and compensation from the federal government for the legacy of Giant Mine.

Dettah Chief Edward Sangris and Ndilǫ Chief Ernest Betsina attended a virtual meeting with over 20 representatives from Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada (CIRNAC). Among those in attendance was Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett, Northern Affairs Minister Daniel Vandal, and NWT MP Michael McLeod.

“To have both of the Ministers, our Member of Parliament, and many senior members of their team at the meeting with us shows that we have a shared interest with Canada in resolving the issue of Giant Mine in the spirit of Reconciliation, and to heal the land and clean up the environment for future generations,” Chief Sangris said in a press release. “Our elders and our people want to get back to the land.”

Jason Snaggs, CEO for YKDFN, says in an email the meeting also included a deputy minister who previously lived in Yellowknife and visited the Giant Mine numerous times, in addition to many other key senior officials who work on the file

Giant Mine operated in Yellowknife between 1948 and 2004, leaving behind 237,000 tonnes of arsenic trioxide stored in underground chambers.

Snaggs says this meeting differs from previous ones, as it was evident there was a clear commitment from the federal government.

“Their eyes had opened up to the history of Giant Mine and its toxic legacy on the Yellowknives Dene,” he writes. “As the ministers said at the meeting, they think that all Canadians need to hear this story.”

The meeting is the first to be held since the YKDFN hosted a demonstration at the Giant Mine site in December. It was also the first to be held following extensive historical research prepared last year, which the YKDFN sent to the ministers in November.

Going forward, McLeod plans to table an official petition before the House of Commons in March, this is the second largest open petition with over 7,000 signatures.

“It is clear that our issue is getting peoples’ attention,” Snaggs finished.

A follow-up meeting to establish more details is being scheduled for February.

About the Author

Luke Carroll
Luke Carroll is a journalist originally from Brockville, Ont. He has previously worked as a reporter and editor in Ottawa, Halifax and New Brunswick. Luke is a graduate of Carleton University's bachelor of journalism program. If you have a story idea, feel free to send him an email at luke.carroll@cklbradio.com