Taltson talks can’t forget about smaller communities: Dene National Chief

From left to right: Dominic Leblanc, federal minister of northern affairs; Salt River First Nation Chief Frieda Martselos; and NWT MP Michael McLeod. Photo/Francis Tessier-Burns.

“I’m thinking of the smaller communities, are they going to benefit?”

That’s one of the questions Dene National Chief Norman Yakeleya was left with following a $1.2 million funding injection announcement by the federal and territorial governments into the Taltson Hydroelectricity Expansion Project.

About half of that money, $620,000 from Natural Resources Canada as well as Crown Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs, is earmarked for “Indigenous engagement.”

Federal Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, Northern Affairs and Internal Trade, Dominic Leblanc was at the Legislative Assembly to make the announcement, along with fellow MP Michael McLeod, Premier Bob McLeod and GNWT Minister of Infrastructure Wally Schumann.

Chief Yakeleya added that the engagement process has to be Indigenous-led and guided by the treaties.

“There’s lots of Indigenous issues that need to be looked at,” he said, “economic benefits, social benefits, cultural aspects, traditional knowledge.”

Pro-development

Salt River First Nation Chief Frieda Martselos also attended the announcement. She said she is “very much” in support of the expansion project.

Salt River has lands bordering the Taltson dam. As such, Chief Martselos said the community was “used to building partnerships.”

She added, “Salt River is one of the main partners that (the Government of Canada and GNWT) would have to deal with because of our treaty land entitlement agreement and it’s in our traditional territory and I feel very strongly that we will do that.”

Asked if she had concerns about the project, Chief Martselos said, “Everything is compromise and negotiation.”

Making the connection

The other half of the funding—$480,000 from the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency (CanNor) and $120,000 from the GNWT—is going towards a feasibility and engineering study.

Despite having already spent $18 million since 2001, the Department of Infrastructure is still unsure how to exactly connect the Taltson and Snare Hydro systems.

The study will assess the feasibility of having a line run from the Twin Gorges generating facility to Yellowknife through Great Slave Lake.

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