There was no shortage of federal representation in Fort Providence last week for the historic Edéhzhíe celebration.
It was almost like a political homecoming celebration for NWT MP Michael McLeod. He was able to welcome his colleague, federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna to his home community and the region he served as MLA between 1999-2011.
Former Dehcho Grand chief Herb Norwegian was also in attendance. He was awarded the Glen Davis conservation for his decades of work on the Dehcho Land Use Plan.
The agreement signed last week by Dehcho Grand Chief Gladys Norwegian and Minister McKenna is the first of it’s kind, but is similar to the Haida Gwaii watchmen program.
But, over the weekend one MLA was vocal about the lack of presence from the territorial government.
Frame Lake MLA and longtime environmentalist Kevin O’Reilly took to Twitter saying it was shame Premier McLeod and the cabinet “boycotted this important event.”
Too bad that the NWT Cabinet boycotted this important event, Shame, shame. https://t.co/r99Zn0clQV
— Kevin O’Reilly (@kevinframelake) October 12, 2018
A spokesperson from the GNWT said the Premier and cabinet were only notified two days before the celebration, and that it was too short notice with the Legislative Assembly in session.
The Premier said GNWT would not make the land withdrawal permanent until there is a response from the Dehcho First Nations to the most recent offer in the land rights negotiations process. Meanwhile Cabinet has not shown any leadership or even interest in a conservation economy.
— Kevin O’Reilly (@kevinframelake) October 14, 2018
Edéhzhíe, covers a territory twice the size of Banff National Park. It is a blend of boreal forest and wetlands populated with woodland caribou, moose, wolves, fish and other wildlife. It has been a place of cultural and spiritual significance for Dene for time immemorial.
“We are proud to be working with the Dehcho First Nations to protect a very special place in Canada,” Minister McKenna said last week, adding “By protecting more of nature, we are ensuring a healthier and more prosperous future for our kids and grandkids.”
It is the first Indigenous protected area to be announced since Ottawa included $1.3-billion dollars for conservation measures in the 2018 federal budget last winter.