Deh Gah Got’ie Chief Xavier Canadien says his community needs the jobs that an office for the recently created Edéhzhíe Protected Area would provide.
Deh Gah Got’ie (Fort Providence) Chief Xavier Canadien didn’t go to the fall Dehcho leadership meeting with plans to walk out on other chiefs.
But Canadien left the meeting Wednesday and went home to “cool off” after he realized Dehcho leaders were unlikely to support putting the Edéhzhíe Protected Area office in Fort Providence, N.W.T.
“I started to feel that they were not in support of this resolution we drafted,” he said. “I knew the answer was not going to be in our favour,” Canadien told the CBC.
Several positions related to the Edéhzhíe Protected Area are now in Fort Simpson. Canadien wants the office to be in Fort Providence, where employment is low.
Canadien says his actions aren’t related to an upcoming election.
“When I walked out, it was not an election thing…. I didn’t even think about it,” he said.
“We have very few people that are employed in our community and this would bring employment,” he said.
Canadien said harvesters in his community use the Edéhzhíe region.
The Edéhzhíe agreement protects the headwaters of the Dehcho region watershed, and the Horn Plateau, an escarpment rising above the Mackenzie Valley. It has been referred to as the “breadbasket” of the Dehcho.
Five families from Deh Gah Got’ie lived in Edéhzhíe before a fire claimed several cabins, Canadien said.
He isn’t sure what other chiefs thought about his walkout — no sitting chiefs had called him the morning after.
“I was so disappointed in the other leaders,” said Canadien. “Not even some kind of … like a ‘Hey man, you tried your best,’ or some kind of encouragement … but nothing.”
Liidlii Kue (Fort Simpson) Chief Gerald Antoine deferred to Dehcho Grand Chief Gladys Norwegian to speak about any plans for Edéhzhíe and economic development.
Grand Chief Gladys Norwegian didn’t respond to a request for comment by end of day Friday.
She told Indigenous broadcaster CKLB Radio it’s too early to say with certainty where the office should be and made statements about the importance of building unity.
When Dehcho First Nations signed the Edéhzhíe agreement with the federal government last year, they created the first Indigenous-led wildlife area in the country.
The 14,000-square-kilometre area is co-managed by the Edéhzhíe Management Board, the Dehcho Guardians and the Canadian Wildlife Service.
The management board has a representative from each First Nation in the Deh Cho, and is responsible for managing an area more than double the size of Banff National Park.