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News From the North: A roundup of Native news from Canada

Indian Affairs and Northern Development

OTTAWA - Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development Robert Nault made several key announcements during the last week of October affecting First Nations in several regions of Canada. The topics range from extended land bases for a tribal government in the Maritimes to the appointment of an official for the Mackenzie Valley Pipeline in the Northwest Territories. The following summaries are based on statements from the ministry and from the leadership of the affected First Nation.

Pequis First Nation

The Government of Canada contributed over $33 million for construction of the newly opened Pequis Central School, with another $703,000 coming from the Pequis Nation. The new facilities are capable of accommodating 1,158 students from kindergarten to grade 12.

"The construction of this school is truly a testament to the fortitude, strength and courage of the people of the Pequis," said Chief Louis Stevenson. Stevenson added that the new school merged leading edge technology and traditional values that would provide Pequis youth with meaningful career opportunities.

Nault said the school should be a source of pride for the Pequis. He also said the school was a "concrete example" of the Chr?tien government's efforts to close the gap in opportunity between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Canadians.

The Pequis First Nation is located approximately 105 miles north of Winnipeg, Manitoba. The reserve population is 3,065 with a total tribal membership of 7,300.

Priddle named as federal representative

Nault and his counterpart in Ministry of Natural Resources, Herb Dhaliwal, announced jointly the appointment of Roland Priddle to represent Canada's interests for the planned Mackenzie Valley natural gas pipeline in the Northwest Territories.

Priddle had previously served as the assistant deputy Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources from 1974 to 1985. He most recently acted as the chair of the national Energy Board from 1986 to 1997. Priddle is described as key figure in deregulation during a period of expansion in the Canadian energy industry. He has promised to work closely with First Nations in the region to ensure their long-term benefit from the pipeline.

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Priddle earned Master's degrees in Economic Geography from Cambridge University and Economics from the University of Ottawa.

Saint Mary's First Nation land base expands

The reserve of the St. Mary's First Nation increased by 438 acres as the result of a combined effort of the First Nation, the Province of New Brunswick, and the City of Fredericton, the provincial capitol.

Andy Scott, member of Parliament for Fredericton speaking for Nault, said the transfer was one of several similar transactions actions across Canada and in New Brunswick. Provincial leaders described the agreement as "historic" but Nault was not present to make the announcement.

"In addition to meeting legal obligations under specific claims settlements, the Government of Canada recognizes the normal community growth needs of First Nations to meet requirements for housing, economic development and social infrastructure projects," said Scott.

The transfer is a trade for a parcel of St. Mary's land that was needed to finish the construction of a highway on the north side of Fredericton called the Two Nations Crossing. The land transferred to the First Nation in exchange was property previously owned by the New Brunswick Power Corp. and will be used to construct a mall and office complex. One hundred new jobs are expected to be created by the infrastructure expansion on the reserve.

Inuit agreement-in-principle signed

Representatives of Makivik Corp. and Canada met in Montreal to sign the Nunavik Inuit Marine Region Agreement-in-Principle (AIP) that will give management of offshore resources to the Inuit in their traditional territory.

"Negotiating and settling land claims are part of the Government of Canada's commitment to improving the quality of life of Aboriginal people in Canada," said Nault. "The settlement of this claim will help to strengthen Nunavik Inuit communities by clarifying land title and resource ownership and use in the area."

The Makivik Corp. represents over 10,000 Nunavik Inuit. The current AIP covers certain islands in Hudson's Bay, Hudson Strait and Ungava Bay where most of their wildlife harvesting takes place. It is important to note that the AIG only addresses marine resources in the area and does not cover land-based resources, which are under the auspices of the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement of 1975 and the jurisdiction of Nunavut and Canada.

A separate AIP on a similar claim in the Labrador region of Quebec and Newfoundland will be addressed at a later date.