Tłı̨chǫ Response on GNWT Judicial Filing on Fortune Minerals
Behchokǫ̀, NT (June 14, 2018) - On June 8, 2018, the Government of the Northwest Territories (“GNWT”) served the Tłı̨chǫ Government with court documents on behalf of Fortune Minerals (“Fortune”), a junior mining company that claims to have a “dispute” with our government. GNWT apparently seeks to access the third party dispute resolution provisions of the Tłı̨chǫ Agreement on behalf of the mining company.
The Tłı̨chǫ Government has met with Fortune Minerals as recently as May 23, 2018, and plans to again on June 22. Despite these meetings, and related correspondence from Grand Chief George Mackenzie on May 31, 2018, the GNWT chose not to speak to the Tłı̨chǫ Government before intervening on behalf of a junior mining company in court.
The Tłı̨chǫ Government is extremely disappointed that our Treaty partner – the GNWT - chose to take the unilateral step of bringing this treaty issue to court without first addressing it with the Tłı̨chǫ Government. This matter could and should have been dealt with respectfully through dialogue between our governments. We have serious concerns about the accuracy of the information that was submitted. Tłı̨chǫ legal counsel will now be required to address those issues in court.
Grand Chief Mackenzie stated that the situation with Fortune could have been prevented if GNWT had taken timely action on one of the key provisions of the Tłı̨chǫ Agreement.
Tłı̨chǫ Government has a treaty right, under s. 23.4.1 of the Tłı̨chǫ Agreement, to negotiate an impacts and benefits agreement (“IBA”) with the proponent of any major mining project that will impact Tłı̨chǫ citizens. GNWT and Canada have a treaty obligation to develop measures to enforce that right as part of the government authorization process. Tłı̨chǫ Government also has a treaty right to negotiate an access agreement where proponents such as Fortune seek to build a road across Tłı̨chǫ lands.
The required measures for implementing the Treaty have never been developed and are 12 years overdue. Fortune received environmental authorization but has never negotiated an IBA. The access agreement and IBA required by the Tłı̨chǫ Agreement are designed to address impacts and benefits of a major mining project. They raise highly related issues that need to be addressed in parallel.
Fortune’s proposed development is a major mining project. It will have major impacts on Tłı̨chǫ citizens. Tłı̨chǫ negotiators have worked with Fortune in good faith to address those impacts through both an access agreement and an IBA, but it seems that Fortune is now trying to use dispute resolution to avoid negotiating with us. Now while we still negotiate in good faith, we are also forced to apply our financial, legal and human resources in court. The Tłı̨chǫ Government supports sustainable development on our lands. The GNWT should be ensuring that Fortune negotiates an IBA with the Tłı̨chǫ, that is their Treaty responsibility.