Senators, to begin, I would like to acknowledge the Traditional Unceded Ancestral Territory of the Algonquin Nation.
My Name is Bill Lux and I am here with my colleague Michelle Miller. We are here to present to you on behalf of the Kaska Dena Council.
I would like to begin by thanking the Senate Committee for this opportunity to speak with you and I would also like to thank the Committee members for offering to travel to Lower Post for a presentation there in September. But as you know, due to the evacuation notice regarding the wildfire, which burned through our community, this presentation could not take place.
The Kaska Dena Council is a Society set up to engage in the BC Treaty Process, representing the Indigenous Rights of the Kaska Dena members of Kwadacha First Nation, Dease River First Nation, and Daylu Dena First Nation, and includes members of the Fireside and Muncho Communities. This represents 3 of the 5 Kaska First Nations in the Kaska Traditional Territory that extends into the Yukon and NWT.
Senators, we have considered your theme of today’s hearings and there are many issues that we could address. But we have decided on an approach that is a little different. We want to highlight six on‑the‑ground examples, which we think practically illustrate what our future and our renewed relationships could and should look like.
Number one. The Kaska believe that including Indigenous Protected Areas is a central tool to meeting Canada’s international commitment of protecting 17% of the country’s land and water by 2020.
Almost a year ago we expressed our interest in an IPA to Minister McKenna by letter. Since then we have worked very hard to develop a comprehensive proposal under the Canada Nature Fund and are thrilled to report to you the recent news that our proposal covering 3.4 million hectares in the central rocky mountain trench has been approved under the initial quick start stage. We are grateful to Minister McKenna and her officials for this opportunity.
Number two. Indigenous Guardians, will be integral to the management of the proposed IPA. We have been developing our land guardian programs called DANE NAN YÉ DĀ (DENANANYADA) over the last several years. The Kaska also strongly support the Indigenous Leadership Initiatives (ILI) in their efforts to create a National Indigenous Guardian Network in partnership with the Federal Government. For many of our young people, a future career as a land guardian is a very promising goal to work towards.
Number three. LNG – On Tuesday, Oct. 3, Prime Minister Trudeau announced the largest resource development project in Canadian history… a 40 billion-dollar LNG export facility in Kitimat. Senators, that gas has to come from somewhere and you know where that is, right in our traditional territory. An estimated 848 trillion cubic feet of natural gas lies in the portion of the Liard basin which is in the Kaska Traditional Territory. So, you can see that this is going to affect our future big time and we have to get it right.
Right now, Kaska leaders are beginning the work to develop engagement strategies and polices for the Kaska Dena Council to increase its capacity and to facilitate its negotiations with the province of British Columbia, Federal Government and industry in the development of the natural gas resources and engagement in all aspects of the development including extraction, applications, market and socio-environmental benefits.
There is a model here with public governments and First Nation governments working together to manage development responsibility while protecting the environment. WE MUST TOGETHER, GET THIS ONE RIGHT!
Number four. Wildfires – The main reason we are here today is because you were unable to come to Lower Post due to the wildfire that nearly destroyed one of our communities. We are seeing the effects of climate change literally at our front doors. It isn’t just a Kaska issue, it isn’t just a northern issue, it isn’t just a provincial issue or a federal issue– wildfires are going to be a part of our future. So, we must work together at all levels using our collective experience and expertise to take proactive steps in the battle of future wildfires. We cannot wait till next summer to plan and take action.
Number five. Residential School – We have told you about some successes and challenges which will take us into the future – but I really need to highlight that in the middle of our community of Lower Post exists one of the most atrocious reminders of the wrongs in our past – the residential school. In fact, Senators, many of the staff who are forced to work in this former residential school wish it had burned to the ground during the fire.
Negotiations to tear it down and build a new admin building continue to be incredibly frustrating and unproductive – we need your support and there would be no better way to show true reconciliation and a brighter future for the Kaska and others who attended that school than to ensure action on this matter.
To conclude my remarks thank you and Mussi Cho. I really look forward to talking with you further as the evening progresses.
Now I would like to hand it over to my colleague Michelle Miller who will talk about our example Number six.