The NWT government and Yellowknives Dene First Nation have talked through their differences regarding the proposed Slave Geological Province highway, the two say.
The governments met on September 25, according to a joint statement issued on Wednesday, “in an effort to strengthen their relationship and set the stage for improved cooperation” on the project.
The First Nation had retracted its support for the highway at the start of August, citing concerns about the territorial government’s procurement process.
Planning for the Slave Geological Province highway, which would extend through the mining zone northeast of Yellowknife to the Nunavut border, is at an early stage. Construction will require hundreds of millions of federal dollars that are not yet guaranteed.
The territory says building the highway “will support the NWT’s future economy by enabling mineral exploration and development in a region with significant resource potential, while also assisting with reclamation of mines in the region upon closure.”
Quoted in Wednesday’s statement, Chief Edward Sangris said: “Indigenous, territorial, federal, and municipal governments must work together to move projects forward that will stimulate the economy, create employment, attract investment, and ensure a bright future for all northerners while respecting Indigenous traditions, culture, treaty rights, and title.”
What had changed to reassure the First Nation regarding the highway and the procurement process was not immediately clear.
In August, the First Nation said federal funding received to plan the road had been inappropriately spent on retaining large, multi-national firms without local consultation.
“Our support for major infrastructure projects will not be forthcoming until the current GNWT procurement policies are reviewed and changes are enacted,” the First Nation said in a statement at the time.
The NWT government on Wednesday said it had reaffirmed its commitment to “working collaboratively” with the Yellowknives Dene First Nation and other Indigenous governments and organizations.