Monday, April 16, 2007

soldiers not welcome in Fort Simpson

Operation Narwhal soldiers not welcome in Fort Simpson: chief
April 16, 2007 | CBC News

As about 300 Canadian Forces and RCMP personnel began a series of simulation exercises in the Northwest Territories this week, the head of one First Nation has declared the soldiers unwelcome in the area.

"We're shocked and we're being treated with total disrespect," Grand Chief Herb Norwegian of the Dehcho First Nation said in advance of the arrival of about 40 soldiers to Fort Simpson, N.W.T.

Norwegian said he believes the military presence is an attempt to intimidate his organization because of its opposition to the proposed Mackenzie Valley Pipeline.

The chief said in early April that if Ottawa does not agree to its proposed land-use plan, it will block construction of the pipeline, which would carry northern natural gas to Alberta's oilsands.

Operation Narwhal, which started Monday and runs until April 27, will have personnel responding to a simulated terrorist attack, air disasters and pandemic in the Mackenzie Delta.

In one exercise, soldiers will secure the Imperial Oil field near Norman Wells, N.W.T., and an 870-kilometre pipeline linked to the Rainbow Pipeline system in Alberta, against a mock terrorist threat.

About 40 soldiers will also secure the perimeter of the airport in Fort Simpson, about 470 kilometres south of Norman Wells along the Mackenzie River. Those troops will be based at the airport during the scenario.
Doesn't want troops visible

Norwegian said he had only heard of the exercise on Thursday, adding that he does not want to see personnel walking around in the community. The Dehcho First Nation includes Fort Simpson.

"We'd rather not have the military be visible when they're doing these kinds of things here," Norwegian said.

"If it's an internal thing for themselves, then keep it internal. Don't parade around town here and give the impression that the military is here, because the last thing that we want to hear is that we've got people coming right from … Afghanistan to the Dehcho."

But Capt. Bonnie Golbeck, a spokesperson with Operation Narwhal, told CBC News that the Dehcho were informed last winter of the Fort Simpson exercise.

"Our planning staff did meet with the Dehcho First Nations office in Fort Simpson," she said.

Goldbeck also rejected Norwegian's claim that the military exercise has anything to do with the Dehcho's First Nation's political opposition to the proposed pipeline.

"Absolutely not," she said.

Norwegian claimed the military presence is the Canadian government's way of responding to Dehcho opposition, noting that the First Nation is also in the midst of land-claim negotiations with Ottawa.

"They are actually coming here and going to play this subliminal war game, this mind game, with us to have them show their muscle," he said. "Is that what this is all about?"

The Dehcho First Nation, which represents 10 communities in the southwest region of the territory, is the only aboriginal group without a land-claim agreement along the route of the proposed 1,200-kilometre Mackenzie Valley pipeline.

A major sticking point in the land claims negotiations has been a land-use plan the Dehcho has proposed that calls for 60 per cent of their lands to be protected. The federal government has rejected the plan as is, saying it protects too much land from development.


jmnlman said...

Is probably has more to do with arctic security then somehow pressuring the natives.

audacious said...

regardless if it is the pipeline, or arctic security, there has to be a better way to handle this situation.