Mackenzie Valley fibre optic line runs through unsettled land, says chief

The chief of the Pehdzeh Ki First Nation in Wrigley, N.W.T., says the territorial government is 'expropriating' unsettled territory by beginning construction on the Mackenzie Valley fibre optic line.

Pehdzeh Ki First Nation Chief says territorial government 'expropriating' land for development

Chief Tim Lennie, of the Pehdzeh Ki First Nation in Wrigely, N.W.T., says the Mackenzie Valley fibre optic line runs through land that is currently the subject of self-government talks. (File photo)

Work on the Mackenzie Valley fibre optic line began last week, but the chief of the Pehdzeh Ki First Nation in Wrigley, N.W.T., says part of its route runs through land subject to self-government talks.

"They're expropriating it," says Tim Lennie. "For development. They're expropriating it. They're actually expropriating lands for some of their projects. Whether it is the Mackenzie Highway, the fibre optic links. 

"And that gives us less land to select when it does come time to select certain lands for development."

The 1,154 kilometre line's proposed route runs through multiple communities in the Northwest Territories, including Wrigley. Lennie says he "understands the need" for the increased internet speeds a fibre optic line would bring, but it runs through land that's been the subject of talks between Dehcho communities and the territorial government since 1999.

"Because we're in an unsettled area of the Northwest Territories, we don't have a settled claim with the governments yet," he says. "That's the whole question, is that we're still in negotiations with the government about our land and resources, and they're just continuing to alienate... continuing to give out when there's no settled claim in the area."

Lennie says the territorial government has consulted the community, but he's not sure the government is listening to their concerns.

"I still question whether it's legal to do this while we're still... we're supposed to be negotiating in good faith," he says. "It seems like the government is proceeding with some of their projects, and some of their infrastructure being put in our territory.

"We still have an issue of access. We still have an issue of impact. It's very minimal, in regards to employment. At the same time, it's a service, that's going to provide a service to some of the bigger services: education, health. So we still have some unanswered questions."

Work on the fibre line is expected to wrap next winter, with the line going into operation in the summer of 2016.

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