N.W.T. First Nation wins key court battle for Horn Plateau

The Dehcho First Nations has won part of its court battle to protect the subsurface of the Horn Plateau.

Federal judge dismissed Ottawa’s attempt to shut down Dehcho First Nation’s court action

Herb Norwegian is celebrating the decision. He said the next step is simple - restore full surface and subsurface protection for the area. (CBC)

The Dehcho First Nations has won part of its court battle to protect the subsurface of the Horn Plateau.

In a decision released Thursday, a federal judge rejected the federal government’s motion to dismiss the Dehcho court action about the area, also known as the Edehzhie.

The Dehcho had initiated the action in 2010 after the federal government did not renew subsurface protection for the area.

For the past decade, the Dehcho have been working with the territorial and federal governments to have the plateau designated a protected area in the N.W.T.

In his ruling, Justice O'Keefe said the federal government's decision in 2010 to terminate protection without consulting the Dehcho was "clearly questionable".

The plateau is considered culturally, spiritually and environmentally important to the First Nations in the area.

"This is not complicated," says Grand Chief

In December 2011, the federal government reinstated protection to 57 per cent of the area in response to the Dehcho court challenge.

After that, the federal government wanted to dismiss the Dehcho case, on the grounds that since the area has 57 per cent protection, the legal case is no longer needed.

Those protections had been in place for years as the various groups involved with the region worked to protect it under the NWT Protected Areas Strategy process.

The Dehcho say the area should continue to be protected, both on the surface and subsurface, until the Protected Areas Strategy process is complete.

"The Harper Government needs to do the right thing and restore protection for an area that they had previously agreed to protect. This is not complicated," said Dehcho Grand Chief Herb Norwegian.