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NEWS RELEASE

For Immediate Release
2010ARR0001-000106

Jan. 30, 2010

Ministry of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation
BC Hydro
Tsay Keh Dene First Nation

 

 

AGREEMENT PROVIDES OPPORTUNITIES FOR TSAY KEH DENE

 

VICTORIA – George Abbott, Minister of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation and Chris O’Riley, vice-president of BC Hydro joined the Tsay Keh Dene First Nation in their community yesterday to celebrate the conclusion of a final agreement that addresses the longstanding grievances from the creation and operation of the W.A.C. Bennett Dam and Williston Reservoir in the Peace River Valley region.

 

“I was delighted to join Chief Dennis Izony and the Tsay Keh Dene community on their traditional territory to celebrate this important agreement,” said Abbott. “This marks the closure of a difficult chapter in the community’s history and I believe this agreement will provide Tsay Keh Dene members with the tools to build a more prosperous future for generations to come.”

 

The final agreement addresses the past, present and future impacts created by the construction and operation of the W.A.C. Bennett Dam and Williston Reservoir in northern B.C. The flooding destroyed traditional hunting grounds, gathering sites and burial grounds, and forced the First Nation to move elsewhere.

 

The Tsay Keh Dene community voted to ratify the final agreement in June 2009. The gathering at Tsay Keh Dene village allowed the Province and BC Hydro to mark the occasion with a cultural ceremony, exchange of gifts and a community meal.

 

The agreement we signed is a real achievement for all parties involved. It recognizes the impacts of BC Hydro’s past actions on the Tsay Keh Dene, and affirms our commitment to working in partnership with First Nations communities,” said Chris O’Riley, BC Hydro senior vice-president of Engineering, Aboriginal Relations and Generation. “I believe the agreement lays the foundation for a new relationship between the Tsay Keh Dene and BC Hydro that is based on mutual understanding, respect and trust.”

 

The Tsay Keh Dene First Nation is situated north of Prince George in the Peace River Valley, south of where the Finlay River flows into Williston Lake.

 


 

 

“This agreement is the product of many years of hard work and an unwavering commitment by our respective leaders to resolve outstanding matters, especially by our former Chiefs Johnny Pierre and Ella Pierre. We are grateful for what they have accomplished,” said Tsay Keh Dene Chief Dennis Izony. ”It is our hope that this Settlement Agreement will lay the groundwork for Tsay Keh and BC Hydro to work toward a meaningful, productive relationship, with a view to the shared use and development of the resources of our territory to our mutual benefit.”

 

The final agreement provides benefits including a one-time payment totalling $20.9 million to the Tsay Keh Dene First Nation and annual payments, for as long as power is produced at the facilities, of approximately $2 million, with future adjustments for inflation.  Most of the initial payments will establish an endowment fund that will be managed by investment professionals, offering Tsay Keh Dene First Nation the opportunity for financial returns in the future. The agreement also provides Tsay Keh Dene with business and employment opportunities and will ensure that they are informed about BC Hydro facilities and operations that could affect them.

 

The Final Agreement with Tsay Keh Dene follows the completion of a similar Final Agreement between the Province, BC Hydro and Kwadacha First Nation, which was signed on Nov. 27, 2008.

 

The government of British Columbia is building a new relationship with First Nations based on the principles of mutual respect, recognition and reconciliation. For more information about the New Relationship, visit http://www.gov.bc.ca/arr/.

 

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A backgrounder follows.

 

Media Contacts:

 

 

Maria Wilkie

Communications Director

Ministry of Aboriginal Relations

and Reconciliation

250 361-7720 (cell)

 

 

 

Susan Danard

Media Relations Manager

BC Hydro

604 623-4220

604 418-4782 (cell)

 

 

Eric Woodhouse

Chief Negotiator

Tsay Keh Dene First Nation

250 385-1411

 

 

For more information on government services or to subscribe to the Province’s news feeds using RSS, visit the Province’s website at www.gov.bc.ca.

 


 

BACKGROUNDER

For Immediate Release
2010ARR0001-000106

Jan. 30, 2010

Ministry of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation
BC Hydro
Tsay Keh Dene First Nation

 

 

 

 

TSAY KEH DENE FINAL AGREEMENT

 

The Williston Reservoir was created by the construction of the W.A.C. Bennett Dam, completed in 1967. The reservoir is the largest body of water in British Columbia and the ninth-largest man-made lake in the world. 

 

The Tsay Kay Dene First Nation traditionally travelled by river, which allowed them access to food and provided them with a way to communicate with the surrounding communities. The construction of the dam and reservoir flooded out the Tsay Keh Dene community at Fort Grahame, forcing the First Nation to move elsewhere in their traditional land.

 

History of Negotiations:

 

In 1999, the Tsay Keh Dene First Nation commenced litigation against the Province, including BC Hydro and Canada, for alleged breach of fiduciary duty and infringement of Aboriginal rights, and damages related to the construction and operation of the W.A.C. Bennett Dam and Williston Reservoir.

 

Negotiations to address the impacts of flooding from the creation of the dam and reservoir commenced in 2002. In 2006, the provincial government announced an agreement-in-principle between the Province, BC Hydro and the Tsay Keh Dene First Nation to recognize the socio-economic impacts of the construction of the dam and reservoir. 

 

The final agreement received ratification after two separate community votes held in Prince George on June 26, 2009 and in the Tsay Keh Dene village on June 30, 2009. Eighty per cent of the ballots cast were in favour of ratifying the final agreement. The voting standard for ratification was a simple majority of those who voted.

 

Final Agreement:

 

The majority of one-time funding received under the agreement will be deposited into an endowment fund. The fund will be professionally managed and invested to maximize long-term stability and returns for the Tsay Keh Dene First Nation. 

 

Additionally, annual funds of approximately $2 million, adjusted every year to offset inflation, will be paid in perpetuity. After 10 years BC Hydro has the option to pay all its financial obligations at once. In that case, a capitalization fund will be established by the First Nation. Financial experts paid for by BC Hydro would calculate how much must be paid into the fund to ensure the First Nation will receive comparable amounts each year in the future.


 

 

An independent ‘Payment Trustee’ will be appointed by the First Nation to receive funds each year to ensure that all funding requests are related to approved community and social projects. Annual audit reports will be prepared so that the community understands how and where funds are being used

 

In addition to the payments, the Tsay Keh Dene First Nation final agreement also includes a number of other agreements and programs to build community capacity and support economic development activities, including:

 

·         Assurances from B.C. regarding annual road maintenance with contracts to Tsay Keh Dene during the first 10 years for road maintenance.

·         Funding to participate in regulatory proceedings related to operation of BC Hydro’s Peace River facilities.

 

In return for funds paid to the Tsay Keh Dene First Nation, the settlement provides for certainty of current and future operations of BC Hydro’s Peace River facilities (W.A.C. Bennett Dam, Williston Reservoir and Peace Canyon Dam) and releases the Province and BC Hydro from existing and future litigation by the Tsay Keh Dene First Nation or its members, related to the operation of the current Peace facilities.

 

A complete list of additional agreements and programs can be found in the final agreement, available at http://www.newrelationship.gov.bc.ca/ or at www.bchydro.com.

 

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Media Contacts:

 

 

Maria Wilkie

Communications Director

Ministry of Aboriginal Relations

and Reconciliation

250 361-7720 (cell)

 

 

 

 

Susan Danard

Media Relations Manager

BC Hydro

604-623-4220

604-418-4782 (cell)

 

 

Eric Woodhouse

Chief Negotiator

Tsay Keh Dene First Nation

250 385-1411

 

 

For more information on government services or to subscribe to the Province’s news feeds using RSS, visit the Province’s website at www.gov.bc.ca.