Thank you, Madam Chair, for allowing me a few minutes.
My name is Michael McLeod. I'm from the Northwest Territories. I come from an area called the Dehcho, which means “big river”. It's in the MacKenzie River area. I belong to the Dehcho First Nations.
I want to speak a bit about the protected areas strategy.
I had the opportunity to watch it over the years. The communities in my riding have a lot of interest in this program.
Many years ago, there was an application filed for a protected area in the Dehcho. A number of communities collectively agreed that this area was a good area that needed to be protected for wildlife. It was a refuge for moose and caribou, with good fishing, and we needed to protect it as things developed.
Things have been moving slowly. Since the application was filed many years ago—I can't remember how many years ago—two applications for diamond mines have been filed and approved. Those mines are operating now, and we still haven't settled the protected area process. There are eight steps. We're stuck at step five, so it's a frustrating process. It takes a long time.
I have done three terms as a territorial politician. I'm now on my first term here, and the process is ongoing. Our grand chief is coming to see if we can get the process going again, but the sad reality is that a lot of our elders who wanted to see this happen have passed away. We don't have that luxury of having the elders guide us as we discuss this further.
There are three areas I want to touch on. I'll just throw them out there so you can answer. One complication in our area has been with the land use discussions or protected areas discussions that are tied to other land tenures, such as national parks or a refuge, and even aboriginal land selection. They have capped it so that it's 40%. All your negotiation discussions can't exceed 40%, including the land that's going to belong to the aboriginal people.
When Nahanni National Park was expanded and announced, our land was shrunk, including the protected areas land. We tried to make it bigger, but they said we had to take it out of the land that we're going to select. That doesn't make sense, but that's what the instructions were. We started with a huge chunk of land that we thought we were going to protect. We're down to 13% of what we initially started with as a request.
What further complicates the process is that in any of these strategies and these discussions, you need sponsors. For the most part the sponsors are government departments, and they help the organizations. Sometimes it's a national organization. I think World Wildlife Fund has been involved with several of these processes.