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Tsay Keh Dene vote yes to Williston settlement agreement

VICTORIA – Tsay Keh Dene First Nation in northern B.C. has voted yes to a final agreement with the Province and BC Hydro over the development of the Williston Reservoir and W.A.C. Bennett Dam, Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation Minister George Abbott announced today.

"The ratification allows the Province to right a historic wrong done to the Tsay Keh Dene First Nation," said Abbott. "It will allow them to move forward and build for a positive future, and I applaud the leadership and vision of the Chief and Council for their commitment to delivering this agreement for the benefit of the whole community."

80% of the Tsay Keh Dene members who voted were in favour of accepting the terms of the agreement. The ratification vote triggers settlement of the litigation against BC Hydro and the Province for the creation and operation of the W.A.C. Bennett Dam and the Williston Reservoir over 40 years ago.

The Tsay Kay Dene First Nation, based in the Peace River Valley, 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. The flooding also destroyed traditional hunting grounds, gathering sites and burial grounds.

"We are pleased the Tsay Keh Dene support this agreement," said Bob Elton, BC Hydro president and CEO. "This settlement provides for certainty of operations at BC Hydro's current Peace River facilities. But more important for BC Hydro, the agreement is simply the right thing to do as it corrects past wrongs done to the Tsay Keh Dene. Together we have taken a very important step toward a positive future based on mutual respect and trust."

The final agreement provides the Tsay Keh Dene First Nation with one-time payments totalling $20.9 million, most of which will be placed in an endowment fund. The First Nation will also receive annual payments of approximately $2 million in acknowledgement of the impact of the reservoir on the Tsay Keh Dene First Nation. The funds can be used to support a wide range of social, cultural and governance programs.

"This positive vote is a signal that our community wishes to close the door on the past and look to the future," said Tsay Keh Dene Chief Ella Pierre. "The benefits from this agreement will allow us to create a more secure and prosperous future for our people today and for our children tomorrow."

Other programs flowing from the final agreement include direct award contracting opportunities, assurances regarding annual road maintenance and capacity funding to allow the community to engage in discussions regarding impacts of new BC Hydro projects on the community.

In 1999, the Tsay Keh Dene First Nation commenced litigation against BC Hydro, the Province 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.

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 socioeconomic impacts of the construction of the dam and reservoir. On March 30, 2009, a final agreement was initialled by the chief negotiators from BC Hydro and Tsay Keh Dene First Nation.

This agreement follows the final agreement signed by the Province, BC Hydro and Kwadacha First Nation in November 2008. Kwadacha First Nation was also impacted by the development of the Williston Reservoir and W.A.C. Bennett dam.

The community ratification paves the way for signing of the final agreement by all parties in late July.

Source: BC Hydro News


Dag Sharman
Senior Media Relations Advisor
BC Hydro
Phone: 604 623 4022
Mobile: 604 375 409

Maria Wilkie
Communications Director
Ministry of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation
Phone: 250 953 3211
Mobile: 250 361 720

Eric Woodhouse
Chief Negotiator
Tsay Keh Dene First Nation
Phone: 250 385 1411