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NOTE: The premier can talk about a new working relationship re: Devils Lake, but not Cross Lake.

March 21, 2000


WINNIPEG, Manitoba--Premier Gary Doer and Manitoba Aboriginal leaders today welcomed the participation of the leaders of the Spirit Lake Tribe and the Three Affiliated Tribes in seeking the immediate completion of a comprehensive, public environmental impact study of the Devils Lake Outlet proposal under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and for the release of all studies conducted to date.

In addition, the participants called for immediate comprehensive, public environmental assessment of any other Devils Lake stabilization projects, including the Twin Lakes Temporary Emergency Outlet. The participants also agreed to seek a full environmental impact study on both sides of the border with appropriate resources obtained from the two federal governments to ensure that independent research will be available to Aboriginal and Indian people.

Addressing a delegation of North Dakota and Manitoba Aboriginal leaders gathered to discuss the impacts of the Devils Lake Outlet on Aboriginal communities on both sides of the border, Doer welcomed the participation of the leaders of the Spirit Lake Tribe and the Three Affiliated Tribes.

"The participation of the leaders of the Spirit Lake Tribe and the Three Affiliated Tribes will significantly enhance Manitoba's chances of encouraging the U.S. federal government to subject the project to a full environmental assessment," said Doer.

During a daylong meeting with the leaders of the Spirit Lake Tribe and the Three Affiliated Tribes, Doer, along with provincial ministers Oscar Lathlin, minister of conservation, and Eric Robinson, minister of Aboriginal and northern affairs, discussed the short and long-term impacts of the proposal on Aboriginal communities in both countries.

In representing the Spirit Lake Tribe, Tribal Chairman Phillip Longie and Tex Hall of the Three Affiliated Tribes indicated their shared concerns on an indigenous nation-to-nation basis with Aboriginal Manitoba leaders regarding water quality and expressed their interest in completion of a comprehensive environmental assessment for the project under NEPA.

The two chairmen indicated that moving forward on environmental studies would assist in resolving concerns raised about the project. The province, in recognizing the impact of the outlet project on water quality, also stressed the need for a full-scale environmental assessment and called for the expansion of the environmental assessment process to examine the project's impact on Canadian waters.

Also in attendance and representing Manitoba Aboriginal concerns were Rod Bushie, grand chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs; Dennis WhiteBird, vice-chief of the Assembly of First Nations; Francis Flett, grand chief of the Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak; Bill Traverse, grand chief of the Southern Chiefs Organization; Sonny Klyne, president of the Northern Association of Community Councils; David Chartrand, president of the Manitoba Metis Federation; Norman Traverse, chief of the Lake St. Martin First Nation; Ken Whitecloud, chief of Sioux Valley Dakota Nation; Emery Stagg, chairman of the Interlake Reserves Tribal Council; and Doug Ballentyne, chief of the Grand Rapids First Nation.

"This meeting will foster a new working relationship between the U.S. and Canada's indigenous peoples to address the environmental concerns affecting North America," said Robinson. "Our hope is that this meeting is the first of many such meetings to come."

The Devils Lake drainage outlet is designed to lower the water level of the lake to address the flooding problem in the region. Manitoba, and those opposed to the project, insist that the project will not solve the flooding problem but will simply transfer the problem downstream into Manitoba.

Manitoba is also concerned with the potential risks to the environmental integrity of the Hudson's Bay Drainage Basin through the introduction of foreign biota and invasive species to the water supply. The introduction of such species could adversely affect the Lake Winnipeg fishery, the largest freshwater fishery in North America.

"Aboriginal people on both sides of the border have expressed concerns regarding the impacts of the Devils Lake proposal on their present environment," said Lathlin. "We must ensure that these concerns are addressed to protect the livelihood and well-being of the present and future generations."

The participants also agreed to pursue a continued dialogue on cross-boundary water issues.