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Northern aboriginal groups seek help from Unama'ki on environmental remediation
Cape Breton Post
Wed., July 15, 2009

SYDNEY - Community and business leaders from the Northwest Territories are touring the tar ponds this week and learning from local aboriginal groups how to build capacity in their own communities and take advantage of future cleanup projects in the north.

Tuesday and today, representatives from the Tlicho and Deline First Nations are being accompanied by officials from Indian and Northern Affairs in meetings with others from the Unama'ki Economic Benefits Office based in Membertou First Nation.

Deline Land Corp. spokesperson Marty Ann Kenny said five uranium mine sites around Great Bear Lake are scheduled for environmental remediation and northern aboriginals are hoping to learn from local groups in Cape Breton how to set up private companies and bid on government cleanup projects.

The land corp. is a band-owned entity, but other private companies will be expected to bid on cleanup projects. "That's part of why we came here, to find out how they set up the companies," Kenny said. The northern cleanup sites include the Port Radium mine, which supplied uranium used in manufacturing of the nuclear bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, during the Second World War, she added.

The Deline First Nation, with a population of about 600, is located on the shores of Great Bear Lake. It is a fly-in community with winter-road access.

Unama'ki executive director Owen Fitzgerald said the five First Nations communities in Cape Breton have already secured work contracts worth more than $19 million as part of the $400-million cleanup of the Sydney tar ponds and coke ovens sites.

First Nations communities across Canada have been hearing about the success of the unique economic partnership between the Unama'ki communities and the federal and provincial governments, he said, and are interested in learning how aboriginal set-asides are identified and pursued.

In addition to a tour of the tar ponds, the northern visitors are touring a Devco mine site remediation in Sydney Mines and meeting with local First Nations government and business leaders to discuss how aboriginal communities are organizing to effectively participate in the larger cleanup project and how aboriginal groups are using the project as a stepping stone to business development and future economic development.