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First Nations leaders feeling left out on new provincial park discussions

Reported by Nigel Maxwell
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The province is looking at opening two new provincial parks. One suggestion is in the Anglin Lake area north of Prince Albert, another possibility is near Porcupine Plain.

"It looks like they have been on the drawing board for quite some time. A decision seems to be made and it's sad to say that it seems we are the last ones to be called to the table in terms of the consultation process," said Kinistin Saulteaux Chief Albert Scott.

Scott said the proposed park would have a huge impact on their way of life, such as restricting their freedom to fish and pick berries.

"It's also going to change how we look at the land. In parks too there are permits given for tree harvesting and we would like the same benefit as well," said Scott.

Scott said he is open to having discussions with the government but so far said there has been little to none.

"They've sent us letters but they haven't actually come to sit down," said Scott. "It seems like it's already a done deal."

A spokesperson for the province's ministry of parks and tourism, is reassuring First Nations leaders that nothing in set in stone as yet.

“The first part of the process was that we initiated contact with the first nation and metis groups to tell them what we are doing, and try to get further meetings. That didn’t happen as well as we wanted so we have started a second round of consultations,” said Jim Nick, a planning manager for parks services.

The meetings are scheduled to take place over the next two months.

“Traditional uses are of concern to us and part of the intent of our discussions is to find out where traditional uses and other areas of importance to first nations are located with the parks area,” said Nick.

He said they are hoping to pass legislation by the end of this year, but if there is a need for further discussion, they will again look at delaying the process.

nmaxwell@panow.com