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Land Claims Agreements Coalition honours Justice Thomas Berger at the “Keeping the Promise” conference in Gatineau

(Version française de ce texte)

Yesterday, I had the privilege of attending the Anniversary Celebration Banquet that was held as part of the 4th National Conference hosted by the Land Claims Agreements Coalition. The conference titled “Keeping the Promise: The Path Ahead to Full Modern Treaty Implementation” conference is currently being held in Gatineau, Quebec.

The evening ceremony was chaired by Kevin McKay, chairperson for the Nisga’a Nation (Nass River Valley, North West British Columbia). Speakers included Ethel Blondin-Andrew, chairperson of the Sahtu Secretariat (Mackenzie Valley, Northwest Territory), Chief Joe Linklater of the Vuntut Gwitchin nation (Northern Yukon), Cathy Towtongie, President of Nunavut Tunngavik and Grand Chief Ruth Massie, Council of Yukon First Nations.

Their speeches were followed by a most colorful ceremony where over twenty representatives of the Nisga’a Nation escorted Justice Thomas Berger on the stage where he was to be honoured for his dedication to justice and his influence on the history of northern development and aboriginal policy in Canada.

Justice Thomas Berger being escorted to the stage of the "Keeping the Promise" conference, Feb 27, 2013, Gatineau, Quebec.

Justice Thomas Berger being escorted to the stage by representatives of the Nisga’a Nation.

Justice Thomas Berger being escorted to the stage of the "Keeping the Promise"  conference, Feb 27, 2013, Gatineau, Quebec.

Justice Thomas Berger being escorted to the stage by representatives of the Nisga’a Nation.

Nisga'a Nation representatives - "Keeping the Promise" Conference, Feb 27, 2013, Gatineau, Quebec.

Nisga’a Nation representatives.

Justice Thomas Berger surrounded by Kevin McKay (Nisga'a Nation) and Harry Nyce (Nisga'a Hereditary Chieftain) - "Keeping the promise" Conference, Feb 27, 2013, Gatineau, Quebec

Justice Thomas Berger surrounded by Kevin McKay (Nisga'a Nation) and Harry Nyce (Nisga’a Hereditary Chieftain)

Justice Thomas Berger, being introduced by Kevin McKay (Nisga'a Nation), "Keeping the promise" conference, Feb 27, 2013, Gatineau, Quebec

Justice Thomas Berger, being introduced by Kevin McKay (Nisga’a Nation)

 Kevin McKay showing gift to be given to Justice Thomas Berger - "Keeping the promise" Conference, Feb 27, 2013, Gatineau, Quebec

Kevin McKay showing gift to be given to Justice Thomas Berger

Putting the gift around his neck was not as easy as envisionned!

Justice Thomas Berger receiving gift.- "Keeping the promise" Conference, Feb 27, 2013, Gatineau, Quebec

Justice Thomas Berger receiving gift.

There are now three pairs of hands hard at work!

Justice Thomas Berger receiving gift. - "Keeping the promise" Conference, Feb 27, 2013, Gatineau, Quebec

Justice Thomas Berger receiving gift.

OUF!! Success!

Justice Thomas Berger receiving his gift from the Land Claims Agreements Coalition. - "Keeping the promise" Conference, Feb 27, 2013, Gatineau, Quebec

Justice Thomas Berger receiving his gift from the Nisga’a Nation

Justice Thomas Berger receiving his gift from the Nisga'a Nation. - "Keeping the promise" Conference, Feb 27, 2013, Gatineau, Quebec

Justice Thomas Berger receiving his gift from the Nisga’a Nation.

When addressing the audience, Justice Thomas Berger started by acknowledging the fact that they had a heck of a time getting the gift around his neck! The audience bursted laughing when he added: “as some charitable folks would say, my head is already too big!!” He went on to say how he treasures his long-standing relationship with the Nigsa’a First Nation and that this evening was one of the great moments of his life. Since the evening was dedicated to celebrating anniversaries (the 10th anniversay of the coalition, the 40th anniversary of the historic Calder judgment by the Supreme Court of Canada and the 100th anniversary of the Nisga’a Petition) he added that he would be celebrating his 80th birthday in about 3 weeks!

Justice Thomas Berger addressing the audience after receiving his gift. "Keeping the promise" Conference. Feb 27, 2013. Gatineau, Quebec.

Justice Thomas Berger addressing the audience after receiving his gift.

Drumming ceremony by the Nisga'a Nation. "Keeping the promise" conference. Feb 27, 2013. Gatineau

Drumming ceremony by the Nisga’a Nation.

Drumming ceremony by the Nisga'a Nation "Keeping the promise" conference. Feb 27, 2013. Gatineau

Drumming ceremony by the Nisga’a Nation.

Justice Thomas Berger being escorted off the stage. "Keeping the promise" conference. Feb 27, 2013. Gatineau

Justice Thomas Berger being escorted off the stage.

Here are a few links where you will be able to get a better understanding of this mutually treasured relationship between Justice Thomas Berger and the Nigsa’a people and why he is now considered an authority on Northern development and Aboriginal policies.

The online Guide to Thomas R. Berger
Thomas R. Berger’s Wikipedia Page
Mackenzie Valley pipeline: 37 years of negotiation

I will end with a citation from Justice Berger’s 1977 report on the Mackenzie Pipeline:

I discovered that people in the North have strong feelings about the pipeline and large-scale frontier development. I listened to a brief by northern businessmen in Yellowknife who favour a pipeline through the North. Later, in a native village far away, I heard virtually the whole community express vehement opposition to such a pipeline. Both were talking about the same pipeline; both were talking about the same region — but for one group it is a frontier, for the other a homeland.

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