The Carcross/Tagish First Nation has been given another reprieve in its ongoing funding dispute with Ottawa.
In September, negotiations for a new funding arrangement with Ottawa hit a stalemate and an emergency extension was granted until Dec. 31.
Beverly Sembsmoen, an implementation official for the First Nation, said another extension has been granted, this time until March 31.
“We have been verbally offered an extension until March 31. We haven’t seen it in writing yet. We are entering into a dispute resolution process,” she said.
Carcross/Tagish is a self-governing First Nation, and is scheduled to renegotiate money transfers from Ottawa every five years.
Transfer payments from Ottawa constitute a large portion of the First Nation’s budget, which supports around 500 citizens.
The last renegotiation should have taken place in May, but the federal government abruptly cancelled those meetings and waited until the eleventh hour to issue an extension to the current agreement in September.
At the moment, the biggest snag concerns waiting for the federal government to approve a mediator who will handle negotiations from here on out.
If mediation doesn’t work, the next step would be either arbitration or court.
“We were told that they have one week to get that approval, but again we haven’t seen it in writing,” said Sembsmoen.
In May, the government walked away from talks, cancelling meetings at the last minute. Carcross/Tagish Chief Dan Cresswell told the News in October that repeated letters and phone calls to reschedule had gone unanswered.
This is the third time an extension has been needed to keep negotiations from going off the rails.
Cresswell said in October that negotiations had stopped with Ottawa during the summer of 2011 because the federal government was refusing to negotiate.
They gave the First Nation a “take-it-or-leave-it” offer, said Cresswell, one that wasn’t comparable to what other self-governing First Nations had received.
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