Sask., Whitecap Dakota First Nation sign environmental regulation agreement

The Whitecap Dakota First Nation membership votes to become Saskatchewan's first self-governing Indigenous nation which will no longer be under the control of the Indian Act. File / Global News

The Saskatchewan government says it has signed a historic environmental regulation agreement with Whitecap Dakota First Nation.

The province said it is the first agreement in Canada between a provincial government and a First Nation related to the Framework Agreement on First Nation Land Management.

Under the terms of the bilateral agreement, Whitecap Dakota will incorporate and adapt the province’s Environmental Management and Protection Act and select regulations for environmental protection and contamination, the two parties said Tuesday.

“Rules under our new land law will focus on ensuring polluters pay for clean up, and those responsible for causing environmental damage are held responsible,” Whitecap Dakota Chief Darcy Bear said.

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“Our partnership with the Ministry of Environment will establish greater certainty for the businesses we host and better ensure that protection of our lands and resources is a priority.”

Environment Minister Dustin Duncan said the partnership aligns with Prairie Resilience: A Made in Saskatchewan Climate Change Strategy released by the province in December 2017.

“The Government of Saskatchewan is pleased to partner with Whitecap Dakota First Nation in this first-of-its-kind agreement,” Duncan said.

“Not only does this agreement help achieve positive environmental outcomes and protection for all members of the Whitecap Dakota First Nation, it will also provide consistency for businesses and developments that are interested in working on this land.”

The agreement will not affect any Indigenous rights on the First Nation, and the two sides said they have agreed to co-operate with each other to ensure effective administration of Whitecap Dakota’s environmental protection law.

Whitecap Dakota will also contract out monitoring and enforcement duties to Saskatchewan environmental protection officers, and the parties said they will work collaboratively to resolve any issues that might arise in a timely manner.

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The Framework Agreement on First Nation Land Management provides First Nations with the authority to develop their own environmental laws.

Whitecap Dakota First Nation has operated under its own community-ratified land code since 2004.

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Whitecap Dakota First Nation is roughly 30 kilometres south of Saskatoon.

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