The Saskatchewan NDP Opposition critic for First Nations and Métis relations, truth and reconciliation is calling on the province to question its reasoning for selling off Crown lands without proper consultation with Indigenous communities.
Betty Nippi-Albright said in terms of framework or policy, the province has an outdated 2013 document around duty to consult and engagement that does not incorporate the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls To Action or the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).
“We need a document, policy that is respectful and meaningful to the Indigenous people and is written from (a) Euro-Indigenous perspective,” she said. “Society in this province … we always talk about treaties, we give lip service to treaties, yet we see this government auctioning off these Crown lands.”
Nippi-Albright says concerns from Indigenous communities will continue if the province continues to auction off Crown lands.
Saskatchewan Minister of Government Relations Don McMorris said the concerns he’s heard are wide-ranging and adds that the consultation process has been in place for 10 years and is in the process of being reviewed.
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“I can tell you that I heard from First Nation communities for sure that aren’t happy with maybe how the consultation process works,” said McMorris. “I’ve heard from industry that aren’t happy with how the consultation process works. I’m not sure it’s always been smooth but I do know that there is some concern now and that’s why we’ll be looking at it as we move forward.”
The Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture said on the issue of sales of Crown lands in the province last month that it provides advance notice of sales auctions to the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) in order for Treaty Land Entitlement (TLE) First Nations to participate in the auction process of lands.
The FSIN sent a statement to Global Regina saying the minister of agriculture initially said the province would notify FSIN, which could notify the First Nations, but after providing FSIN notice on a few of the sales, the ministry ceased notifying FSIN too.
“When FSIN becomes aware of sales, often through social media, FSIN forwards the information to the First Nations,” FSIN Vice-Chief Heather Bear said in the statement. “First Nations are concerned that these sales are not consistent with the province’s obligations to TLE First Nations under their respective Treaty Land Entitlement settlement agreements.”
FSIN adds that First Nations also argue that they should be provided with the first right of refusal before any Crown lands are put up for auction, and that when the province arbitrarily sells Crown lands, there is much concern that First Nations will not have the ability to exercise their rights on those lands to which they may have had access.
“Before any land is put up for auction, the Province must ensure that they consult with all Nations whose inherent and Treaty rights may be impacted,” stated Bear.