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Premier Scott Moe fights feds over First Nations natural resources comment

Click to play video: 'Political punch-up follows questions over treaty rights'
Political punch-up follows questions over treaty rights
A war of words has erupted in the west after a question about rescinding the Canada Resources Transfer Agreement was posed to federal justice minister David Lametti last week at an Assembly of First Nations conference. – Apr 11, 2023

A comment made by the federal justice minister last week has both Premier Scott Moe and the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations excited for different reasons.

Federal Minister David Lametti was at the Assembly of First Nations’ Special Chiefs Assembly in Ottawa on April 5 and was prodded about the 1930s Natural Resources Transfer Agreements by a member of Prince Albert Grand Council.

“We want to say what we said (April 4), and that’s to rescind the act, the Natural Resources Transfer Act that affects the provinces of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta. That’s what we’re asking you, minister, as an action item with a statement,” said Grand Chief Brian Hardlotte, who added this is affecting treaty rights of First Nations people.

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“I can’t pronounce right now, but I do commit to looking at that,” was the response given by Lametti, which caused Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe to take to Twitter.

“The federal Justice Minister says he will look at taking control over natural resources away from the provinces. It’s an outrageous statement,” the premier’s tweet read on Monday.

“These dangerous and divisive comments from the federal Justice Minister are a threat to the unity of our country.

“The federal Justice Minister says he will look at rescinding the 1930s Natural Resources Transfer Agreements that gave control over natural resources to Saskatchewan, Alberta and Manitoba. This is an outrageous and ill-informed comment, as those agreements and the provinces’ control over natural resources have been entrenched in the Canadian constitution since 1930.”

Moe’s statement also talked about how he believed the federal government has an agenda to strip provinces of their jurisdiction and autonomy, adding that they will be “relentless in defending” that jurisdiction and autonomy.

This in turn resulted in a statement from the federal minister on his Twitter late Monday.

“I am the Minister responsible for the implementation of the United Nations Declaration Act (UNDA) into federal laws and policies,” Lametti said. “Last week I met with First Nations leaders to discuss its implementation as part of a session of the AFN-SCA that was focused exclusively on the UNDA. Amongst the many questions I was asked, the Natural Resources Transfer Act was raised by First Nations Chiefs on a couple of occasions.

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“It is part of my job to listen to those concerns. To be clear, at no point did I commit our government to reviewing areas of provincial jurisdiction, including that over natural resources. The focus of our Government’s work is to co-develop an action plan with Indigenous partners that will show the path we must take towards aligning federal laws and politics with United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).”

The FSIN put out a statement on Lametti’s initial comment at the assembly encouraging Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to support the minister’s comment and to rescind the act.

“First Nations have long made this claim that the provinces don’t own the natural resources and the Natural Resources Transfer Agreement is an illegal document, therefore the statement by David Lametti is fully supported by First Nations. We are looking forward to exercising our Treaty rights to natural resources in the province,” said FSIN Chief Bobby Cameron.

“The acknowledgement from the federal government shows a government that wants true reconciliation. This will enable us to make decisions that are going to benefit all of us and our generations to come. Our ancestors are Treaty people and wanted to ensure that we would be able to make a living and prosper just as much as our white brothers and sisters. The sacred covenant was made with the Crown when the jurisdiction over lands and resources was illegal.

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“Treaties are international law and trump agreements made between governments. These are welcomed comments by the Honourable Minister of Justice, David Lametti. We encourage the Prime Minister of Canada Justin Trudeau to support his statement and carry out the necessary parliamentary motions to rescind the 1930s Natural Resource Transfer Agreement (NRTA) against the provinces of Saskatchewan, Alberta, and Manitoba. We hope the government will follow a path of true reconciliation and include economics. No First Nations should live in poverty, while wealth and prosperity grows around them. We have been battling poverty perpetuated by systemic discrimination for 150 years, and the NRTA is just another way the settlers ensured Indigenous people would remain left out and powerless.”

A joint statement was sent out Tuesday from Moe, Alberta Premier Danielle Smith and Manitoba Premier Heather Stefanson calling for Trudeau to address what Lametti said, and clarify that the federal minister was not speaking on behalf of the federal government.

NDP opposition leader Carla Beck put in her two cents, saying there’s a bigger problem within this story.

“The larger issue here seems to be provincial and federal politicians taking to Twitter to whip up division rather than doing their jobs, having the conversations, and finding solutions. The federal government cannot unilaterally change the constitution as it relates to provinces. We all lose out when politics devolves into point-scoring rather than working to get things done,” Beck said.

“This is a problem of Premier Moe and Premier Smith’s own making by passing the Alberta Sovereignty Act and the Saskatchewan First Act without Indigenous consultation. On April 20th, there is likely to be a vote on Bill 610 – The Meaningful Duty To Consult Act, put forward by our First Nation and Metis Relations Critic Betty Nippi-Albright. This would legislate the province’s Duty to Consult framework. I would hope Premier Moe recognizes the need for Indigenous voices at the decision-making table and that the bill receives unanimous support from all elected officials. Let’s cut the politics and work together so that we can all prosper.”

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