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Province's chiefs push for faster land-claim action

Heading to Ottawa, 'very frustrated'

Ruth Bonneville / Winnipeg Free Press files</p><p>Chris Henderson, Executive Director of the Treaty Land Entitlement Commitment of Manitoba. </p>

Ruth Bonneville / Winnipeg Free Press files

Chris Henderson, Executive Director of the Treaty Land Entitlement Commitment of Manitoba.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 16/3/2016 (1098 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

A group of Manitoba chiefs is headed to Ottawa to heat up the glacial pace of proceedings holding up a dozen land claims in the province.

"Those parcels have been sitting in Ottawa for well over a year," fumed Chris Henderson, executive director of the Manitoba Treaty Land Entitlement Commission, the agency in charge of processing claims from unmet treaty promises over a century old.

The delegation represents several First Nations that will fly to Ottawa on March 22 for two days of meetings. The First Nations include Barren Lands, Brokenhead, Buffalo Point, God’s Lake, Manto Sipi, Northlands Dene, Norway House, Opaskwayak, Rolling River, Sapotaweyak and Wuskwi Sipihk.

March 22 is also the date the Liberal government under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will table its first budget, a document indigenous Canadians are watching closely for evidence the Liberal government will fulfil election promises.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 16/3/2016 (1098 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

A group of Manitoba chiefs is headed to Ottawa to heat up the glacial pace of proceedings holding up a dozen land claims in the province.

"Those parcels have been sitting in Ottawa for well over a year," fumed Chris Henderson, executive director of the Manitoba Treaty Land Entitlement Commission, the agency in charge of processing claims from unmet treaty promises over a century old.

The delegation represents several First Nations that will fly to Ottawa on March 22 for two days of meetings. The First Nations include Barren Lands, Brokenhead, Buffalo Point, God’s Lake, Manto Sipi, Northlands Dene, Norway House, Opaskwayak, Rolling River, Sapotaweyak and Wuskwi Sipihk.

March 22 is also the date the Liberal government under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will table its first budget, a document indigenous Canadians are watching closely for evidence the Liberal government will fulfil election promises.

"We had these dates set aside in February, before the budget date was decided," said Henderson. "But the chiefs decided to stick with the dates because the minister clearly isn't listening to us. We're very frustrated."

At issue are a dozen claims totalling about 5,000 acres, mostly spread across Manitoba's remote north, negotiated as part of the 1997 Treaty Land Entitlement Framework Agreement with First Nations, Ottawa and Manitoba.

A spokeswoman from the office of Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett said this week that the delay is procedural — part of the transition in government after the election — and the claims will move forward.

The chiefs don't expect to meet with Bennett, despite a direct appeal to Perry Bellegarde, the national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, to intervene with the minister. Bellegarde was in Winnipeg last week.

The delegation has succeeded in securing confirmed meetings with the chairs and deputy chairs of the both the Commons and Senate standing committees on indigenous issues as well as a tentative meeting with Manitoba MP Jim Carr, the minister of natural resources, Henderson said.

First Nations are owed about 1 million acres under unfulfilled treaties promises that are a century old. A little over half of that acreage has been transferred since 1997, when an agreement designed to streamline the complicated land selection and compensation process was signed. The dozen claims the chiefs are upset over now are among 440,000 acres First Nations are still owed in Manitoba.

The trip to lobby federal officials amounts to a visible show of frustration with the bureaucracy and the politics of land claims settlements in Canada, Henderson said.

Settlements take years to reach and there have been major speed bumps along the way, partly to to Ottawa's efforts to adapt the cumbersome process.

From 2007 to 2013, the process was overhauled more than once to account for Supreme Court decisions calling on Ottawa to honour the duty to consult with indigenous groups, including First Nations, over land and resources.

The most recent changes that affect Manitoba are Ottawa's policy to consult Métis peoples, who may have competing rights to First Nations land claims

The irony is that Ottawa's duty to consult indigenous groups is now a growing source of frustration for First Nations trying to settle 100-year-old treaty promises.

"Because of the consultation issue, the... process... should instead be called 'Obstacles to Reserve' because Canada keeps on changing the rules of the game that were first agreed to back on May 29, 1997," Henderson said by email this week.

"The focus has become anything other than creating new reserve lands in Manitoba," Henderson added.

alexandra.paul@freepress.mb.ca

Alexandra Paul

Alexandra Paul
Reporter

Alexandra is a veteran news reporter who has covered stories for the Winnipeg Free Press since 1987. She held the medical beat for nearly 17 years, and today specializes in coverage of Indigenous-related issues. She is among the most versatile journalists on the paper’s staff.

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History

Updated on Wednesday, March 16, 2016 at 11:59 PM CDT: Adds photo

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