Arts & Life
Canstar Community News
Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 24/5/2016 (1540 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
OTTAWA — Manitoba First Nations are demanding the federal government reopen an almost 20-year-old agreement on Treaty Land Entitlement, saying the government's decision to consult with the Manitoba Métis Federation before approving additions to reserves is a breach of the agreement.
The demand is part of a growing feud between some Manitoba First Nations and the MMF, which have historically had a difficult relationship.
The 1997 Treaty Land Entitlement Manitoba Framework Agreement set out that Manitoba First Nations were owed about 567,000 hectares of land that had not been properly distributed from treaties signed between 1871 and 1910. Another $190 million would be paid out in cash.
Since then, only about one third of that land has been approved as First Nations identified and requested specific land, and the federal government set about approving it. A process that was already slow came to a complete halt in 2015, with not a single hectare approved for conversion. That was after fewer than 50 hectares were approved between 2012 and 2014.
The holdup, says Chris Henderson, executive director of the Treaty Land Entitlement Committee of Manitoba, is the government deciding it has to now consult with the Manitoba Métis Federation before any land exchange is approved.
"It's become an obstacle," Henderson told the Free Press in an interview. "This constitutes an interference in the land-conversion process."
Henderson's committee has filed a grievance under the framework agreement's dispute resolution process accusing the government of unilaterally deciding it had to consult with the MMF.
In a letter to Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett in April, TLE Committee president Chief Nelson Genaille said nearly 32,000 hectares of land "are prevented from being converted to reserve as a direct result of Canada's consultation process with the Manitoba Métis Federation.""This is simply unacceptable," he wrote.
Many First Nations have been waiting years to have their requests for land approved and have economic development opportunities hinging on it.
But MMF President David Chartrand said "some First Nations have taken the position that Métis have no rights," despite what the Supreme Court has said in recent decisions. The MMF contends, and the government agrees, the Métis have to be consulted.
"Canada has taken the position that clearly the Métis can't be ignored any longer and we have to be consulted," Chartrand said.
Chartrand said the MMF is not being obstructionist —it's standing up for its rights. He said he has asked repeatedly for chiefs to sit down with the MMF and establish their own agreements to solve the problem but says "it got nowhere."
"First Nations will remain a challenge until leadership on that side accepts we are not a people of lesser rights," he said.
Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett is set to meet with both sides this week and try and solve this dispute, but her job won't be easy.
"If I'm being honest there is a lot of anger about it among the chiefs," said Henderson.
Updated on Tuesday, May 24, 2016 at 5:48 PM CDT: Adds photo
The Winnipeg Free Press invites you to share your opinion on this story in a letter to the editor. A selection of letters to the editor are published daily.
Letters must include the writer’s full name, address, and a daytime phone number. Letters are edited for length and clarity.