First Nation leaders vow legal fight against Manitoba’s plan to auction Crown land 

By Dave Baxter

 Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

A coalition of Indigenous leaders said on Monday there will be legal action taken against the province because they say land that should be offered to First Nations will be auctioned off this week instead.

“The process of selling excess Crown lands in options sales goes against the Treaty and the constitutional rights of our First Nations communities,” Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak (MKO) Grand Chief Garrison Settee said during a Monday morning press conference in Winnipeg.

Settee, along with Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs (AMC) Grand Chief Cathy Merrick, Southern Chiefs’ Organization (SCO) Grand Chief Jerry Daniels, and Island Lake Tribal Council (ILTC) Grand Chief Scott Harper expressed their anger with the province for their plans to hold an auction of Crown lands that was set to begin on Monday and run until Friday of this week.


The leaders said that they were also giving “notice” that they intend to “initiate legal proceedings to protect the traditional and ancestral lands of First Nations in Manitoba.”


Settee said that under agreements made in the Numbered Treaties, every effort should be made to “return” that land to First Nations people and communities.


“I fail to see the reconciliation act of this process. It is a blatant disregard to our people, their lands, and their territories,” Settee said.


“We cannot let this go on without us standing in direct opposition to this process, because it is an atrocity.”


Merrick said, “First Nations in Manitoba will take legal action to enforce our inherent Treaty rights which are being eroded and infringed by this government’s actions.”


No specific information was given on Monday regarding what legal actions might now be taken by any organizations or communities.


According to Daniels, many First Nations are currently in “crisis” because of the levels of poverty in many of those communities, and he said acquiring land could be valuable in working to better those conditions.


“We see the deteriorating social and economic conditions of our citizens, and we do not see leaders in government willing to rise to the occasion,” Daniels said. “And that reflects negligence and a complete lack of leadership.


“Indigenous people have to be successful, and to be successful we need to have our lands returned to us because it represents a great deal of value to us and wealth to us, and all of those things are part of the solution to changing those social-economic conditions.”


He said First Nations do not plan to continue “waiting” for land to be returned to them under what he said are legal agreements.


“We’re in an era where many of our communities have been waiting a very long time to have lands returned, and we have been side-tracked by all sorts of legal impediments to having our lands returned back to our nations,” Daniels said.


“I’m not sure how long they think we will wait.”


Last week the province denied any accusations that land that is legally available to First Nations was not offered up to them first, as a provincial spokesperson told the Winnipeg Sun on Friday that not all land being put up for sale this week is subject to the Treaty Land Entitlement (TLE) Program, but any that is subject to TLE was already offered to First Nations.


“We can confirm the Treaty Land Entitlement consultation process was followed, noting that less than 50% of the parcels up for auction are subject to the TLE process,” the spokesperson said in an email.


“Per that process, notice was given to First Nations within the TLE community interest zone, 120 days in advance, and 30 days online notice with list of parcels.


“Our government is committed to ongoing dialogue with First Nations leadership regarding resource management and the use and allocation of Crown lands.”


-Dave Baxter is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Winnipeg Sun. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.



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