By Dave Baxter
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
A Southern Manitoba Grand Chief is demanding the province put an immediate halt to a land auction happening this week and give first option on that land to First Nations, while the province claims First Nations have already been given opportunities to acquire parcels of land set to be auctioned off.
On Thursday afternoon, Southern Chiefs’ Organization (SCO) Grand Chief Jerry Daniels released a scathing statement, blasting the province for their plans to hold an auction of Crown lands set to take place Feb. 6-10.
Daniels called on the province to put an “immediate stop” to the upcoming auction, because he said First Nations are required to receive first option to acquire public land that comes up for sale because of agreements made in the Numbered Treaties.
“Numerous Crown land parcels are being made available to rent to farmers and ranchers for agricultural activities like haying, grazing, or growing crops. In most cases, these lands are prime hunting, ceremonial, and natural medicine sources for First Nations,” Daniels said.
“Let me be very clear, we have every right to have input into what was stolen from us.”
Should the auction go forward, Daniels said it would lead him to question how sincere the province and Premier Heather Stefanson are about building and strengthening relationships with First Nations in Manitoba.
“When Heather Stefanson became Premier, she assured me things were going to change and we would enter into a relationship built on collaboration and trust,” Daniels said. “When I learned that more Crown lands are to be auctioned off, without first consulting us, it really has me questioning this Premier’s authenticity and commitment to working with **>First Nations<** people.”
In 2016, the province passed Bill 18, The Path to Reconciliation Act. The law “acknowledges the traditional lands and territories of Indigenous peoples, the harms that have been caused through colonial policies and practices, and the need to move towards reconciliation.”
“SCO firmly believes the auctioning of Crown lands without consultation violates the intent and wording of that Act,” Daniels said.
“This is about honouring Treaties, existing legal agreements, and ultimately about building on Ms. Stefanson’s words from last year. I encourage her to reflect on the serious political ramifications of breaking yet another promise with the first peoples of this land.”
But the province is now denying 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 next 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.