We Are All Treaty People

OTC statement on changes to land claim settlements

  • Published - 05/09/2023
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  • Posted By - OTC
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The Office of the Treaty Commissioner is cautiously optimistic to hear about changes coming to the settlement process for First Nation land claims.

According to current Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada policy, those currently entering Modern Treaties are being asked to surrender their lands, giving up current or future claim on their historic lands. As the spirit and intent of Treaty negotiations is defined by an equal partnership to share the lands and resources with newcomers, many are nations are rightly not interested in losing all connections to their land, or legally giving up their right or claim to it. This is stalling Modern Treaty processes.

In documents accessed by media outlets, the Government of Canada has been discussing possible changes to this land claim process that removes the need for communities to surrender land. In place of a surrender, the government is suggesting that as part of Modern Treaty negotiations communities could retain a connection to the land while agreeing not to sue for damages or return of the land.

The Treaty Commissioner of Saskatchewan is among the voices calling for increased funding for specific claims and a desire for an independent process to handle these claims

The use of these new measures is a move away from the relic of colonial laws, and marks another small step towards reconciliation. However, true reconciliation can only be achieved though full Treaty implementation, including, including Treaties 1-11 which allowed newcomers to settle in what was later called Saskatchewan.

The change to using promissory estoppel in specific claims settlements does not impact the historical treaties as the numbered Treaties in Saskatchewan never involved a land surrender. Oral histories and the Crown’s archival records tell us those Treaties were negotiated to be able to share the lands and resources. Treaty wasn’t about surrendering anything. Treaty was to share the land to the depth of a plough, enough for the new settlers to plant their seeds.

The numbered Treaties needs to be honoured in full Spirit and Intent and governments need to work harder to implement these.

The Treaty Commissioner of Saskatchewan calls on the Government of Canada to right past wrongs and the misadministration of land and resources for Indigenous Peoples.