Evidence of meeting #33 for Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was process.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

4:10 p.m.

Vice-Chief, Prince Albert Grand Council

Brian Hardlotte

We haven't really had those people come to work with us and give us the information. Let's sit down and let's do the work. We haven't had that offer.

Maybe we have, but I'm not really aware of it.

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

Rob Clarke Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, SK

Vice-Chief, in regard to economic development and negotiations, how much capital has been invested in the process with the Province of Saskatchewan?

We talk about 3.9 million hectares. What are we looking at for economic spinoffs? Has that been forecasted?

4:10 p.m.

Vice-Chief, Prince Albert Grand Council

Brian Hardlotte

Nothing has really been forecast, and there are really no numbers. I'm well aware that some of the first nations, mine, for example, and some of the first nations in the Athabasca, have benefited from the land use. Some of the first nations are also engaged with industry, with IBA. But there are really no numbers, so I can't answer that. I can get numbers for you and forward them.

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Rob Clarke Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, SK

That would be great. Thank you.

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Chris Warkentin

Thank you.

We'll go to Ms. Bennett for seven minutes.

May 1st, 2012 / 4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Carolyn Bennett St. Paul's, ON

Thank you, both. It was very helpful.

I guess, Vice-Chief, I would like to know more about the veto and how that actually is affected or could be affected in terms of these very important decisions concerning your land.

Mr. Johnson, you're quite encyclopedic on all of the things we're trying to study.

It's a bit unusual, Mr. Chair, but I think it would be beneficial for the committee to have the answers to the 13 questions written by our Library of Parliament, if that would be possible, in writing, from Mr. Johnson. He hasn't seen the questions we've been provided by the Library of Parliament, but I think it would be excellent if we could provide them for Mr. Johnson and have a written response. I think it's fairly important.

If I have time, I'll come back to some of the things we learned last week about the lack of timeliness on ATR and environmental cleanup and anything else you want to add. You can either do it in writing or during my questioning.

Vice-Chief, could you tell me how this veto ought to work or should work?

4:15 p.m.

Vice-Chief, Prince Albert Grand Council

Brian Hardlotte

On the veto, as first nations people, we have faced a lot of legislation and regulations in the past. In some cases, we've complied with the restrictions imposed on us.

On your question, we believe that we do have that. We believe that we inherited that from our ancestors. We believe that first nations have the power to stop an official action, I guess, especially enactments of legislation that in history have been imposed on us. In this whole process of working together and consulting with first nations people in this area of land use and sustainable economic development, I believe that first nations people, government, and industry can come together and in some cases work on legislation that works for everyone.

Thank you.

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Carolyn Bennett St. Paul's, ON

Mr. Johnson, last week we were at Mashteuiatsh, where they've been waiting on an ATR that would take them out to the highway, which would actually allow them economic sustainability in a real way. They seem to have waited a long time for this.

Is it just that there aren't enough people working on these things and there isn't enough capacity in the department? Or is it that every time there's an election or something, people down their tools? Why do these things take so long?

4:15 p.m.

President, New Road Strategies, As an Individual

Warren Johnson

In dealing with an antiquated process, a process that doesn't have any other comparison outside of this environment...the federal government actually has to take ownership of the land to make it reserve, to transfer it, to worry about third-party interests and all that. These are all authorities only the federal government has.

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Carolyn Bennett St. Paul's, ON

I think what we were hearing last week.... Is this a Department of Justice problem, this fear of litigation, whether it's environmental, whether it's potential lawsuits from others? Is it being slowed down by the Department of Justice, or is it really the Department of Aboriginal Affairs?

4:20 p.m.

President, New Road Strategies, As an Individual

Warren Johnson

It's the whole process. I don't think you can single out any one part of it. My own opinion is that the department is spread far too thin.

I really like the way the participants in the reserve land and economic development study, those first nations that I quoted at the end, posit their remarks. What they're really saying is it would be better if the government.... Perhaps I could quote another part of that because I found it very useful; it said if the government wants to help, it needs to learn how to get out of the way. If that could happen and the resources that are saved from getting out of the way, not doing things that first nations can better do, were then put on the things the government has to do.... The federal government has to take responsibility for additions to reserve, as long as you're talking about federally owned land held for the use and benefit of first nations.

There are certain things, irrespective of the Indian Act or whatever the legislative future of all this is, that the federal government has to do. From my perspective, it needs to concentrate on the things it has to do, its core responsibilities, and do them well. The rest should be up to first nations.

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Chris Warkentin

You're almost out of time, but I think you're remembering some of those things that were very important from our travels.

If I can intervene with the last couple of seconds—

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Carolyn Bennett St. Paul's, ON

You can have my time, Chair.

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Chris Warkentin

Thank you.

We heard that one community has some issue with regard to third-party interest. The difficulty is...as you say, the federal government obviously plays an important role in the additions to reserve process, but we also heard about the impediment of third-party interests.

At the provincial level there's an opportunity for annexation of lands, and there can be a price determined by the province for reasonable compensation for annexed lands. There doesn't seem to be the same provision within the additions to reserve.... Is there such an inclusion? Is there an ability for the federal government to annex lands that have a third-party interest and force these folks to the table? That seems, in one case, at least, to be what extended the timeframe by several years.

4:20 p.m.

President, New Road Strategies, As an Individual

Warren Johnson

Not that I'm aware of, but I think there are other ways of making the third-party interest issue easier to deal with.

The specific example I'd use is to think of yourself as the third party. You have some right on the land. The land is going to be purchased by someone else, in this case a first nation. They either maintain your right or buy you out.

The trouble is, you're going to be moved under the Indian Act. What's the comparable instrument under the Indian Act to my current right on this property, even if the first nation wants to leave me there? There is no comparable instrument under the Indian Act. The first nation doesn't have the authority to issue these instruments.

So you get into these convoluted legal mechanisms of taking things under the real property act and having to get into....

The simple example is in my remarks. If first nations had adequate bylaw and land-use planning authority under the Indian Act—which is largely an enforcement issue, not legally a very difficult issue—and it wanted to acquire land and there were interests on it, it could have a community land-use planning vote, like any other community would. They could say they were interested in these lands, they would maintain these activities on it, or whatever, and there would be no issue. That could all be done before the land was added to reserve.

There are a variety of ways of getting at this process, some of which I know are under study by the working group I referenced earlier. There is no facility for this kind of thing. My experience, having had some responsibility for it for a number of years myself, is that the federal government would be very loath to use that responsibility even if it had it. It's operating in a local area. It's provincial land; it's not federal land to begin with. Is it going to go in and start annexing people?