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 first.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Chris Warkentin

Yes, that is the question. Thank you.

Mr. Boughen, we're going to turn to you for seven minutes.

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Ray Boughen Palliser, SK

Thanks, Mr. Chair, and thanks to our panel for taking time out of your busy day and sharing some thoughts with us.

When we look at the first nations, they've expressed concerns that the process of adding land to reserves is time consuming and costly. What do you consider the main challenges of the current addition to the reserve process?

Vice-Chief, could you have a run at that one?

4:25 p.m.

Vice-Chief, Prince Albert Grand Council

Brian Hardlotte

I'm not really familiar with the process.

In the province of Saskatchewan we're dealing with the lands there, our crown lands, and the reserves are considered federal crown land. The whole thing about treaty entitlements, first nations, and being able to purchase lands, original crown lands, in their area...I'm familiar with that process.

First nations from the Prince Albert Grand Council are entitled first nations, treaty land entitled first nations. They have purchased lands even in the cities, for economic benefits, to build such things as gas bars. It's a good process.

The Government of Saskatchewan has the authority to sell lands in any of their crown lands. As first nations people, because of our relationship with the land, we really don't like that.

I can also mention that in Saskatchewan, even on crown lands, there are lands that we call traplines. I was a trapper. My dad and my grandfather were trappers. The provincial government, because of the NRTA, made what they called a block system in the north. This block system is what they call a northern fur conservation area. I belong to a fur block. But in that fur block there are a whole bunch of people. Again, this was a regulation, I guess, that was imposed on us. From that block, they're further broken up into what they call zones. The zones are further broken up into what they call traplines, and those are family traplines, lands that were inherited from our ancestors. The whole idea of the block system was conservation and management, and to this day that system is still there.

I can say that first nations people...as you know, trapping was a big part of the building of Saskatchewan, the building of Canada. It was a main part of economic development in our first nations communities in the past, and it is to this day.

We complied with those regulations and restrictions. We've become so used to those restrictions...not restrictions, with the regulations. For example, when there's a company doing exploration in my trapline...in the past we worked with the company and got along, not really a proper consultation but a consultation. With the land-use plans, I think that's the other goal: they're going to consult with the trappers.

You're consulting with first nations people. You're also consulting with the trappers. The traplines are like lands owned by farmers in the south. They're attached to us. We didn't pay anything for the land; we inherited the land. And we've managed this land and we've conserved the area in the land.

But that's the province of Saskatchewan, and that's the way it still is today.

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

Ray Boughen Palliser, SK

Thanks, Chief.

I guess this question is to either of the gentlemen. Could you explain the issue of third-party encumbrances for us in more detail and the proposed ways to address these issues in a timely and effective manner?

4:30 p.m.

President, New Road Strategies, As an Individual

Warren Johnson

The issue here is that it's difficult for many first nations to find land for the purpose they're looking for it that doesn't already have some kind of encumbrance on it. That encumbrance can be a hydro line, it can be a railway right of way. Some of it's not even registered on title. For example, provincial lodges and things are often permitted, as opposed to registered on title. So there's a variety of situations for first nations when it's going out to acquire land, and when I say “going out to acquire land”, somebody with that kind of flexibility is likely somebody who has a claim settlement, as opposed to just doing the normal, more routine community addition, where there are other issues. In either case, it's unlikely you're going to find.... A lot of land is going to be encumbered by some kind of right of way or restriction on it. It could be an existing mineral right, which then requires access provisions, given the right of the mineral holder.

In a large number of those cases that I'm familiar with, having worked in the area for a fair number of years, first nations don't have any difficulty with a lot of these issues. The trouble is with the process to transfer those and transfer a federal title to reserve creation and replace the instruments. You can't replace the instrument until after the reserve is created, so there's no security for the third party before the reserve is created. How do you start the process? It's a catch-22.

The structure of the current process.... If you wanted to design a process to fail or to take a very long time and frustrate everyone, it would be this process. If you wanted to design a different process, well, then, you could do that.

In reference to my earlier remarks, some of the instruments, all of which would require, unfortunately, legislation.... I say “unfortunately” because it's sometimes difficult to get legislation through, but in this case, this is something that could be easily partnered with first nations on to accelerate the ATR process.

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Chris Warkentin

Thank you.

I hate to jump in, but the clock is running away on us, so we're going to turn to Mr. Genest-Jourdain for five minutes.

May 1st, 2012 / 4:30 p.m.

NDP

Jonathan Genest-Jourdain Manicouagan, QC

Mr. Johnson, do you understand French?

4:30 p.m.

President, New Road Strategies, As an Individual

4:30 p.m.

NDP

Jonathan Genest-Jourdain Manicouagan, QC

I have a few questions for you and I hope they fall under your area of expertise.

Under the Indian Act and the fiduciary relationship, could you tell me what obligations the Canadian government has when it comes to reclaiming contaminated lands on reserves?

4:35 p.m.

President, New Road Strategies, As an Individual

Warren Johnson

It gets a little difficult, depending on the situation and the cause of the contamination, but as a general rule it's a federal liability. It's federal land. It was under federal watch that the lands were contaminated, even if the contaminant is often a federal undertaking. The major contaminants historically have been the diesel spills from diesel generation and the like. These things weren't monitored. They have been going on historically. We've built schools on top of the contaminated lands. The problems go on and on.

That's why I think there's been major concern raised, and for well over a decade now, with the environmental gap. It's not just an issue of contamination. It's an issue of historical contamination. It's an ongoing problem.

Nobody is regulating CP lands. In some communities, because of the community's own consensus, CP issues are less of an issue for them. They manage by consensus. That's not an issue. But for large numbers of first nations, they don't consider CP land under their authority. The federal government has no authority on them. And it turns out that many of the issues we find in the papers about illegal garbage dumps, fires in dumps, tire-burning, or whatever on reserves are, when you go to look at them, on CP land.

4:35 p.m.

NDP

Jonathan Genest-Jourdain Manicouagan, QC

Still along the lines of contaminated lands on reserves, if it has to do with a signatory nation to the First Nations Land Management Act, does the responsibility for reclaiming those lands go fully to the community or does the federal government still have some responsibility for those lands?

4:35 p.m.

President, New Road Strategies, As an Individual

Warren Johnson

At the point of the first nation taking over responsibility for land management under FNLMA, that is where the federal liability ends. Anything that happened before that is a federal liability. There is a federal obligation under the FNLMA to clean that up. I would have to check the record—I haven't in a while—but I think we're a little late in doing those cleanups. There's a frustration within the FNLMA.

From there forward, it's a first nations responsibility. The only difficulty is that to guard that in the future, you need to be exercising your environmental assessment and environmental protection authorities that you have under FNLMA. But under FNLMA, you're not allowed to do that unless you have signed an environmental management agreement with Environment Canada. There has not been one environmental management agreement signed with Environment Canada yet.

So the problem that we're talking about in terms of the regulatory and environmental gap has spilled over into self-government under FNLMA.

4:35 p.m.

NDP

Jonathan Genest-Jourdain Manicouagan, QC

Thank you.

I still have one minute?

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Chris Warkentin

Yes.

4:35 p.m.

NDP

Jonathan Genest-Jourdain Manicouagan, QC

[Inaudible—Editor]

Vice-Chief Hardlotte, could you tell me what the position of your community is with respect to uranium exploration on your traditional territories?