Evidence of meeting #70 for Indigenous and Northern Affairs in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was rights.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Chief Sheila North Wilson  Grand Chief, Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak Inc.
Chief Arlen Dumas  Grand Chief, Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs
Chief Nelson Genaille  President, Treaty Land Entitlement Committee of Manitoba Inc.
Jim Bear  Chief, Brokenhead Ojibway Nation
Lance Roulette  Chief, Sandy Bay First Nation
Lorie Thompson  Legal counsel, Brokenhead Ojibway Nation
Jason Madden  Legal Counsel, Manitoba Metis Federation Inc.
Ronald Robillard  Chief Negotiator, Athabasca Denesuline Né Né Land Corporation
Wayne Wysocki  Representative, Ghotelnene K’odtineh Dene
Benji Denechezhe  Chief Negotiator, Northlands Denesuline First Nation
Geoff Bussidor  Chief Negotiator, Sayisi Dene First Nation
Barry Hunter  Negotiations Advisor, Athabasca Denesuline Né Né Land Corporation

8:05 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

Good morning. I'd like to call the meeting to order and recognize that we are on Treaty No. 1 territory and the homeland of the Métis people.

Welcome, everyone who is here. We are the standing committee from Parliament that looks at indigenous and northern affairs. We welcome you to these proceedings studying land claims. Pursuant to Standing Order 108(2), the study on specific and comprehensive land claims agreements is what we are complying with.

This is the second stop in our cross-country tour to hear from people about land claims. We were in Vancouver, and today we move on to Quebec City. We will have an opportunity to hear from more delegations in Ottawa at the end of September.

If you wish to submit reports, please have them in by mid-October. We encourage you to do that. It will become part of the official record. We'll use that information as part of our report providing recommendations to the Government of Canada.

In the first panel, we have MKO Grand Chief Sheila North Wilson; and from the Treaty Land Entitlement Committee of Manitoba, Chief Nelson Genaille. I see that Grand Chief Dumas is not here, but he may join us shortly. I thank you.

You each have 10 minutes to present your official remarks. Then we will have an opportunity for questions from the MPs.

8:05 a.m.

Grand Chief Sheila North Wilson Grand Chief, Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak Inc.

Good morning.

[Witness speaks in Cree]

I'd like your translators to translate that, please.

8:05 a.m.

Voices

Oh, oh!

8:05 a.m.

Grand Chief, Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak Inc.

Grand Chief Sheila North Wilson

My name is Sheila North Wilson from the Bunibonibee Cree Nation, and I also have family in Pimicikamak Cree Nation. I'm the Grand Chief of Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak. I'm very happy to be here. Thank you for the invitation. Welcome to Treaty No. 1 territory.

I acknowledge my colleagues, Chief Nelson Genaille from the Sapotaweyak; Chief Jim Bear, who will be here shortly; as well as Grand Chief Arlen Dumas from the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs; and all of you. It's nice to see everyone.

Good morning, again. On behalf of Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak, I welcome you as committee members representing the three federal parties to Treaty No. 1 territory and Winnipeg. Winnipeg, of course, is the location of the MKO suboffice and home to many off-reserve MKO community members.

As I said in Cree, my name is Sheila North Wilson. Once again, thank you for the invitation to address you on the specific claims and comprehensive claims agreements policies of the federal government from the MKO perspective. Grand Chief Dumas will give you an overall perspective. Chief Genaille will be more more specific to TLEC, and I'll give you a little bit of the northern perspective, around the Northern Flood Agreement specifically.

To give you further background on Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak, our head office is located in the heart of northern Manitoba, in the Tataskweyak Cree Nation, in the Treaty No. 5 territory, just north of Thompson in northern Manitoba. MKO Inc. is the secretariat of 30 northern Manitoba first nations, which together make up a population of about 73,000 people: Oji-Cree, Cree, and Dene.

As the grand chief, I'm elected to advance the interests and priorities of MKO rights holders in all socio-economic and political areas, including health, education, and treaty rights, and to advocate to all levels of government on behalf of northern Manitoba leadership. MKO chiefs and assembly have priorities to protect the rights of women and children, to ensure sustainability of our communities, to transfer indigenous knowledge and practices, and to ensure that our communities continue to be the basis of our identities and bastions of indigenous language and cultures in northern Manitoba.

My goal in appearing in front of the committee is to support my fellow leaders and our technicians in providing a common message to the committee on specific and comprehensive claims as the policy applies to Manitoba.

As you have heard and will hear, the Treaty Land Entitlement Committee of Manitoba has been mandated to act on behalf of the 21 entitlement first nations, many of which are located in the MKO territory. MKO encompasses close to two-thirds of Manitoba.

In negotiations with the federal and provincial governments, it is a table that came out of the Manitoba framework agreement that was signed in 1997, so it is a process that is specific to Manitoba, and parallel to the federal specific claims and comprehensive claims agreements policies. Our treaties help to define the MKO communities and peoples. Therefore, TLEC and its administrative office are close partners with three of the Manitoba PTOs—KO, SCO and AMC—in our collective efforts to advance treaty rights of Manitoba first nations.

The first point I'd like to make is that although we have the Treaty Land Entitlement Committee and the specific claims process, and the process has led to urban economic development zones for some MKO communities, I can't see the process, as it stands, meaningfully increasing the total reserve lands of first nations in Manitoba or across the country. That would be a pre-requirement and central to strong indigenous economies and self-determining communities.

Our land south of the 60th parallel, as described in section 91 of the 1867 BNA, amounts to approximately 2% of the total land mass of Canada. That means that 99.8% of the land mass of Canada is in the hands of the crown and the right of Canada—provincial, territorial, and private ownership. In Manitoba, the crown and the private land currently available to entitlement first nations is approximately 1.1 million acres. This is really insignificant and will not make much of a difference in the big picture of first nations land distribution when fully completed.

Even after the TLE, which you have heard has been slow and arduous, has played out and all of the identified treaty entitlement lands have been transferred, Canada and private ownership will continue to hold 99% of the ancestral homelands of indigenous people, comprehensive claims, self-government, and modern treaties notwithstanding.

On the Northern Flood Agreement of 1977, I would like to bring to the attention of the committee the unfulfilled promises of the Northern Flood Agreement, broken promises that continue to be at the root of economic and social problems in some of the larger MKO communities 40 years after it was signed.

The following is from the aboriginal justice inquiry:

The Northern Flood Agreement was signed by Canada, Manitoba, Manitoba Hydro and the Northern Flood Committee representing the five First Nations (Nelson House, Norway House, Cross Lake, Split Lake and York Factory) whose reserve lands were to be flooded by the major hydro-electric projects planned. The agreement provided for an exchange of four acres for each acre flooded, the expansion and protection of wildlife harvesting rights, five million dollars to be paid over five years to support economic development projects on the reserves and promises of employment opportunities. The agreement was also to deal with any adverse effects to the "lands, pursuits, activities and lifestyles of reserve residents." The five First Nations were guaranteed a role in future resource development as well as in wildlife management and environmental protection. Certain water level guarantees were made and Manitoba Hydro generally accepted responsibility for any negative consequences that might emanate from the flooding. In return, Hydro obtained the right to flood reserve lands as part of the Churchill Diversion Project. Disputes over any adverse effects were to be settled by arbitration....

Manitoba Hydro obtained what it wanted as it proceeded with this massive project. The reaction from Aboriginal people has been far from positive.

That's from the AJI, and I'd like to remind everyone again that close to 80% of the energy that Manitoba Hydro produces comes from this region, from MKO territory. At the time, the AJI recommended that the governments of Manitoba and Canada recognize the NFA as a treaty, honour and properly implement the NFA's terms, and take appropriate measures to ensure that equivalent rights are granted by the agreement to the other aboriginal people affected by flooding. The AJI also recommended that a moratorium be placed on major natural resource development projects, unless and until agreements or treaties are reached with aboriginal people in the region who might be negatively impacted by such projects, in order to respect their aboriginal treaty rights in the territory concerned.

On December 15, 2000, the then Minister of Aboriginal and Northern Affairs, the Honourable Eric Robinson, made a ministerial statement in the legislative assembly concerning the NFA. He noted that it was of immediate importance to the government to address the devastating consequences of the flooding of first nations lands for hydro development. In that statement, he also stated that the Government of Manitoba recognized that the NFA is a modern-day treaty and expressed the government's commitment to honour and properly implement the terms of the NFA as recommended by the commissioners of the aboriginal justice inquiry in 1991. The minister went on to note that the government acknowledged that comprehensive implementation agreements had been signed with four of the five NFA first nations as a method of addressing and implementing the terms of the NFA.

Canada has legal obligations under the NFA, and had, for example, previously announced the conversion of reserve lands of 10,281 acres of provincial crown land for the benefit of the Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation under the First Nations 1996 Comprehensive Northern Flood Agreement Implementation Agreement.

However, compensation for flooded reserve lands has not been completed by Canada, Manitoba, and Manitoba Hydro under the comprehensive NFA implementation agreements developed and currently in place with impacted first nations. Our communities impacted by hydro development continue to be some of the poorest first nations communities in all of Canada. This is unacceptable in light of the historical and modern age treaties such as the Northern Flood Agreement.

8:10 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

You have twenty seconds.

8:10 a.m.

Grand Chief, Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak Inc.

Grand Chief Sheila North Wilson

I think I'll leave it there and just reference that we've heard, in the Prime Minister's speech to the UN, of the importance of the relationship. He mentioned the points that affect indigenous people directly, and we'll hold him to account on the words he spoke. Although we appreciate those words, we still have a long way to go to implement even, for example, the Northern Flood Agreement.

Thank you.

8:15 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

Thank you.

The next presenter is Grand Chief Arlen Dumas.

8:15 a.m.

Grand Chief Arlen Dumas Grand Chief, Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs

Good morning.

My name is Arlen Dumas and I am Grand Chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs.

It's important to acknowledge the land of what is currently referred to as the province of Manitoba, which is the ancestral and sovereign territories of the Anishinabe, Cree, Dakota, Dene, and Oji-Cree nations.

I just want to express that there is limited time to properly prepare for such significant work. No funding or research supports were provided to help us present today.

All first nations in Canada should be directly engaged in matters such as this, which are fundamental to our land rights. Others will speak specifically to treaty land entitlement issues in Manitoba and focus on specific and comprehensive land claims policies.

Current policies are not consistent with first nations', domestic, or international laws. Canada is not acting in good faith when it comes to issues of first nations' lands. Policies cannot be fixed through minor amendments and will require a fundamental overhaul and replacement.

The problems with specific claims and comprehensive claims policies are based on the assumption of crown sovereignty and title. Canadian laws and policies make the assumption of Canadian sovereignty over our territories. This requires first nations to make claims to Canada versus the other way around.

We dispute Canada's claim of sovereignty over our lands, outright. We assert that our sovereignty remains intact and that treaties are a recognition of indigenous nationhood and sovereignty.

Number two is that aboriginal title of land is not a foundation of either policy. There is no doubt on the historical record that these lands are first nations' lands. Canada has recognized this many times over through various land acknowledgements. Federal policies have not kept up with Canada's own court cases confirming aboriginal title. There is no process to protect first nations' lands and resources before or during negotiations.

Number three concerns the inherent conflict in the review and decision-making process. Current processes use Canada's laws, policies, lawyers, judges, courts, and enforcement mechanisms, and this is profoundly unbalanced. The Specific Claims Tribunal, heralded as independent, still uses Canada's laws, judges and courts without equal review, decision-making and inclusion of first nations' laws and processes.

Number four is that the return of land is not a central tenet of either process. Land is central to our identity, culture, self-sufficiency, economic well-being, and nation building. All lands in Canada are rightfully owned by first nations and Inuit. Failure to make land a central feature of these policies is a fundamental flaw.

Number five concerns presumption of land surrenders for first nations' lands covered by treaties. Treaties throughout Canada are very significant. Numbered treaties are wrongly treated as land-surrendered treaties, which does not correspond with first nations' laws or understanding. Canada imposes its own interpretation of numbered treaties, which acts as a significant limitation on negotiations.

Number six is in regard to the extinguishment under the guise of certainty, which violates first nations', domestic, international, and normal laws. Extinguishment of rights is not consistent with first nations' laws, jurisdictions, or decision-making processes that protect rights of past, current, and future generations. UNDRIP and other international declarations, conventions, treaties, and laws are centred on the protection and observance of indigenous land and resource rights, not their extinguishment. Extinguishment for money is a bullying tactic to force impoverished first nations into prejudicial settlements.

Number seven is that policies focus on Canadian objectives and do not include first nations' objectives. Current policies focus on Canada's desire for extinguishment of our rights; the protection of the historical uses of our lands and resources by settlers regardless of its illegality or impact on first nations; and the desire of various industries, primarily large corporations involved in the extractive industries, to profit from our lands and resources. Nowhere in the policy does it mention protection and enforcement of first nations' rights to lands and resources, the primacy of our rights, or our right to be self-determining and self-sustaining within our territories.

Number eight is that policies do not take into account the profoundly unequal bargaining position of the parties. Negotiations can take many years, sometimes decades, but only Canada and private industries benefit from our lands and resources in the interim.

Interests of third parties are given priority over pre-existing and constitutionally protected first nation land rights. Limited funding in the way of loans prejudices the process by making one party indebted to the other and under pressure to reach a settlement, no matter how unjust. Canada does not act in good faith during these land settlement negotiations. The federal government is frustrating land negotiations in the additions to reserve process here in Manitoba through the treaty land entitlement process, by using other aboriginal groups, namely the Métis, to interfere with first nations land rights. Canada prioritizes the profits of corporations and industries over the constitutional rights of first nations. Canada uses its policies, forces, and military to impose its will on first nations with regard to land ownership and use. Canada adopts rigid negotiating mandates and positions.

Dispute-resolution mechanisms are not accessible to many first nations. The only alternative to prejudicial and unequal land claim negotiations is the courts. The courts are heavily biased towards Canadian laws, interests, and perspectives. Court cases are lengthy—lasting upwards of 25 years—and expensive—costing millions of dollars—and offer little substantive protections for our lands and resources in the meantime. Any acts we take to use our land in the interim are often met with court-imposed sanctions or arrests.

Here are some of the preliminary recommendations.

One, a new joint land resolution process must be negotiated directly between Canada and the rights holders, first nations, i.e., how they choose to be represented by first nation leaders, experts, and/or representative groups.

Two, a new policy must be based on the recognition and protection of aboriginal title with the return of lands and resources as the central feature.

Three, any new mechanisms must be joint processes that include first nations' authorities, laws, policies, and dispute resolutions, decision-making, and appeals.

Four, all federally imposed limitations on negotiations must be removed, including those in relation to land transfers and compensation for past and ongoing loss of use.

Five, any new policy must be consistent with international laws, including UNDRIP, and specifically including the legal principle of free, prior, and informed consent for all activities on first nations lands before, during, and after negotiations.

Six, an extensive and comprehensive joint review of all federal, provincial, territorial, and municipal laws, policies, regulations, bylaws, and other processes must be carried out to determine their compliance with first nations' domestic and international law-making processes in relation to first nations land and resources rights. This would include a comprehensive review of TLE processes to address ongoing issues of prejudices towards first nations in the additions to reserve process

Seven, significant funding and related supports must be provided for first nations to engage in research, legal reviews, consultations related to our lands, and resource interests.

8:20 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

You have two minutes.

8:20 a.m.

Grand Chief, Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs

Grand Chief Arlen Dumas

Thank you very much.

I think it's very important to be mindful of the intention of these policies, and the fact that they have been in existence and have not provided meaningful or collaborative solutions that are essentially, fundamentally part of our relationship in Canada, in which we as partners both benefit in a meaningful way. While there have been a few examples of successful negotiations, unfortunately they are few and far between, and there needs to be a comprehensive review done so that we can ensure that we facilitate more of a meaningful development in regard to these issues. We're all reminded of how that relationship is supposed to continue to move forward and mutually benefit everyone who's involved.

I think it's also very important that the government quit using other groups to frustrate the process. The government needs to quit allying itself with industry the way it does, and actually start serving Canadians and first nations people alike, in order to properly provide for and continue to benefit the country, as we know it.

Thank you very much.

8:20 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

Thank you.

We're into the question period.

Oh, I'm sorry.

First we have Chief Nelson Genaille.

My apologies.

8:25 a.m.

Grand Chief Nelson Genaille President, Treaty Land Entitlement Committee of Manitoba Inc.

Good morning.

[Witness speaks in Cree]

In plain English language, I welcome you to our traditional territory, the Cree territory. It really goes through our history, the Cree Anishinabek. They travelled through there, and the Ojibways later on. We have never seen Métis here. As we walk across Turtle Island.... You know, I'm a chief, which was formerly a headman back when treaties were signed in the time of my grandfather, so I like to welcome the grandchildren of the settlers here. I acknowledge you, every one of you.

I find it very amusing that I have to explain to you the comprehensive claims and the negotiations I go through and understanding treaties when, in turn, when you seek office, what is your intent in the first place? Is it under Canada, or is it under the settler? When I look at the settler, he only came here to farm, the dust of a plow. As my grandfather said to my mom, he was actually given the net, the shells, the oxen to provide a new way of life, to live this new way of life.

When I look at specific claims under TARR, an organization which is to research what was signed in the first place. We had economic opportunity under TLE, and were denied. Why is that? Why do we need to be so scared that we deny first nations their economic opportunity?

I cannot sell our furs any more to make a living, so I have to change and adapt. This past weekend we took our children out into the forest and hunted moose. Back in 2012 and 2013, I had to take an industry to court, and the Manitoba Government to court, because of what was promised in treaties. From my understanding the crown land was there for my use and benefit, so when government gives it to a proponent like an industry, like Manitoba Hydro, where does my land go?

Something that was taught to me by my mom and my grandfather was that when we go to pray, let's not bow our heads down and shut our eyes. Let's learn from the first time, because when we opened our eyes, our land was gone. So I take these key messages to my heart, what's left to me to understand. On negotiations and understanding specific claims, TLE has 1.1 million acres of unfinished treaty business. My property, in the town of Swan River, is 0.114 acres. It provides $6 million gross. That's the economy of Swan River. I get 10% of that. I still can't afford 275 houses for my community. That sits idle for eight years. Six times eight is $48 million. Are you prepared to give me $48 million so I can provide adequate housing for my community? I don't think so.

Are you willing to negotiate extractions from our territory of gravel, limestone, or gold? Right now, how much land does Canada have? That's your first question. You don't have any land. What did Canada do in 1930? They gave everything to the provinces of Canada. Did you ask me, grandson of a headman, to do that? No, you didn't.

So I find it very hard to explain what you need to know. What do you want to know? Do you want to know the truth or do you want me to draft up something that in your language you'll understand? Number one is accountability. We've been accountable to our people. Whenever we are not accountable, we get removed. Before the Indian Act, my grandfather was a headman until he passed on. That was our history. We were specifically given the task of being the leadership in our community and providing for our membership. I go to understand. In my community, it was the spiritual people who were in power, because they would provide for their community members.

Then when you look at specific claims, I could give you specific examples, like “Justice at Last”. Are they implemented? They're not even implemented. When states establish an inherent conjunction with indigenous people, it's not even transparent. It's not even a transparent process, because this is basically a boxing ring. If we want to box, I have to do a protest to stop you. That's what we have to do.

Under “Justice at Last”, the final arbitrator chooses to accept or reject the claim and they negotiate, but at the same time that's under their terms, which are basically Canada's terms. Following the five-year review, and developing the recommendations, nothing has happened, because you choose to turn a blind eye. There's a private member's bill that I fully support, but I don't have that power. You have that power to support. How come you do not wish to support? That's the question that you should ask yourself. Is that going to be truly justice at last when that happens?

Right now, there's a “no hunting moose” ban in my territory, but I do continue to hunt and take moose because I have to provide for my membership, for my people, because that was promised in treaties. When we asked for a joint process—rights holders, domestic, international—you failed to remember that you have to ask the real rights holders if you can come to our territory, if you can do business in our territory. That is what your first elders asked when they first came here. As soon as treaties were signed, where did the treaties go? You have to ask yourself that question. Where did the treaties go? I understand my treaty rights, but I also understand my indigenous rights to the land itself. We, as indigenous people, are married to the land. We live off the land and we need that land, but in today's day and age, it's for economic opportunity. I just bought another piece of property from the Town of Swan River. It's an old derelict building. Guess who had to clean it up? We had to. We had to get a company to clean it all up and remove the old building. We signed a municipal services development agreement; we made an agreement to set up business. This one is subject to make me $13 million for my community and that's gross. That's $19 million for these two properties that don't even add up to an acre yet. When you look at Canada and the extraction of resource across Canada, what is that dollar amount? What is the actual amount owed to the first nations, if not even an acre has given my community possibly $20 million?

Then we have this big green book here. In 1997, it was signed on May 29. After 20 years, we're not even halfway done. The Liberal government promised 10 years to conclude and finish this business.

How can we, when 140 years later we're still trying to finish the business of treaties that were signed? I just came back from Treaty 4 territory, where we were celebrating our annual Treaty 4 gathering. My people still go to Treaty 4 land in Fort Qu'Appelle, because that's where we come from. We are Plains Cree. When the superintendent said, “This is where you're going to live. We'll set aside 100 acres for you to live”, but my grandfather understood that the whole territory under Treaty 4 was what we were supposed to live off.

8:35 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

Thank you.

Question period moves first to MP Gary Anandasangaree.

8:35 a.m.

Liberal

Gary Anandasangaree Liberal Scarborough—Rouge Park, ON

Thank you, Madam Chair. Thank you, respective chiefs, for joining us. I too acknowledge the land that we're gathered on.

Just to pick up on the grand chief's suggestions with respect to a new model of dispute resolution, can you give us some sense as to what that framework should look like in terms of joint decision-making? Maybe you could walk us through an ideal way of addressing some of the structural concerns you've identified.

8:35 a.m.

Grand Chief, Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs

Grand Chief Arlen Dumas

I think if you make an objective assessment of what has happened historically.... In my statements I said that these processes are becoming misaligned or intentionally “disaligned” with current court decisions that have come down through the last 20 years. There are abundant examples. My honourable colleague mentioned the agreement he just presented before you, for which there's actually a contract, a legal framework that is developed for us to move forward on. However, the bureaucracy and the judicial system take liberties and interfere, and don't allow for meaningful development. As I said in my statements, there needs to be a meaningful collaboration between first nations and other leaders in order to ensure that these mechanisms are in line with the law, if we're to follow the rule of law, and that there is free, prior, and informed consent, as well as the UNDRIP.

I can't necessarily give you specific things, because we would need to do that work. We can build upon the failures of the past, continue to be aware of them, and move forward in a meaningful way. My honourable colleague here mentioned earlier that just through the wherewithal and the ability of his community where he is, he's able to provide additional resources so that he can look after himself and his community. That's what we all want.

8:35 a.m.

Liberal

Gary Anandasangaree Liberal Scarborough—Rouge Park, ON

Grand Chief Wilson, could you comment with respect to specific claims and how a framework that is a lot more in line with the intention of joint decision-making would look?

8:35 a.m.

Grand Chief, Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak Inc.

Grand Chief Sheila North Wilson

I think the discussion has to be initiated and reinvigorated with the first nations and representatives on a more equitable basis in respect of sharing or transferring the land. I think the most basic part of this is the principles we see in UNDRIP. If we actually saw the implementation of UNDRIP, we would start to see a road map of how to start to create a process that would be more fair and equitable.

Chief Genaille speaks on behalf of his specific community, but we are the representatives of the rights holders. We're not the rights holders as an organization or as grand chiefs—that process has to be taken directly to the first nations and rights holders. While we're here to help with that and coordinate the messaging, it has to be respected that sovereign nations be engaged again and start to look at the practical ways to see the transfers.

For example, as Chief Genaille mentioned, in Swan River he bought some land and property, and he's able to do that, but it took years and a lot of negotiations for them to get to that point. It's the same with the Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation in Nelson House. The Cree Nation now have some property in Thompson itself.

We need to see more of those opportunities. We're all tired of the idea that we're dependent on government, because we feel we're not. I think when we look at the overall picture, we don't feel we are dependent, but we need better partners to work with us so we can take care of our own. That's the heart of it.

8:40 a.m.

Liberal

Gary Anandasangaree Liberal Scarborough—Rouge Park, ON

Grand Chief Genaille, can you outline some of the challenges you face with respect to acquisition of land and negotiations with the government?

8:40 a.m.

President, Treaty Land Entitlement Committee of Manitoba Inc.

Grand Chief Nelson Genaille

Basically it's a changing of the guard. I met with many different ministers, with the PC government that was in charge, and with different mayors and councils as well as the bureaucrats at the INAC offices. Nobody they put in charge knew anything about the policies in place, and they all had to start over. I had to educate them. I should be given a doctorate degree for how many people I educated. That's including the ministers and even the mayor and council.

It's all about implementation. When a first nation selects a piece of property, it's done through a photo-based map. When third-party interests have been agreed to and resolved, we sign an RSM map, a regional surveyor map. Then once that's signed off, it's surveyed. When it's surveyed, orders in council are produced by Manitoba giving up the land, giving it to Canada. After another order in council, Canada gives it to us for our use. Even after that, who looks after it? It's the Queen. But when we look at the legalities, it's still my territory. When the treaties were signed, it was basically to allow settlers to use the territory of Treaty 4, where I come from.

8:40 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

That's a good point.

We'll now move to MP Cathy McLeod.

8:40 a.m.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

My thanks to all the presenters.

Thank you, Chair.

Something came up in our meetings in Vancouver, and I've had personal exposure to it in the riding I represent. It relates to comprehensive land claims and specific land claims. It relates to the government's policies on divestiture of what currently is their land. In Kamloops, there was an agricultural centre that the federal government decided it did not require anymore. I got that divestiture process from Treasury Board. Although first nation interests in that land was part of it, I was surprised to see these interests not playing a more prominent role in the process. Does anyone have anything to say about how the federal government's divestiture process should work?

8:40 a.m.

Grand Chief, Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs

Grand Chief Arlen Dumas

I'm not intimately familiar with the policy. However, I do have a general understanding and that's actually a good example of where there needs to be more of an effort for everyone to make an informed decision.

First and foremost, when we have opportunities like that, every effort should be made to make sure that everybody realizes the opportunity and the potential of those types of acquisitions. I believe here in Manitoba some of our relatives in the south are actually trying to acquire certain retired Canadian army barracks here in the city. For some reason, every possible obstacle is made to impede and stop that transaction from happening, whereas, if you take a look around the country, in Saskatchewan.... Even here in Winnipeg with Long Plain, the transfer of the urban reserve actually provided an economic stimulus to a part of the city that essentially was going to get shuttered had it been allowed to move forward. The whole city redirected traffic, and now I believe it's the busiest or the second-busiest gas station in the city, but there was a lot of effort to make that happen. Why can't we do that with this other example or the example that you used?

There needs to be more of an effort to allow for those things to happen and less interference by bureaucrats and people with other agendas, because there is an obligation by the federal government when those lands become available to make meaningful transactions with whichever first nations are around.

8:45 a.m.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

In the particular case that I am more familiar with, it was within the traditional territory and there was a specific land claim. The specific land claim was not part of that actual area, but certainly I thought there was a lot of opportunity. I thought there might be some more appropriate Treasury Board guidelines as we look at these opportunities.

Did anyone else have any comments on that particular suggestion?

8:45 a.m.

Grand Chief, Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs

Grand Chief Arlen Dumas

I'm sorry, but I just want to follow up on your last statement. I think, as I said, every effort should be made. Just because something doesn't fall into a box.... These negotiations are based upon a certain set of parameters, but if there's an opportunity there for us to be meaningful partners, why wouldn't we try to rule in favour of something that's going to be beneficial for everybody?

That policy should be reviewed to see if we could provide opportunities that are above and beyond.

8:45 a.m.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

Thank you.

You had a little bit of an opportunity, Grand Chief North Wilson, to talk about the 1977 Northern Flood Agreement, which I'm not completely familiar with. Could you clarify a little further in terms of which components of the agreement you feel were actually met and which components of the agreement have not been adequately addressed?