I applaud Minister (David) Lametti’s acknowledgement there are issues to review on how the Natural Resources Transfer Agreement (NRTA) does not align with Treaty or International Human Rights standards and how that impacts First Nations. Frankly, this discussion is long overdue, and First Nations have been preparing for this discussion for decades.
The Natural Resources Transfer Act is a violation of Treaty and is not compliant with our inherent and Treaty rights.
When my great grandfather, Chief Richard Woodhouse, signed Treaty 2 with the federal Crown in 1871, he was promised that the land was to be shared with Settlers. He was told only the top 6 inches of soil was needed for agriculture. Like all Chiefs of the prairie provinces, he was promised that the resources were not being sold without discussions with our people. We must remember that neither Alberta, Saskatchewan nor Manitoba existed at this time.
In 1930, Canada unilaterally transferred natural resources to the three Prairie provinces without our consent and against the agreement of our Treaties. In addition, despite the language in the NRTA to respect Treaty rights, all three provinces regularly have violated these terms and have attacked the rights of our people. Provincial governments have sold resources to others while blocking the ability of First Nations to benefit from our own lands and resources.
But we have hope, we have strategies, and we have the will to work with our many allies across Canada. First Nations are working with other Canadians to begin reshaping law in Canada. Over the past 50 years, we have made a significant impact on human rights law at the international level. The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is just one aspect of that successful advocacy. We also have been successful in encouraging many resource companies to acknowledge that our consent and participation in benefits (including equity participation) from our lands is a pre-requisite for successful, inclusive development in Canada.
Now it’s time that provincial governments recognize and accept that our inherent and Treaty rights cannot be unilaterally extinguished, nor can they simply be ignored. That colonial mindset is disappearing. Times are changing.