One Saskatchewan First Nation is contemplating legal action to halt the sale or lease of Crown lands. The Onion Lake Cree Nation said it is not being consulted on proposed auctions, stating one such auction is slated for the end of January.
“The loss of use due to Crown Land leases that are up to 33 years result in the unjustifiable infringement of our Treaty Rights to meaningfully hunt, trap, fish, harvest and gather on our traditional territories,” explained Okimaw Henry Lewis.
First Nations leaders and the New Democrats for months have been raising concerns that the current provincial government process is leaving First Nations behind.
“The province continues to chip away at our Treaty rights by selling and leasing our lands – this cannot continue. That’s why the Nations in this province are in litigation about this,” said FSIN Vice Chief Heather Bear. “Our people have less land on which to hunt and practice our ways of life, to teach our younger generations the ways of doing things and less protected lands to sustain our people and livelihoods. The sales and leases of Crown lands ignore First Nations’ rights and is inconsistent with Treaties and the Treaty relationship.”
However, a letter from the Ministry of Environment to the Yellow Quill First Nation, dated December 30, invites the First Nation to consult regarding proposed forestry activity on unoccupied Crown land in the Pasquia Porcupine Forest Management Agreement. The letter cites some proposed concerns identified by the Ministry, but asks for Yellow Quill’s input on potential impacts to Treaty Rights and other concerns. While the Ministry does have a tight consultation window of February 7, it is offering financial assistance to help with consultations.
The provincial government is defending its Crown Lands sales practice stating it gives advance notice to the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations of land auctions. “The Ministry of Agriculture provides advance notice of sales auctions to the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations in order for TLE First Nations to participate in the auction process of lands on which there has been no claim made.” Land included in any sale or lease process is first confirmed not to be part of an active TLE selection.”