Treaties and Land Claims: Current Problems

Aboriginal Rights and Title

October 3, 2022


‘Backed into a corner’: Duncan’s First Nation sues Alberta for cumulative impacts of industry

Lawsuit follows in the footsteps of B.C. Supreme Court’s precedent-setting Blueberry River decision, which could have profound impacts for oil and gas industry

A First Nation in northern Alberta is suing the Alberta government for infringement of Treaty Rights, leaning heavily on a B.C. Supreme Court decision last year, which found that province liable for violations based on the cumulative impacts of industry on the Blueberry River First Nations’ territory. 

The outcome of the lawsuit could have a profound impact in a province heavily reliant on an oil and gas industry that has caused significant cumulative impacts, including in the Peace River district that is home to Duncan’s First Nation — the nation that has launched the suit. 

In B.C., the court ordered the government to sit down with Blueberry River First Nations to develop a plan to address its concerns and gave the nation the power to block new developments on its land. Both Blueberry River and Duncan’s First Nations are signatories to Treaty 8.

The Duncan’s First Nation suit alleges the government has violated the nation’s Treaty Right to practise its traditional ways of life by approving too many industrial activities on its traditional territories, effectively preventing use of the land. 

The case closely echoes the wording used in the successful Blueberry River decision.

“Alberta has engaged in a pattern of conduct that, taken together, has significantly diminished [community members’] right to hunt, fish, trap and gather as part of their way of life,” the statement says. 

The promises of Treaty 8 and death by a thousand cuts

Each of these are rights the nation was told would be protected when it signed onto Treaty 8 in the late 1800s. But since signing, the province has authorized and permitted widespread development, including agriculture, oil and gas, forestry, mining and, most recently, peat bog harvesting.

“Among other things, habitats have been fragmented, lands and waters have been degraded, substances have been introduced that cause legitimate fears of contamination and pollution and lands have been put to uses that are incompatible with the continued meaningful exercise of [Duncan’s First Nation’s] Treaty Rights.”

In other words, like its B.C. neighbours, Duncan’s First Nation says it’s experiencing what is known as a “death by a thousand cuts.”

Duncan’s First Nation Chief Virginia Gladue had previously urged Premier Jason Kenney, Indigenous Relations Minister Rick Wilson and area MLA Todd Loewen in a May 17 letter to engage in a meaningful discussion in order to stave off the lawsuit.

“It is not too much to say that the extensive and ever increasing development in [Duncan’s First Nation’s] territory — development that has been directly caused and permitted by Alberta — poses an existential threat to our culture, identity and way of life,” Gladue writes. Her letter also details a long list of impacts identified in studies conducted by the nation, including roads, traffic, logging, pollutants, agriculture, private land and pollution.

The chief was unavailable for an interview for this story.

Jeff Langlois is the lawyer representing the nation and says Duncan’s has always played by the rules, showing up to make submissions on projects and going through the processes, none of which dealt with the decreasing amount of undisturbed land.

He says the nation doesn’t want to go to court, doesn’t want to pay lawyers, but that it feels “backed into a corner in a lot of ways.” “Duncan’s has gone through those processes and tried to address this issue,” Langlois says. “So, you’re gonna take up all this land in order to develop a new gas pipeline, but we’re already underwater, right? It’s not a case that you’re taking a cup out of a full bucket, you’re scraping the bottom of the bucket.”

Gladue says in her letter the nation wants the government  to establish a robust framework that includes plans for guiding development, land and wildlife protection on the nation’s territory or the lawsuit will go forward. 

She says such a framework would help overturn what she characterizes as “years of indifference and inaction” on behalf of the government.

“As intended by our ancestors and those that signed the Treaty on your behalf, we invite you to work in the spirit of cooperation, mutual respect and responsibility,” writes Gladue. “The choice is yours: whether to commit to this path or continue own the path of indifference, uncertainty and conflict.”

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney and his government have taken a pro-industry approach when it comes to development on First Nations territory. Photo: Government of Alberta / Flickr

The current United Conservative Government has taken a pro-industry approach to First Nations in Alberta, creating a government-backed litigation fund to help Indigenous groups or affiliated organizations fight opposition to projects. “For too long, pro-development First Nations have been ignored in the debate over resource development,” Premier Jason Kenney said while launching the fund in 2019.

The Blueberry River decision set significant precedent

The Blueberry decision was the first time the B.C. courts ruled on cumulative impacts.

Chris Tollefson, professor of law at the University of Victoria, told The Narwhal in a previous interview the case set a significant precedent because B.C. didn’t appeal the decision. “It’s presumed to state the law accurately and … that decision now becomes the law, at least in British Columbia, binding on all parties and in particular upon the government.”

He added the legal decision is “especially persuasive in relation to Treaty 8” — the same treaty Duncan’s First Nation signed.

But it’s unclear how the B.C. ruling will play out in Alberta.

Kate Gunn, lawyer with First Peoples Law, a firm based in Vancouver, told The Narwhal the Blueberry River decision is not legally binding on Alberta’s court but agreed with Tollefson that it is “persuasive,” especially given both nations are signatories to Treaty 8.

“It would be hard for an Alberta court to say that only the nations who signed in B.C. are guaranteed their continued way of life,” she said.

She added that when the B.C. Supreme Court handed down its ruling in 2021, it interpreted and clarified a Supreme Court of Canada decision on the rights of the Mikisew Cree First Nation in northern Alberta, also a signatory to Treaty 8. 

“The Mikisew case said governments may be liable for treaty infringement if there is so much land taken up by a province that the First Nation can’t exercise their Treaty Rights at all,” Gunn explained. “What Blueberry said is, ‘Yes, that’s correct — but the court didn’t say that there couldn’t be an infringement at a lower threshold.’ ” 

She explained that while the B.C. ruling is not binding on other provinces or territories, the Supreme Court of Canada decision is. It’s still open to the Alberta court to decide whether it agrees with the interpretation and proceed on that basis or make contrary findings, which she said would likely be appealed. 

Duncan’s isn’t the first Alberta nation to test the waters with litigation against the province on cumulative impacts. Beaver Lake Cree First Nation — a Treaty 6 nation located 100 kilometres northeast of Edmonton — has been battling in the courts since 2008. The basic premise of the argument is the same: government-approved development has diminished the ability of its members to exercise Treaty Rights. 

Recently, the nation successfully petitioned the Supreme Court of Canada to overturn a provincial decision that denied them advance costs to see the case through to full trial. The estimated total cost of the litigation is $5 million. 

Alberta lacks regional land use plans

Both B.C. and Alberta have policies in place to assess cumulative effects, but critics in Alberta have lamented the “sad state” of land use plans meant to address those effects. 

Tara Russell, the program director for the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society in northern Alberta, says there are tools that have been identified to deal with cumulative impacts in Alberta, but consecutive governments have failed to implement them — specifically regional land use plans.  “So we have this tool, we’re just not using it and there’s been quite a distinct lack of will or intent or ambition by government and industry to get them in place,” she says.

The Alberta Energy Regulator says it’s unable to comment on the Duncan’s First Nation claim as it’s before the courts and that “inquiries on cumulative effects are best directed at Alberta Environment and Parks.”

A view of Wapisiw Lookout (formerly Pond 1) in June 2010 at Suncor Energy oilsands operation
A view of Suncor’s oilsands base plant. The region that houses the oilsands is one of only two where regional land use plans have been developed in Alberta. Photo: Suncor Energy / Flickr

Responding on behalf of the government, a spokesperson for Alberta Justice said the government could not comment due to the lawsuit.

When the province backed down from its changes to Alberta’s coal policy last year in the face of public backlash, then-environment minister Jason Nixon said the government takes a comprehensive approach to environmental management to understand cumulative impacts, and pointed specifically to land-use plans.

A freedom of information request filed by The Narwhal last year requesting memos and briefing notes for Alberta Energy Regulator executives regarding the potential impact of the Blueberry decision for Alberta’s oil and gas industry was denied due to the records containing “legal advice and analyses that are subject to legal privilege.” 

The regulator did point to sections of the Responsible Energy Development Act, Alberta Land Stewardship Act and associated regional plans, Water Act and the Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act that can take into account the cumulative impacts of development on the land. 

“The regional plans are the primary policy mechanism by which Alberta considers cumulative effects,” the regulator said in an emailed response to questions.  To date, Alberta has only created two of seven such regional plans — in the Lower Athabasca region and the South Saskatchewan region — the Lower Athabasca plan is up for its mandated 10-year review this year. 

Duncan’s First Nation territory sits at the convergence of three regions considered for plans, none of which have entered into initial stages of development. 

The Land Stewardship Act was created in 2009

Robert Hamilton, a law professor at the University of Calgary who has written on the significance of the Blueberry River decision, says the different regulatory regimes in B.C. and Alberta could have an impact on the outcome of the Duncan’s lawsuit.  “It was important to the court that the B.C. regulatory regime had failed in the way that it did,” he says.  But, he says, if the nation is able to demonstrate the impacts have prevented them from meaningfully exercising their rights, it’s not difficult to argue the regulatory regime is failing. 

The traditional territory of Duncan’s First Nation sits on lesser-known oilsands deposits and on the Montney formation — a big oil and gas play — but there is also extensive logging in the area, with large forest management agreements in place as well as impacts from agriculture and mining. 

That mirrors what’s happening on the B.C. side of the border and Hamilton says the facts presented in the Blueberry River about how much impact there was on the land were a key factor in leading to the final decision. “That level of impact is almost unmatched. Almost. Where is it matched? Well, it’s matched in northern Alberta,” he says. 

Duncan’s First Nations case could have profound impacts for oil and gas industry

The Blueberry River decision said the government had to sit down with the First Nation to ensure there was a collective plan to address projects going forward and to account for the cumulative impacts of development on the territory. Failing to do so could result in an indefinite pause on development.

If the same thing happened in Alberta, it could have a profound impact on the oil and gas industry, the province’s largest source of income. In fact, the industry is expected to bring in $28.4 billion in provincial revenues by the end of this fiscal year. 

The Narwhal reached out to the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers as well as Obsidian Energy, Tourmaline Oil and Baytex Energy, which all operate in the region. None responded to requests for comment on the potential impact of the case. 

Langlois says all the nation wants is for the government to address the concerns raised by the community over the years and to develop a plan to address the cumulative impacts of industry.  “Post filing the claim, all we get is well, we’re just going to defer to the land use planning processes that have proved just manifestly unable to deal with this issue, like by design,” he says. 

He says there are difficult discussions that need to happen to solve complex problems. 

Hamilton, from the University of Calgary, anticipates there will be more cases filed from First Nations dealing with cumulative impacts. 

“Treaty Rights throughout the country are under considerable pressure and duty to consult and accommodate has not really been able to satisfy Indigenous people’s desire to have a really meaningful voice in decision making that impacts their rights,” he says.

June 28, 2022


‘They beat us into submission’: West Moberly’s decades-long fight against Site C dam is over

West Moberly First Nations reluctantly signed a settlement seven years into construction on the beleaguered hydroelectric project on the Peace River in northeastern B.C.

The Narwhal: After a decades-long fight against the Site C dam, Monday was a bittersweet day for West Moberly First Nations Chief Roland Willson. 

The Nation and the province announced a partial settlement agreement has been reached over the beleaguered hydroelectric project on the Peace River in northeastern B.C., which will see the release of West Moberly’s claims against the Site C project in exchange for an impact and benefits agreement and contracting opportunities. 

“Site C has progressed to a point where it is unlikely that any judge will order the dam dismantled. Because of this, we have reluctantly agreed to settle that portion of our court case related to Site C,” read a statement from West Moberly First Nations. “The final nail in the coffin was a while ago,” Chief Roland Willson told The Narwhal. “They had no intention of stopping.”

“We’re never going to be in agreement with Site C. That’s never going to happen. And every time we drive by that development it’s going to be a constant reminder of what’s been done to us,” Willson said. “Forcing us into this situation like this is not something to be proud of. They beat us into submission, basically.” 

A 2014 federal-provincial review of the Site C dam found the project would cause “significant adverse effects” to First Nations’ fishing, hunting and trapping. Construction on the project began in 2015, with then-premier Christy Clark vowing to get the project past the “point of no return.” In 2019, the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination called for the B.C. government to suspend construction of the Site C dam until the project obtained the “free, prior and informed consent” of Indigenous Peoples, but construction continued. 

Asked about the toll fighting the dam for three decades has taken on his Nation, Willson said “it’s massive.” 

“We’ve expended an enormous amount of energy, an enormous amount of goodwill from our supporters. And that’s the sad part of this is we kinda feel we’ve let people down. But the reality is we’ve done everything that we could do to try to stop this and they just kind of ran over us,” he said. “We’re at the point now where we’ve got to pick up the pieces.” 

The Site C dam is a 1,100 megawatt hydro dam that has been proposed as the third dam on the Peace River since the 1970s. The cost of the project has ballooned from $7.9 billion since 2014, when it was reviewed by a federal-provincial panel, to over $16 billion, making it both the costliest dam in Canadian history and the most expensive publicly funded infrastructure project in B.C. history. When Site C is completed, it will flood 128 kilometres of the Peace River and its tributaries, putting Indigenous burial grounds, traditional hunting and fishing areas, habitat for more than 100 species vulnerable to extinction and some of Canada’s richest farmland under up to 50 metres of water.

In its decades-long fight against the dam, West Moberly First Nations launched judicial reviews and made an injunction application, before filing a civil lawsuit against the province.  West Moberly will direct the benefits of the Site C settlement toward reclaiming and restoring land, revitalizing the community’s culture and “protecting the best of what’s left.” 

The remainder of the civil claim, which relates to the cumulative impacts of resource development and previous dams on the Peace River, has not been settled but has been paused while the Nation and the province enter confidential discussions to resolve matters. “I appreciate that it has been a difficult decision for West Moberly to resolve its claims against Site C,” Chris O’Riley, president and CEO, BC Hydro said in a joint press release. “These agreements provide us a foundation to move forward together in a manner that fosters a mutually beneficial relationship.”

Site C dam ‘should have never gotten to this stage’ 

Peace Valley farmer Ken Boon, an outspoken critic of the Site C dam, said the settlement agreement seemed “inevitable.”  “I tip my hat to West Moberly. They truly tried to stop this dam and save the valley and unfortunately that wasn’t to be,” he said. Boon had hoped that the West Moberly fight would help light a way forward to resolve this type of conflict differently in the future, but he doesn’t feel hopeful after reading the comments from government and BC Hydro in their press release on the settlement. 

“On the surface, I don’t see any change from the government or BC Hydro’s perspective on how projects will be brought forward or moved forward and that’s what we need. We can’t afford to do any more bad projects like this in the face of climate change and reconciliation,” Boon said. “We’ve got to have a better way of advancing projects. It should have never gotten to this stage.”

Asked if the fight against Site C is officially over, Boon said: “If anything is going to stop it now, it’s probably going to be geotechnical problems.”

An investigation by The Narwhal’s Sarah Cox in 2020 revealed that senior officials with the B.C. government knew about deepening geotechnical problems and budget issues for more than a year before the public was informed.  “We’ve already seen how the B.C. government and BC Hydro will literally move mountains of dirt and mountains of money to keep this thing going and I expect they’ll continue doing that and probably get a project built,” Boon said.

November 15, 2022

Fed. Govt.

25 years after the Delgamuukw case, the fight for land is more contentious than ever

Judges ruled that Indigenous people had ancestral land rights but stopped short of declaring Aboriginal title

Angela Sterritt · CBC News · Posted: Nov 15, 2022 4:00 AM PT | Last Updated: November 15

Kolin Sutherland-Wilson, a Gitxsan leader, is pictured at a gate which blocks the entrance to the Xsu Wil Maxswit territory near Hazelton, B.C., on Saturday, Feb. 26, 2022. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

Twenty-five years after the Delgamuukw verdict was handed down, First Nations’ leaders behind the historic case are still ruminating about how the land they fought for is still largely in the hands of the Crown. 

“I thought the fight would have been over, but 25 years later, here we are still fighting,” said Dimdiigibuu, also known as Ardythe Wilson.

Dimdiigibuu was one of five speakers representing the Gitxsan and the Wet’suwet’en during the Delgamuukw vs. British Columbia trial, where the two nations fought to have their land title recognized.

She says government’s refusal to affirm Indigenous people’s title to the land is, in part, why there are still conflicts over land among Indigenous people, governments, companies and police and why the Crown still controls almost 90 per cent of land in Canada.

‘We never gave up our land’

In 1987, after years of failed negotiations with the provincial government over their claim of ownership and jurisdiction over 58,000 square kilometres of territory in northwest B.C., Gitxsan Hereditary Chiefs Delgamuukw and the Wet’suwet’en’s Gisday’wa brought their case to the B.C. Supreme Court.

But in 1991, Justice Allan McEachern ruled their title was extinguished when B.C. joined Confederation. 

The two nations appealed in 1993.

“We never gave up our land. We never lost it in war. We never signed it away in treaty. It is still ours,” said Dimdiigibuu in her Gitanmaax community.

Dimdiigibuu (Ardythe Wilson) is pictured in ‘Ksan Historical Village in Gitanmaax near Hazelton, B.C., on Friday, February 25, 2022. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

In 1997, the Gitxsan and the Wet’suwet’en took their fight to the Supreme Court of Canada.

And they won — to a degree.

A ‘bittersweet’ victory

The judges ruled that Indigenous people in British Columbia have ancestral land rights protected by section 35 (1) of the Constitution Act, 1982, which had not been extinguished when the province joined Confederation.

This means Aboriginal title was recognized as an “existing aboriginal right,” something that earlier drafts of the Constitution Act did not include.

It also confirmed Indigenous oral testimony as legitimate as other forms of evidence.

“That’s probably the greatest legacy of the case, that Indigenous law was uplifted,” said Merle Alexander, who observed the case as a law student in 1997 and is now a partner with the firm Miller Titerle. 

A procession of Gitxsan and Wet’suwet’en chiefs outside Smithers town hall in response to Justice McEachern’s decision in their land title case. (Bulkley Valley Museum)

The Delgamuukw ruling also established that the Gitxsan and Wet’suwet’en have systems of law that predate the days of elected band councils enacted under Canada’s Indian Act in 1876.

However, the ruling did not grant a declaration of Aboriginal land title. 

“It’s one of those incredible, bittersweet victories,” said Alexander, adding that the case likely cost all parties hundreds of millions of dollars.

‘It’s shameful’: minister

Today, the Crown controls 89 per cent of land in Canada. The rest is primarily privately owned.

Indian reserves account for 0.2 per cent of Canada’s land mass, but under the Indian Act, First Nations peoples cannot own title to the land on their reserves. The Crown maintains legal authority on those lands.

Through land claims, Indigenous people hold approximately seven per cent of land in Canada, but legal scholars agree this number could be higher.

“What happened to the Delgamuukw case?” said Hanamaux, a Gitxsan Sim’oogit (Chief) who also goes by Don Ryan.

Simo’ogyet (Chief) Hanamuxw (Don Ryan) is pictured in Gitsegukla near Hazelton, B.C., on Friday, Feb. 25, 2022. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

“The Constitution [Act] is 40 years old this year. The court case is 25 years old this year. What have you done about it?”

Even a federal minister has stated that the time to recognize Indigenous land title is overdue.

“It’s time to give land back,” said Marc Miller last fall in his first comments as the newly appointed minister of Crown-Indigenous relations.

“It’s shameful that today we haven’t moved as we should have in the mid-1990s when the Delgamuukw case was issued by the Supreme Court,” he said during the taping of CBC’s Land Back podcast in 2022. 

Forced to push the envelope

The Delgamuukw case did set a precedent for other claims: in 2014, the Tŝilhqot’in used it in a ruling that led to the first declaration of Aboriginal title in Canada.

It’s one of hundreds of First Nations wins in court — one that Indigenous people have argued should have set a precedent for others to have their title to the land affirmed.

But being sent back to court, over and over, has pushed some to use additional avenues, like blockades, in their fight.

During the trial in the 1990s, Hanamaux says, Gitxsans took to blockading roads and railways to stop companies from helping themselves to Gitxsan lands.

“In some ways, that’s the only way they’d listen to us,” said Hanamaux from his home in Gitsegukla.

Today, blockading is a Gitxsan tradition, according to land defender Kolin Sutherland-Wilson.

“This rail line across Gitxsan territory has been blockaded for more than a hundred years,” said Sutherland-Wilson, standing on a stretch of tracks near Hazelton, B.C.

CBC Podcast Land Back crew interview Gitxsan leader Kolin Sutherland-Wilson near Hazelton, B.C., on Friday, Feb. 25, 2022. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

In 2021, Sutherland-Wilson, who is from the house Git’luuhl’um’hetxwit, and others blocked Canadian National Railway lines in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en, who were protesting the Coastal GasLink pipeline on their traditional territory.

“It’s one of the very few mechanisms we have to actually push for justice on our lands because, you know, reconciliation hasn’t worked,” he said.

“We’ve gone to the highest courts in the land, we’ve gone right to the Crown, and it seems the only time there’s ever any type of progress is when we are forced to push the envelope as a last resort.”

As for the Crown: “Defining what title is, is some tragic unfinished business in Canada,” said Miller.

“But it’s time in my mind to start taking a risk, moving away from our positions of power, put our swords down and start working with the community to decide what that is.”


Angela Sterritt

CBC Reporter

Angela Sterritt is an ​award-winning investigative journalist. She is the host of Land Back, a six-part CBC British Columbia original podcast that uncovers land theft and land reclamation in Canada. Sterritt is known for her impactful journalism on the tensions between Indigenous people and institutions in Canada. She is a proud member of the Gitxsan Nation. 

April 14, 2023


AFN Affirms Support for First Nations’ Assertion of Rights in Treaty 9 Legal Action on Cumulative Impacts

NationTalk: Ottawa, ON – On Tuesday, during its Special Chiefs Assembly, the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) adopted a Resolution in support of litigation launched by Chapleau Cree First Nation, Missanabie Cree First Nation, and Brunswick House First Nation (the Treaty 9 Nations).

The litigation challenges the Government of Ontario’s failure to uphold the Crown’s obligations under Treaty 9, including its obligation to protect the Nations’ Treaty rights and way of life from the cumulative impacts of resource development.

“Provinces are deriving wealth and prosperity from First Nations land,” said National Chief RoseAnne Archibald. “This lawsuit is about provinces not mitigating the degradation of First Nations lands, waters, and way of life and highlights the importance of Nation-to-Nation prosperity and mutual benefit.”

The legal action is an important step towards enforcing the Crown’s outstanding obligations to uphold its Treaty promises and ensure Indigenous Peoples are able to maintain their culture and way of life.

The action will also bring much-needed attention to the cumulative environmental impacts of resource development in Treaty 9 and across the Boreal Forest.

“The AFN acknowledges the tremendous work done by the Treaty 9 Nations and their supporters, including Nishnawbe Aski Nation and Mushkegowuk Council, in protecting and asserting First Nation rights, jurisdiction, and sovereignty. We are committed to providing support for the Treaty 9 Nations in their legal action and working to explore other avenues for continued support,” said AFN Regional Chief, Nova Scotia/Newfoundland, Paul Prosper. “We call on the Government of Canada and provincial governments to seek and obtain free, prior and informed consent from First Nations prior to taking measures that may impact our lands and waters. Immediate measures must be taken jointly with First Nations to address cumulative impacts on our Treaty rights and way of life.”

The impacts of resource development must be monitored, assessed, and managed in full partnership with First Nations, as the original stewards of our lands and waters.

The Assembly of First Nations (AFN) is a national advocacy organization that works to advance the collective aspirations of First Nations individuals and communities across Canada on matters of national or international nature and concern. Follow AFN on Twitter @AFN_Updates.

November 18, 2022


Alberta First Nations leaders stand against premier’s sovereignty act

By Bob Weber  The Canadian Press Posted November 18, 2022 8:36 am Updated November 18, 2022 8:54 pmclose

First Peoples Law Report: Danielle Smith has said her first piece of legislation as Alberta’s new premier will be the sovereignty act. But Indigenous leaders from across the province say it’s unconstitutional and unethical, and they want it scrapped. Sarah Ryan reports. 

In what may have been an unprecedented show of unanimity, all of Alberta’s treaty chiefs have spoken out strongly against the provincial government’s proposed sovereignty act.

“It is nothing but a dangerous and damaging plan to undermine democracy and abandon the rule of law,”” said Chief Darcy Dixon of the Bearspaw Nation, one of dozens of chiefs from Treaties 6, 7 and 8 who appeared Friday at a news conference to protest the proposed legislation.

The act is the United Conservative Party government’s signature bills for the upcoming legislative session.

“This is a far cry from sovereignty,” Dixon said.

READ MORE: Premier Danielle Smith asks ministers to take ‘united front’ when dealing with feds

Premier Danielle Smith told the Calgary Chamber of Commerce on Friday that it would be called the Alberta Sovereignty Within a United Canada Act. She has said it would be intended to give the province the power to opt out of federal legislation it deems harmful to its interests.STORY CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

Although the proposal has been widely derided by constitutional scholars, Smith has said the bill won’t break any of its rules.

Yes it will, said the chiefs, who represent 61 First Nations and all of the province’s treaty groups. “We take offence to Danielle Smith’s forthcoming sovereignty act and outright reject it,” said Arthur Noskey, Grand Chief of Treaty 8.Grand Chief of Treaty 8.

.Click to play video: 'Danielle Smith says she’ll move ahead with sovereignty legislation in Alberta'

Danielle Smith says she’ll move ahead with sovereignty legislation in Alberta

The chiefs argue that the treaties are with the Crown, not the provinces. It’s not up to Alberta to recast the terms of the deal. “We entered into treaty with the Imperial Crown,” said Regena Crowchild, an elder and treaty adviser from Treaty 7. “We certainly did not enter into treaty with (Premier Smith).”

Chief Tony Alexis of the Alexis First Nation said the bill is ultimately aimed at easing resource extraction in the province. “This bill sets up the province to allow extraction at any rate, completely unprotected.”

READ MORE: Smith’s sovereignty act to ‘respect Supreme Court decisions’: advisor

Others pointed out that although the bill has been discussed and debated publicly for months, nobody from Smith’s office or cabinet contacted First Nations about it.

“There has been zero consultation,” Alexis said.

“If (Smith) is going to do anything for the people, it can’t be done without the people and that’s what’s happening right now.”

In an emailed response, Smith’s spokeswoman Rebecca Polak said consultations are coming. She said Smith and Indigenous Relations Minister Rick Wilson are to set up meetings with the chiefs.

Click to play video: 'Smith scraps Alberta Health Services board, installs official administrator'

Smith scraps Alberta Health Services board, installs official administrator

“The Government of Alberta acknowledges the concerns of the chiefs from Treaty 6, 7 and 8 regarding the proposed Alberta sovereignty act,” Polak wrote. “We are committed to ensuring the legislation specifically states nothing within the act is to be construed as abrogating or derogating from any existing Aboriginal and treaty rights.”

Richard Feehan, the Opposition NDP’s Indigenous relations critic, said his party has already been talking with the chiefs. “(We) have been hearing their very serious concerns about Danielle Smith’s Sovereignty Act,” he said in a release.

“From the very moment Danielle Smith promised this would be her first piece of legislation, Albertans have been very vocal in their opposition to this damaging bill.”

READ MORE: Alberta chief critical of Premier Danielle Smith’s claim of Indigenous roots

The proposed legislation has been highly controversial since it became the centrepiece of Smith’s campaign for the leadership of her party last spring.

While its proponents call it a warning to Ottawa against interference in Alberta’s resource industry, others have said it would not withstand a constitutional challenge and that it would drive away investment in the province by creating uncertainty.

Alberta chiefs aren’t the first to oppose what they call provincial encroachment on the Crown-Indigenous relationship.

When the Saskatchewan Party of Premier Scott Moe introduced its own similar legislation, the Saskatchewan First Act, the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations said it ignored treaty rights.

“The blatant disrespect that this province continues to display is unbelievable,” wrote Chief Bobby Cameron, who represents 74 First Nations in Saskatchewan.STORY CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

The next session of the Alberta Legislature is to begin Nov. 29.

September 20, 2020

AB, Fed. Govt.

Alberta’s 150th anniversary on entering Confederation

NationTalk – On the day celebrating Alberta’s entry into Confederation 115 years ago, Premier Jason Kenny acknowledged that “Alberta’s history of human habitation dates back more than 10,000 years when the first Indigenous people migrated to Alberta to find a land rich in bounty. Albertans have celebrated years of growth and economic prosperity despite the litany of challenges ranging from the Spanish flu to the Depression to two world wars etc. etc. etc. “Yet, as Albertans have always done – from the protracted fight to wrestle ownership of our own natural resources from the federal government in 1930 to our responsible civic response to slowing the spread of COVID today – we will once again emerge stronger. “This is why I’m proud that our government has officially declared September 1st as Alberta Day to celebrate our great province and all that makes us, as our provincial motto says, strong and free.”

The irony of acknowledging Indigenous “land rich in bounty” with his subsequent statement of “wrestling ownership of our own natural resources” from the federal government” provides a glaring insight into the fundamental – and so far intractable – issue impacting Indigenous relations in Canada: a failure by all levels of government to acknowledge and accept Aboriginal Rights and Title even after the Supreme Court of Canada declared that Aboriginal title exists in law through the Tsilqot’in Nation decision in June 2014 and Delgamuukw in 1997. Jason Kenny basically confirmed with his statement that any Aboriginal claim for an economic benefit from the “land rich in bounty” is irrelevant since the provincial government “owns” the natural resources (Doctrine of Discovery and terra nullius). If the 115 years of growth and economic prosperity fuelled by natural resources were for all Albertans why are Indigenous people who originally “owned” those very same natural resources in the first place, the most impoverished.

August 4, 2022


AMC asks government to honour promises made on 151st anniversary of Treaty 1 and Treaty 2

The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs (AMC) reflects on the 151st anniversary of Treaty 1 and 2.

NationTalk: Treaty One Territory, Manitoba

Manitoba, which translates to the land where the Creator sits in Anishinaabe, is where First Nations and the British Crown signed Treaty 1 and 2 at the Lower Fort Garry on August 3rd and 21st, 1871, respectively. The First Nations signatories of the Treaties understood it as a partnership stemming from our sovereignty and an agreement to share our lands and traditional territories for the mutual benefit of the First Nations and the British Crown.

In exchange for large tracts of land, the Crown made many promises to the First Nations, including the right to education and maintaining hunting, trapping, and fishing rights in our territories as we have since time immemorial. Despite the promises made by the Crown, First Nations were forced to forfeit many rights and freedoms. The freedom to come and go from their communities, practice ceremonies, speak and teach their languages, practice cultural values and events, and the list goes on. The Crown did not translate this expectation adequately to the First Nations people, who signed under the promise and understanding that these lands would be shared, with our spirits intact, and our traditional rights granted by the Creator remaining.

On these anniversaries, we ask that the federal government honour the promises made during the signing of Treaty 1 and 2 ,” said Acting Grand Chief Cornell McLean. “In keeping with their commitment to reconciliation, we expect the federal and provincial governments to increase their engagement and meaningful consultations with the Treaty 1 and 2 First Nations on critical infrastructure projects as outlined in these two Treaties.”

It is well known among Manitoba First Nations that the Chiefs who signed these documents were led to believe false commitments and verbal promises not included in the Treaty texts. These agreements were meant to assist settlers in transitioning successfully onto these lands as neighbours, and they would not have survived without the assistance and resources of First Nations. First Nations were also looking for a way to adapt to a new way of life as drastic changes occurred on their lands and to provide security for future generations. We do not call this a misunderstanding; rather, it was a deliberate act meant to take the land and its resources, displacing First Nations, and forcing them to be under control by the Crown.

Today we remember the promises that were not honoured and the responsibility to uphold the original commitments of the Crown. The spirit of the Treaties envisioned a mutually beneficial relationship between First Nations and settlers, “for as long as the sun shines, the grass grows, and the river flows.” Further, they anticipated prosperity for all to coexist on this land. The AMC continues to advocate for Treaty 1 and 2 rights and calls for our Treaty partners to learn about the significance of these Treaties and the land they inhabit.

“The anniversary of Treaty 1 and 2 remind us that we are all Treaty people,” concludes Acting Grand Chief Cornell McLean.” Even though we haven’t benefited equally from the Treaties, we are committed to working together to strengthen First Nations and will continue to build capacity to grow our economies and business developments within Winnipeg and other urban centres. We encourage our Treaty partners to honour First Nations’ traditional stewardship of the land. As we continue to share our truths and advocate for change, there is hope for a positive Treaty relationship in the coming years.”

For more information, please contact:

Communications Team
Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs

April 27, 2023


Atikameksheng Anishnawbek issues a formal response to Ontario government’s proposed Bill 71, Building More Mines Act

We do not support Bill 71 and call for a complete review of the Ontario Mining Act in collaboration with First Nations in Ontario

NationTalk: – ATIKAMEKSHENG ANISHNAWBEK – After careful review and consideration of the impacts that Ontario’s Bill 71, Building More Mines Act, 2023, will have on the traditional territories of Atikameksheng Anishnawbek, Gimaa Craig Nootchtai and Council wish to issue a formal response to the Government of Ontario.

Atikameksheng Anishnawbek stands in solidarity with other First Nations in Ontario, including the Matawa Chiefs Council, in opposition to Bill 71’s clear disregard for First Nations inherent Treaty rights.

Atikameksheng Anishnawbek does not support Bill 71 as it has not been properly consulted and engaged during the review and amendment process of the Ontario Mining Act.

Atikameksheng Anishnawbek has five (5) mines operating on our asserted reservation lands and four (4) mines operating within our traditional territory. These mines were started without our free, prior, and informed consent, and continue to have a cumulative negative impact on the health and well-being of Atikameksheng Anishnawbek.

Atikameksheng Anishnawbek’s inherent Treaty rights will be adversely impacted by the proposed changes in Bill 71 as it further perpetuates the cycle of resource exploitation in our reservation and traditional lands. Further, Ontario has a legal requirement to consult, engage, and accommodate Atikameksheng Anishnawbek when it chooses to infringe upon our Treaty rights, and has not approached Atikameksheng Anishnawbek to consult with us to discuss our concerns in a meaningful way.

We call on the Government of Ontario to address the following key points regarding Bill 71 and to commit to the development of a consultation framework to review and amend the Ontario Mining Act, in full consultation and engagement with Ontario First Nations:

1. Further Consultation and Engagement with Atikameksheng Anishnawbek and other First Nations is necessary before Bill 71 proceeds to the Third Reading:

  • Atikameksheng Anishnawbek agrees that the discussion of the proposed amendments during the information session was insufficient to fully understand the potential impact of the proposed amendments.
  • We recommend that the Government of Ontario hold proper consultation with Ontario First Nations to review and discuss the current regulatory regime and the proposed amendments prior to proceeding further with the legislative reform process.

2. Atikameksheng Anishnawbek questions the consolidation of decision-making authority by empowering the Minister to act as both Director of Exploration and Director of Mine Rehabilitation

  • Under the current Mining Act, the Minister can appoint one or more individuals as Directors of Exploration. Those appointed have the authority to consider the adequacy and consultation with First Nations, waive standard terms and conditions of an exploration permit, and amend or renew exploration permits.
  • Bill 71 would allow the Minister to exercise any power and perform any duty of a Director of Exploration. This would also eliminate the Director of Mine Rehabilitation position and give the Minister these powers.
  • This consolidation of power will further exasperate the problems surrounding a lack of consultation with First Nations and remove more regulatory oversight.
  • We call upon lawmakers to provide additional support and resources for decision-makers tasked with overseeing the adequacy of consultation with the Anishnawbek.

3. Atikameksheng Anishnawbek is concerned about the proposed amendments regarding “closure plans” including the following:

i. The loosened certification process
ii. Deferring elements
iii. Lowering reporting obligations
iv. Allowing phased financial assurance
v. Changing the definition of “rehabilitate”
• Many of the proposed amendments to Ontario’s Mining Act relate to “closure plans”. This relates to the steps that a proponent will take to restore the region after mining activity is finished. The proposed amendments make it easier for industry to build more mines by relaxing the rules governing how proponents rehabilitate the mining site once they are finished. These amendments could damage our natural resources and environment. This is not acceptable as we are the stewards of these lands.

4. Atikameksheng Anishnawbek is concerned with the lower standard of care required to issue recovery permits.

  • The Mining Act currently possesses a framework where mining proponents require “recovery permits” before they are permitted to recover minerals from mine tailings and other wastes. The current wording states that for a recovery permit to be issued, the land subject to mineral recovery would be improved after the recovery activity.
  • The proposed amendments would replace the word “improved” with “comparable or better than”. This is a lower standard than what currently exists.
  • Atikameksheng Anishnawbek believes that this change will have a negative impact on the environment and on our rights and interests that have been recognized and protected by section 35 of theConstitution Act, 1982.

In summation, Bill 71 will:

  • Encourage more mining developments with less regulation and reduced rehabilitative measures.
  • Sacrifice the environment and the inherent Treaty rights of Atikameksheng Anishnawbek and other First Nations in Ontario to the benefit of industry and investors.
  • Set back working relationships between provincial ministries and Ontario First Nations due to the reduction of key ministry staff and due to the added burden placed onto already strained and underfunded First Nations political and administrative bodies.
  • Further perpetuate the exploitation of resources in First Nation lands through implementation of a colonialist system that excludes First Nations in mining activities in their reservation and traditional lands.
  • Increase the chance of further legal actions from First Nations who are forced to protect their reservation and traditional lands because of cumulative infringements on their inherent Treaty rights.

We call on the Ontario government to commit to the development of a consultation framework to review and amend the Ontario Mining Act, in full consultation and engagement with Ontario First Nations.

March 16, 2021


Batchewana First Nation exercises treaty rights for logging

Sault Online – Open Letter from Batchewana First Nation – outlining numerous grievances with the government of Ontario for their ongoing failure to uphold the “honour of the crown” by continuing intrusions of our inherent sovereignty and unextinguished jurisdictions over the lands in Eastern Lake Superior and the lands in direct proximity.

In direct response Batchewana First Nation declares that: “As of May 1, 2021, BFN Loggers will commence operations in its original territories outlined in our historically founded documentation and accepted by the courts. BFN will be issuing logging permits based on BFN’s inherent law and unextinguished sovereignty. Given the above information, it is our expectation that BFN Loggers will be logging without the fear of prosecution by Ontario. If BFN’s logging operations are met with prosecution, then BFN will take further next-steps as necessary.

BFN has been on the outside of the logging industry looking in, at Ontario’s endorsed loggers, which includes clear-cutting forests for corporate interests. Ontario promotes a flawed, illegal assertion of jurisdiction over logging and the remedy for Ontario is for us to enter into their illegal regime and seek a license from a settler government to manage BFN forests. BFN cannot condone this course of action any longer.
This action follows on a series of ongoing issues such as:


  • Allowing benzene – a recognized carcinogen – to be discharged over their lands next to Algoma Steel for another year
  • Implementing forest management systems that endorse and promote clear cutting and utilizing harmful aerial spraying of glyphosate to the detriment of the flora and fauna, trees, big game population, fish, and many more areas
  • As recent as 1944, Ontario illegally developed and imposed Lake Superior Provincial Park; forcibly removing the Indigenous People of Batchewana. The Court in R v. Dean Sayers and Batchewana First Nation of Ojibways, 2015, OCJ, provided an expectation that Ontario adhere to the “honour of the Crown”. Ontario has not followed up nor shown any initiative in having these legal issues resolved.
  • Ontario has also removed BFN from fulfilling our inherent rights to protect and work with all of the animals that are currently being eradicated under Ontario‘s trapping regulations.

January 14, 2021


Bill 197 (COVID-19 Economic Recovery Act, 2019) violates Treaty Rights

NationTalk – Following the declaration of a second state of emergency on Jan. 12, 2021 due to the COVID-19 crisis, the Matawa Chiefs Council are issuing a public statement that the Matawa Chiefs Council reject the Ontario government-imposed deadline of Thursday January 14, 2021 for comments related to Ontario’s proposed revisions of the Far North Act, 2010 and demand that the Premier of Ontario and the Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry Hon. John Yakabuski halt the inappropriate and continued attempts of the Ontario government to proceed with engagement activities on legislation impacting the Inherent Aboriginal and Treaty Rights of First Nations at this time. The land Ontario refers to as the Far North is predominantly land subject to the James Bay Treaty # 9 (1905-06 and 1929-30).

September 7, 2020


Bill 197 (COVID-19 Economic Recovery Act, 2019) violates Treaty Rights

Law Times – Environmental groups and First Nations are challenging the Ontario Government’s changes to environmental legislation contained in Bill 197 The COVID-19 Economic Recovery Act. The amendments are a violation of s. 35 of the Charter, which recognizes and affirms existing Aboriginal and Treaty rights.

August 28, 2020


Bill 197 (COVID-19 Economic Recovery Act, 2019) violates Treaty Rights

The Matawa Chiefs Council – who represent 9 First Nations, issued this statement today rejecting the Ontario Crown’s tactics to unlawfully access the wealth of the north. The Ontario government has used the cover of COVID-19 to make legislative, regulatory and policy changes that attempt to diminish the obligations of Ontario to honour the constitutionally-protected Inherent Aboriginal and Treaty Rights of First Nations across Ontario.

August 10, 2020


Bill 197 (COVID-19 Economic Recovery Act, 2019) violates Treaty Rights

The Timmins Daily Press – Mushkegowuk Council is calling on the province to honour the treaty it signed 115 years ago. Treaty 9 was signed between First Nations leaders and Canadian political figures to establish guidelines around resources and projects on First Nations land. Grand Chief Jonathan Solomon called Bill 197 a “major step back” that “abolishes many of the environmental assessment rules that have been in place for decades.” Solomon explained that a treaty was signed because it recognized the Mushkegowuk/Ininiwuk peoples as a nation, which had its own governance, laws, language, culture, among others.Mushkegowuk’s grand chief said the agreement signed in 1905 was a “‘nation-to-nation sacred treaty,” noting that Canadian courts have deemed the oral promises made were “as much a part of the binding treaty as the words written on the treaty parchment.”

Solomon added that if the province is interested in receiving consent for resource, forestry, mining and other development projects on Indigenous land, it must be done in consultation with First Nations from the beginning. “You will need to show how these projects respect the integrity of our environment. Further, you will need to demonstrate how these projects will benefit the Omushkego/Ininiwuk. That has not changed, despite Bill 197.”

July 24, 2020


Bill 197 (COVID-19 Economic Recovery Act, 2019) violates Treaty Rights

NationTalk – Bill 197 (COVID-19 Economic Recovery Act, 2019), an omnibus bill introduced on July 8 and passed just 13 days later on July 23 with little legislative debate and no Standing Committee consideration, and without public consultation on the changes to the Environmental Assessment Act (EAA) despite warnings from Ontario’s Auditor General that this violates the Environmental Bill of Rights. The Bill allows for major changes to the EAA while offering few concrete details, leaving important decisions to be implemented through regulations that are not yet known and which will not be subject to legislative approval. Major changes to the Environmental Assessment Act (EAA) could significantly weaken environmental protections and impact Inherent, Aboriginal, and Treaty rights, all under the guise of COVID-19 response.

On the same day that Ontario introduced Bill 197, it gave public notice of just 45 days to review and comment on a package of other proposed changes to the EAA and related regulations relating to mining, hydro transmission, municipal environmental assessments, flood and erosion control, waterpower projects, resource stewardship and facility development, transportation, public works, amendments to environmental assessments, land claim settlements, projects within provincial parks and conservation reserves, and two specific major transportation projects. These changes are part of an ongoing effort by this government to overhaul Ontario’s environmental protection regime, in support of its promise to “cut red tape” in support of economic interests.

As a community with a high poverty rate, Fort Albany understands the need for economic opportunity. However, development must be ecologically responsible and culturally sustainable. At a time when the whole world is facing unprecedented climate change and biodiversity loss, development must be supported with more and better environmental protections, not fewer. Any changes to environmental protections are important for us, because the exercise of our Inherent, Aboriginal, and Treaty rights is inherently connected to the wellbeing of the environment. However, the government is unilaterally introducing major changes with the knowledge that our community is under pressure and constraints due to COVID-19, and that we do not have the resources or capacity to meaningfully engage. This is not honourable, and it disrespects our relationship with our territory and our role as a Treaty No. 9 partner.

We call on the Government of Ontario to repeal Bill 197, and to design a more appropriate process for reform of the EAA in full partnership with Indigenous groups, with the principles of robust environmental protection, public participation, and respect for Indigenous rights at its heart.

March 14, 2023

Fed. Govt., ON

Billions have been made on Robinson Huron Treaty lands. First Nations could finally get a fair share

For 173 years, Canada has failed to truly share profits from nickel, copper, uranium, lumber and fish. Now, courts will weigh in on fair payback for First Nations in northeastern Ontario

Chief Dean Sayers of Batchewana First Nation has been involved in the Robinson Huron Treaty litigation since 2010, when a trust of 21 nations was founded to pursue a fair payout for resources harvested in the area. His ancestor, Chief Nebenaigoching of Batchewana, signed the treaty in 1850 himself. Photo: Jeff Dixon / The Narwhal

The Narwhal: In northeastern Ontario, a treaty dispute over 170 years in the making might finally be coming to a close. A legal trust known as the Robinson Huron Treaty Litigation Fund is seeking unpaid treaty annuities — annual payments to individual members of the 21 First Nations involved — in a case that could set legal precedents across the country by formally recognizing Indigenous interpretations of historic treaties. 

Since the treaty’s signing, the region has produced one of the largest nickel mining operations in the world, alongside historic copper, uranium, lumber and fishing industries. Yet the annuity has remained the same since 1875 — at only four dollars per person — despite a unique clause in the treaty that ties the value of the annuity to the expansion of resource development in the region. 

“We were supposed to have a true sharing relationship over the land that was ingrained right at the onset [of the treaty],” Chief Dean Sayers of Batchewana First Nation, one of the Robinson Huron communities, says. “Of course, it didn’t go that way. But now we’re in a position where we expect to see a true reflection of that original understanding.” 

Hailing from Parry Sound to Sudbury, and North Bay to Sault Ste. Marie along the shores of Lake Huron, the 21 First Nations in the trust are seeking to enforce the terms of their treaty with both the federal and provincial governments. 

Governments neglected the treaty for more than a century. Now, after more than a decade of preparation and litigation, the Robinson Huron communities are on the precipice of realizing the vision of their ancestral leadership to seek reciprocal compensation for resource extraction — and secure their nations’ existence for future generations. 

Chiefs Shingwaukonse, middle, and Nebenaigoching, right, in a photo thought to have been taken at the Robinson Huron Treaty signing in 1850.
Chiefs Shingwaukonse, middle, and Nebenaigoching, right, in a photo thought to have been taken at the Robinson Huron Treaty signing in 1850. Photo: Shingwauk Residential Schools Centre / Algoma University
The history of the Robinson Huron Treaty of 1850

By the 1840s, Canada, then a British colony, was granting mining patents in the area of Sault Ste. Marie in northern Ontario. But the land was not yet the government’s to grant. The Crown had never made any treaty with the local Anishinabek to obtain any rights to their land. Chiefs Shingwaukonse, Nebenaigoching and other Indigenous leaders met with then-governor general Lord Elgin in 1849 in Montreal demanding a treaty and reminding the Crown of their past alliance in the War of 1812. 

But miners continued to flood the region, leading to further conflict that would escalate in November 1849, when Indigenous leaders evicted a mine camp at Mica Bay. Their demands were finally heard, though not before Shingwaukonse and others were arrested. The charges were eventually dropped and the treaty was signed a year later alongside the Robinson Superior Treaty — each treaty is named for the Great Lake region which it encompasses — with Crown negotiator William Robinson in September of 1850.

The Robinson Huron Treaty area stretches from Parry Sound to Sudbury, and North Bay to Sault Ste Marie along the shores of Lake Huron. First Nations signatories are asking courts to make the provincial and federal government honour a unique note in the treaty that said annual payments would increase alongside resource extraction revenues.
The Robinson Huron Treaty area stretches from Parry Sound to Sudbury, and North Bay to Sault Ste. Marie along the shores of Lake Huron. First Nations signatories are asking courts to make the provincial and federal government honour a unique note in the treaty that said annual payments would increase alongside resource extraction revenues. Map: Shawn Parkinson / The Narwhal

Essential to both treaties was the inclusion of an augmentation clause — a unique note in both treaties that said annual payments would increase if resource extraction revenues grew. The Robinson Huron Treaty says the Crown promises if “the territory … shall at any future period produce an amount which will enable the government of this province, without incurring loss, to increase the annuity hereby secured to them … shall be augmented from time to time.”

In plain language, according to Sayers, his people said “We’re going to share with you that copper, we’re going to share with you that gold, that silver, those minerals,” provided the Crown shares back. “It is a sharing relationship of our inheritance. And we expect that to be honoured as part of the promises that were made that treaty time.”

In court, Ontario has maintained the costs of infrastructure in the Robinson Huron Treaty area — including for "colonization roads and railways, which of course the harvested resources could not be moved to market without" — outgrew any revenues from resource extraction.
Since the Robinson Huron Treaty’s signing, the region has witnessed well over a century of resource extraction: nickel in Sudbury, copper in Bruce Mines, commercial fishing on Manitoulin Island, uranium in Elliot Lake and more. Photo: Jason Woodhead / Flickr

Since the treaty’s signing, the region has witnessed well over a century of commercial resource extraction: nickel in Sudbury, copper in Bruce Mines, fishing on Manitoulin Island, uranium in Elliot Lake and more. Since operations began in Sudbury, its more than 77 mines generated $330 billion in revenue, based on contemporary mineral prices. But the annuity was only raised once, in 1875, from $1.70 to four dollars per person, which members can still receive each year. In 2020, then-chief Duke Peltier of Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory told TVO: “As hard as it can be to line up for that four-dollar payment on an annual basis, it’s a grim reminder to the Crown that the terms are not honourable.” Now, his nation and the other signatories could possibly receive billions in back-owed payments. 

The passing of the Indian Act of 1876 took precedence over treaty arrangements, giving huge control over Indigenous communities to the federal government and its Indian agents across the country. In the century-plus since, Robinson-Huron chiefs made numerous attempts to address the matter with both Canada and Ontario, since provinces handle resource extraction. The recognition of Treaty Rights weren’t formally codified until First Nations fought for their inclusion in the Constitution Act of 1982, and it would take decades of court decisions to put the Robinson-Huron communities on a solid legal footing to press forward with their case. 

Garden River First Nation is part of a legal trust known as the First Nations of the Robinson Huron Treaty of 1850 is seeking billions in unpaid treaty annuities — annual payments to individual members of the 21 First Nations involved — in a case that could set legal precedents across the country by formally recognizing Indigenous interpretations of historic treaties.
Ontario Superior Court Justice Patricia Hennessy dedicated over 3,000 words to outlining the local Anishinabek worldview: their spiritual beliefs, political and legal structures, using the expert testimony of local Indigenous historians and Elders to understand the intent of those who signed the treaty. Photo: Jeff Dixon / The Narwhal

In 2010, the Robinson Huron Litigation Trust was created, representing 21 First Nations that are treaty beneficiaries. The case saw its first day in court in September 2017, after all parties submitted over 30,000 pages of evidence, which “may well be the most comprehensive collection of historic and cultural material ever amassed on the making of the Robinson Treaties and the life and history of the Anishinaabe,” Ontario Superior Court Justice Patricia Hennessy wrote at the time.

For Sayers, the process has been a long time coming. “The evolution of different governments, society, legal decisions on the Canadian side, the evolution of Indigenous Rights being more recognized in the last 20 to 30 years — it’s all coming to a climax right now,” Sayers says. “It’s an incredible feeling to be a part of this and to continue with the implementation of the original spirit and intent of our relationship.” 

First Nations calculate compound interest while Ontario wants to subtract the cost of colonization

The case, Restoule v. Canada, is named for trust chair and plaintiff Mike Restoule. The trial was split into three stages: first to interpret the meaning of the augmentation clause, second to determine whether the treaty is subject to the statute of limitations and last to determine the compensation owed to the Robinson Huron Anishinabek. 

In 2018, the Ontario Superior Court upheld the Anishinaabe interpretation of the treaty — that its intent was to share the land and Crown revenues from it in a mutually beneficial manner and that the mechanism to share that wealth was the annuity, which was supposed to increase with growing resource development. “The best possible interpretation of the parties’ common intention … is that the Crown promised to increase the collective annuities, without limit,” Justice Hennessy wrote.

In the second phase, which wrapped up in 2020, the Ontario government argued pursuing the back-owed annuity was subject to a statute of limitations and that payment was the responsibility of the federal government. Hennessy disagreed: “Treaties are part of the constitutional fabric of this country. Simple contracts they are not.” Ontario appealed stages one and two and, after the Ontario Court of Appeals largely upheld Hennessy’s decisions, filed an appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada in 2022, which is set to be heard this fall. 

Despite the pending Supreme Court hearing, the third stage concerning compensation was set to begin in January of 2023. It has since been paused for ongoing out-of-court negotiations. 

A legal trust known as the First Nations of the Robinson Huron Treaty of 1850 is seeking billions in unpaid treaty annuities — annual payments to individual members of the 21 First Nations involved — in a case that could set legal precedents across the country by formally recognizing Indigenous interpretations of historic treaties.
Echo River is on the vast area of northeastern Ontario covered by the Robinson Huron Treaty. There are 21 First Nations in the trust pursuing fair compensation for resources harvested in the nearly two centuries since it was signed. Photo: Jeff Dixon / The Narwhal

While the Robinson Huron negotiations aren’t public, a parallel case is being brought to court by members of the Robinson Superior Treaty, which contains the same augmentation clause. In that case, according to the National Post, the province cites a report commissioned by the Crown to estimate the value of lost annuities, arguing that Robinson Huron signatories are owed $2.7 billion, while Robinson Superior signatories are owed $35 million. The province maintains the costs of infrastructure — for things like mining research, forest management and “colonization roads and railways, which of course the harvested resources could not be moved to market without,” as the Crown  argued in court — outgrew any revenues.

The First Nations in that case called an expert witness, Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz, to assess the financial losses incurred by their communities. In early February, Stiglitz expressed skepticism at the Crown’s argument, saying if money was an issue, another solution was obvious. “Seeing all the losses, what would a reasonable actor do? Rather than having these lawsuits, [they would say]: ‘take the land back. We’ll save ourselves a lot of money by paying you to take the land,’ ” he says. “That doesn’t comport.” 

Since mining began in Sudbury, the industry has generated $330 billion in revenue based on contemporary mineral prices. But the annuity paid to First Nations signatories of the Robinson Huron Treaty in that time was only raised once, in 1875, from $1.70 to four dollars per person, which members can still receive each year. Photo: Jeff Dixon / The Narwhal
Since mining began in Sudbury, the industry has generated $330 billion in revenue based on contemporary mineral prices. 

Factoring in compound interest that would have been earned had Indigenous recipients been able to invest their collective annuities, Stiglitz pegged resource extraction revenues in the region at $126 billion, of which the First Nations are owed 84 per cent — or over $100 billion. He acknowledged the “sticker shock” of such a figure, but said “compounding the significant deficiencies over 170 years is going to inevitably wind up with big numbers.” 

Since the Robinson Huron negotiations are private, Sayers could not speak to the specific terms of the settlement process. However, he says negotiations have continued even after the mediator, former senator Murray Sinclair, stepped away for health reasons. “We’re in a good place with the discussions. We’ve had ceremony and from our ancestral perspective, we are at the right place. We do have to work through issues with representatives of Canada and Ontario, and we are doing that.”

The Robinson Treaties could set a legal precedent for honouring Indigenous worldviews

While the augmentation clause is unique to the Robinson Treaties, legal experts say the case has wide-ranging implications for how courts could handle future treaty disputes across Canada. Hennessy’s stage-one decision dedicated over 3,000 words to outlining the local Anishinabek worldview: their spiritual beliefs, political and legal structures, using the expert testimony of local Indigenous historians and Elders to understand the intent of Shingwaukonse and others who signed the treaty. 

“We have not just some words from the court about listening to the Indigenous perspective on the dispute,” Michael Coyle, a law professor at Western University in London, Ont., says. “We have, enshrined in the court’s ruling, an equal recognition of the Indigenous perspective on what the treaty was intended to achieve.” 

Anishinabek fishing in the St. Mary's River around 1885.
Anishinabek fishing in the St. Mary’s River around 1885. Photo: Shingwauk Residential Schools Centre / Algoma University
Chief Dean Sayers of Batchewana First Nation has been involved in the Robinson Huron Treaty litigation since the trust of 21 nations was founded in 2010. The historical and spiritual significance of restoring the treaty relationship is not lost on him. His ancestor, Chief Nebenaigoching of Batchewana, signed the treaty himself. Photo: Jeff Dixon / The Narwhal
Two of the 21 First Nations in the trust are Batchewana and Garden River. Photo: Jeff Dixon / The Narwhal

Kate Gunn, a partner at First Peoples’ Law, a law firm dedicated to the rights of Indigenous Peoples, notes that Hennessy’s recognition of the treaty’s underlying intent “does open the door for other groups to be on a stronger footing,” when asserting their own historic treaty interpretations. Discrepancies between the text of a treaty and the Indigenous understanding of the treaty aren’t uncommon. 

“For so many Indigenous parties, regardless of what the written [treaty] text says, their position has always been that they didn’t give up all the rights to their lands and resources. Seeing how that’s addressed as part of this has been really significant for us.”

Both Coyle and Gunn say the real precedential impacts will come at the Supreme Court level. “Rulings in Restoule may well set an example for the amount of respect and attention that should be given to Indigenous understandings of what was at stake and what was agreed in historic treaty negotiations,” Coyle says. Even if they settle before the Supreme Court hearing, “it would still be a significant precedent, being a decision from an influential and respected court of appeal in this country,” Coyle says. 

Chief Dean Sayers of Batchewana First Nation has been involved in the Robinson Huron Treaty litigation since the trust of 21 nations was founded in 2010. The historical and spiritual significance of restoring the treaty relationship is not lost on him. His ancestor, Chief Nebenaigoching of Batchewana, signed the treaty himself. Photo: Jeff Dixon / The Narwhal
“It’s so much bigger than the monetary component,” Batchewana Chief Sayers says. A fair settlement would allow local Ojibwe, Potawatomi and Odawa nations to preserve and revitalize their languages and cultures, as well as provide economic opportunities, infrastructure and services. Photo: Jeff Dixon / The Narwhal
Batchewana First Nation Chief Dean Sayers wants to renew Robinson Huron Treaty relationship

Sayers has been involved in the litigation since the trust was founded in 2010. The historical and spiritual significance of restoring the treaty relationship is not lost on him. One of his ancestors, Chief Nebenaigoching of Batchewana, signed the treaty himself. “Everything is aligning,” Sayers says. “The essence, the medicine of that [negotiation] table is incredible. Everybody sitting there, I believe, has an understanding that we are at a really incredible time in history right now.” 

The settlement will create economic opportunities and help improve community infrastructure and services, but “it’s so much bigger than the monetary component,” Sayers says. It’s about survival. “We know that we’re going to still have Ojibwe, Potawatomi, Odawa nations continue to flourish with language, culture into the future. We have an incredible tool with the implementation of this treaty so that we can see this unique worldview continue,” he says. 

“It is part of the secret to looking after North America: our water systems, our forest systems, our land systems,” he adds. “I do see the sun rising, and I can see a beautiful day coming for everybody on our lands here in Canada.”


Nick Dunne is a freelance journalist who writes about culture and current affairs in northern Ontario. He has written for the Glob…

January 23, 2023


British Columbia First Nations Strike Landmark Deals Governing Development on Their Ancestral Lands – Yale E360

Peace River Valley, the ancestral lands of the Blueberry River First Nations.JEFFREY WYNNE VIA WIKIPEDIA

NationTalk: YaleEnvironment360

Two First Nations in Canada have forged historic agreements governing industrial development on their ancestral lands.

The Yaq̓it ʔa·knuqⱡi ‘it, also known as the Tobacco Plains Indian Band, have signed an agreement with NWP Coal Canada giving the First Nation veto power over a proposed mining project on their ancestral lands near Sparwood, British Columbia. Indigenous leaders will consider the full environmental impact of the project before granting their consent.

“For too long, Indigenous Nations have not been brought to the table in decision making directly affecting our rights and interests,” Yaq̓it ʔa·knuqⱡi ‘it Chief Heidi Gravelle said in a statement. “We look forward to working with NWP and the regulators as we exercise our full seat at the table as a decision maker in our own territories.”

Separately, the Blueberry River First Nations, also of British Columbia, have struck a deal with the provincial government that will limit logging and oil and gas drilling on their ancestral lands. As part of the agreement, British Columbia will create a $200 million fund to restore land disturbed by decades of industrial development. The Blueberry River First Nations will also receive $87.5 million in oil and gas revenue sharing over the next three years.

The deal follows a 2021 ruling by the Supreme Court of British Columbia, which found that damage from industrial development had violated Indigenous treaty rights. The court called for a new, collaborative agreement governing development in the region.

“This agreement provides a clear pathway to get the hard work started on healing and restoring the land,” Blueberry River First Nations Chief Judy Desjarlais said in a statement. “With the knowledge and guidance of our Elders, this new agreement will ensure there will be healthy land and resources for current and future generations to carry on our people’s way of life.”

April 26, 2023

Fed. Govt., ON

Can the Crown make land decisions without First Nations consent? Treaty 9 lawsuit argues no

Lawyer calls lawsuit ‘frontal attack’ on colonial idea governments have ‘supreme right to rule’

Three men are in a canoe as they head out on a fishing trip.
On a foggy morning in August, community members from Neskantaga First Nation go out on the water to fish for sturgeon. (Logan Turner/CBC)

CBC News: Several First Nations have announced their intention to take the Ontario and Canadian governments to court, in a lawsuit their lead lawyer says could fundamentally change the way resource and land management decisions are made in the Treaty 9 area.

Leaders from 10 First Nations are at Queen’s Park in Toronto on Wednesday morning to speak at a news conference. They’re filing their notice of action for the lawsuit to Ontario’s Superior Court of Justice. “I think this is going to be the most historic case that has ever been launched in regard to Crown and First Nation relations in this country, and I hope it sets off a chain reaction across the entire land mass,” said lawyer Kate Kempton, head representative for the claimants, in an interview with CBC News. 

“This is a frontal attack, a direct head-on attack against the worst aspect of colonialism, which is subjugation — the idea that one government can just walk in and take over the government [and] the people who were here.” The plaintiffs claim they never agreed to cede, release, surrender or yield up their jurisdiction to govern and care for the lands, as it says in the written treaty, which was first entered into in 1905.

The First Nations also did not agree the Crown could “take up” lands in Treaty 9 territory without their consent, Kempton said. “The harm of colonialism lies not so much that other people came and settled, or that the other people took some land and resources, but that they purported to take over, to bestow upon themselves some supreme right to rule it all,” says the draft statement of claim.

A woman smiles looking at the camera.
Kate Kempton is the lead lawyer for 10 First Nations in Treaty 9 territory that are challenging the Ontario and Canadian governments’ longstanding assertion they have sole jurisdiction to govern in the treaty lands.(

“The plaintiffs have never consented to the Crown taking exclusive jurisdiction over the land. The Crown’s taking and forced imposition of exclusive jurisdiction disabled any ability of the plaintiffs to give or withhold free, prior and informed consent,” it adds.

In a news release, Chief June Black of Apitipi Anicinapek Nation said: “We are peoples and nations. We have our laws. We have our lands. We allowed entry onto our lands and use of our lands. But only on the basis that the lands themselves and authority to manage how they are used was to be shared.” 

Ontario’s Indigenous Affairs Minister Greg Rickford could not immediately be reached for comment. A spokesperson for Canada’s minister of Crown-Indigenous relations, Marc Miller, said they could not provide an interview to CBC News at this time.

Indigenous people ‘robbed of dignity,’ chief says

The treaty should have resulted in a co-management regime where resource and land-use decisions are jointly made by First Nations and Canadian governments on an equal footing, Kempton said.

But that’s not what happened.

“Our people agreed to work together, to share in peace and friendship … but were robbed of dignity, livelihoods, our sense of self and ultimately over 100 years of subjugation. We have been attacked culturally and spiritually in attempts to erase our identity through an imposed foreign system and laws designed to remove us from the land,” said Eabametoong Chief Solomon Atlookan in a news release.

The implications of the lawsuit are massive, Kempton said, including that possibly every action the Ontario and federal governments took since the early 1900s breached the conditions of the treaty because those actions were done unilaterally without the consent of the First Nations governments.

It could mean some 12 provincial and federal laws — including acts covering mining, fish and wildlife conservation, public lands and fisheries — would be unconstitutional or not applicable in Treaty 9 territory because they were passed solely by Canadian governments, and not in concert with First Nations governments as the treaty requires, according to a draft copy of the statement of claim that was shared with CBC News. “By extending various legislative schemes to Treaty 9 territory, Canada and Ontario have given themselves the ultimate sole authority to grant and restrict ownership, sale of, use of, access to, exploitation of, development on and harm to the land,” it says.

Lawyer says First Nations never OK’d written text of treaty

Treaty 9 was first entered into between 1905-1906, when treaty commissioners representing the Dominion of Canada and the province travelled to Cree and Ojibway communities in northern Ontario.  The treaty territory expanded from 1929 to 1930 when two treaty commissioners travelled further into the region and completed signing ceremonies with additional communities.

Kempton said there is ample oral and archival evidence that First Nations were never presented the written terms of the treaty — which were negotiated exclusively between the Ontario and federal governments years earlier — and the oral agreements made between treaty commissioners and the First Nations were not in fact what ended up being written in the treaty.

As a result, the draft statement of claim says, certain clauses in the written treaty text were never agreed to and have no legal basis. “Treaty 9 is specifically not an agreement that the Crown can take sole jurisdiction … because First Nations never did and never would have agreed to that,” said Kempton. “The evidence is abundantly clear that they agreed the Crown could govern their own people on the use of the land that comprises Treaty 9, but that First Nations would retain their rights and ability to govern as well,” the lawyer added.

What lawsuit plaintiffs are seeking 

The lawsuit is seeking $95 billion in damages for Treaty 9 First Nations, as well as injunctions to prevent the provincial and federal governments from regulating or enforcing regulations in the treaty lands without the consent of the plaintiffs.

In practice, Kempton said for example, the injunctions would mean that projects related to the Ring of Fire, a mineral-rich area in Treaty 9 territory that has seen significant proposed mining and infrastructure projects, would not be able to proceed without the consent of affected First Nations. “The First Nations that are plaintiffs in this case, their intention is to not allow anymore unilateral Crown decision making,” Kempton said.

The draft statement of claim has already been shared with representatives for both the Ontario and Canada governments, Kempton said. The plaintiffs will have another 30 days to file their final statement of claim, before the governments will have to respond.


Logan Turner, Journalist

Logan Turner has been working as a journalist for CBC News, based in Thunder Bay, since graduating from journalism school at UBC in 2020. Born and raised along the north shore of Lake Superior in Robinson-Superior Treaty Territory, Logan covers a range of stories focused on health, justice, Indigenous communities, racism and the environment. You can reach him at

April 8, 2023

AB, BC, Fed. Govt., MB, NB, NL, NS, NT, NU, ON, PE, QC, SK, YT

Canada is sitting on a critical minerals motherlode. But is it ready for the new gold rush?

Proponents say Canada must do more to turn aspiration into action

Someone holds a rock containing graphite ore.
Graphite, used in products like electric vehicle batteries, is one of the critical minerals needed for a low-carbon economy. (Jennifer Chevalier/CBC)

CBC News: Drive two hours north of Ottawa, put on a hard hat and bright orange vest, descend into a pit — and you find yourself on the frontline in the fight to be part of the new, green economy. A mining project might not be what comes to mind when you think of the transition to a lower emissions economy. But embedded in electric vehicles, solar panels and hydrogen fuel storage are metals and minerals that come from mines like the one in Lac-des-Îles, Que.

The graphite mine, owned by the company Northern Graphite, is just one of many projects aimed at extracting what are now officially dubbed “critical minerals” — substances of significant strategic and economic importance to the future of national economies. Lac-des-Îles is the only significant graphite mining project in North America, accounting for Canada’s contribution to an industry dominated by China.

An inside look at a critical minerals mine — and Canada’s push to win the new gold rushHugues Jacquemin and Kirsty Liddicoat of Northern Graphite take The House on a tour of their mine in Quebec, and talk about what Canada needs to do to lead the way on critical minerals development.

Click on the following link to access the article:

Experts and industry proponents say Canada has the potential to be a major player in critical minerals — but it needs to change the scope and scale of investment and regulation in order to get there.

For Northern Graphite, in the short-term, that means money. Hugues Jacquemin, Northern Graphite’s CEO, told CBC’s The House during a tour of the Quebec facility that the company is trying to open a mine in Bissett Creek, Ont., to produce graphite that could go into EV batteries. But they need to raise $150 million to kick-start production.

A man wearing a hardhat and orange jacket poses in front of a rock face.
Hugues Jacquemin, CEO of Northern Graphite, stands in a pit mine nearing the end of its commercial life in Lac-des-Îles, Que. (Jennifer Chevalier/CBC)

“No investor is willing to take 100 per cent of the risk. We need someone to step in alongside the investor and support part of the risk because today there is no demand for battery materials in Canada or in the U.S. at the moment,” Jacquemin said. “So we need something to help us jump-start the whole supply chain so that we can be there three or four years from now, when the market is buying materials.”

The company says it expects to seek significant financial support from the federal government, but nothing has been confirmed so far. For its part, the federal government says it’s committed to helping build a critical minerals industry in Canada and recently released its official strategy to do so.

“We need to ensure that we have access to these critical minerals to be able to successfully go through the energy transition and fight climate change,” Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson said in an interview with The House.

Wilkinson told host Catherine Cullen that while the government is willing to work with companies, it can’t be the only source of funding. “The source of all capital doesn’t come from the government. Government can actually do things to help kick-start those [projects]. But obviously companies need to be able to [raise] private capital,” he said. Wilkinson pointed to a number of measures the government has in place to help Canadian companies develop critical minerals projects, including the Canada Growth Fundnew tax creditsfor green investments and government funding for infrastructure to help facilitate projects.

Project timelines a concern

The Canadian government is far from the only one interested in critical minerals mining in this country. The U.S. Department of Defence has expressed interest in projects here — and a willingness to invest. Jacquemin said Northern Graphite plans to apply for American investment as well.

Critics — including Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre — have said it simply takes too long to develop a mining project in Canada. Northern Graphite, for example, has owned Bissett Creek since 2012, and the mine is not yet operational. Wilkinson said the average mining project typically takes around 12 to 15 years but “that’s still too long.” He said the government is aiming for something more like five or six years.

Mission critical: Is Canada lagging behind in the critical minerals race?
The House takes an in-depth look at Canada’s efforts to become a leader in the development of critical minerals. Hugues Jacquemin and Kirsty Liddicoat, executives of Northern Graphite, explain their efforts to expand. Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson explains how the government is responding. Mark Podlasly talks about his efforts to help First Nations secure their interests, and experts Nate Wallace, Alisha Hiyate and Ian London weigh in on what Canada should be doing to respond to what some are calling the new gold rush.

Click on the following link to access the article:

Ian London, executive director of the Canadian Critical Minerals and Materials Alliance, told Cullen that Canada has the “pieces of the puzzle” to unlock Canada’s critical mineral potential, but more needs to be done. “Prospective customers … want operating facilities, not aspirations,” he said.

Environmental impact, Indigenous participation

Perhaps the most significant challenges to the mining industry come from concerns about environmental impacts and the role of Indigenous communities.

On the environmental front, advocacy groups like Environmental Defence worry that mining projects carry with them dangers of waste and environmental damage. “We need to recognize that more mining likely needs to happen, but it needs to be governed responsibly, and we can’t use the rush to extract more minerals for the transition to be an excuse for watering down environmental standards,” said Nate Wallace, a program manager with the group.

Three men wearing suits stand up and show a draft agreement in front of them.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford shows a draft agreement with Chief Cornelius Wabasse of Webequie First Nation, left, and Marten Falls Chief Bruce Achneepineskum, centre, in March 2020 after signing an agreement to move forward on building the Northern Road Link in the Ring of Fire area. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press )

Wallace noted that with some projects, there’s a risk that the benefit of unlocking reduced emissions from innovations like electric vehicles would not be worth the cost of the project’s greenhouse gas output. He cited the controversial Ring of Fire proposals in Ontario as one example. “There’s also significant environmental concerns about that project because it’s covered by peatlands, and that’s basically equivalent to Canada’s Amazon rainforest, in terms of being a massive carbon sink,” he said.

London said he agrees that a balance needs to be struck between environmental impacts and developing projects. He said that dialogue should continue on controversial projects, but Canada’s focus should be more immediate.

“Our priority should be set on projects which are closer to — not shovel ready — but actually going into production,” he said.

Wilkinson said the government is “very focused” on making sure the environmental cost of mining is minimized. “There is no such thing as a mining project that has zero impact,” he said. “But there certainly are projects that can be done in a way where the impacts are modest and that there is a plan for how you remediate in the aftermath of the mine.”

The Ring of Fire proposals are also a key test of how governments and companies interact with Indigenous communities. The Neskantaga First Nation has said it was not meaningfully consulted on the proposals and has protested them.

WATCH | Neskantaga First Nation leaders voice opposition to mining development:

First Nations take their message directly to Ontario government — no resource extraction without consent
Watch this uncut exchange as leaders from five First Nations in northwestern Ontario and NDP MPP Sol Mamakwa speak to reporters after demonstrating their continued opposition to mining in the Ring of Fire without their prior consent at Question Period.

Click on the following link to access the article:

Mark Podlasly, an executive with the First Nations Major Projects Coalition, acknowledged that Indigenous people have been wronged in the past when it comes to development. “Many First Nations are concerned that this new rush for critical minerals, towards the net zero transition, is going to be a repeat of what’s happened in the past,” he told Cullen.

“How it should work is Indigenous people have to be included in the environmental and economic decisions of the projects from the start.”

Mining faces a reputational challenge

Kirsty Liddicoat, Northern Graphite’s COO, said the mining industry also faces challenges when it comes to building up its own reputation and workforce. Along with domestic concerns, Canadian companies are frequently criticized for their actions overseas. “I think mining as an industry is poorly understood and it doesn’t necessarily have the best reputation. So that’s leading us to a number of challenges with social acceptability and talent,” she said. “We need to be attracting the smartest people to the biggest problems that we have as a world, to help us make this shift.”

A woman wearing a hardhat and vest holds a rock.
Kirsty Liddicoat, chief operating officer of Northern Graphite, holds a rock with graphite ore at the company’s Lac-des-Îles mine. (Jennifer Chevalier/CBC)

London said the mining industry has taken steps to build in more corporate responsibility but there will always be a tradeoff in an extractive industry. “A colleague of mine said when it comes to green technologies, amongst all that green, there’s always going to be a little black,” he said. “It is an extractive industry, there will be some negative impact. But overall, it’s tremendously positive.”


Christian Paas-Lang, Journalist

Christian Paas-Lang covers federal politics for CBC News in Ottawa as an associate producer with The House and a digital writer with CBC Politics. You can reach him at

November 23, 2022


Chiefs of Ontario and First Nations Oppose Bill 23: More Homes Built Faster Act

NationTalk: The Chiefs of Ontario express their full support for First Nations Leadership in their opposition to Bill 23: More Homes Built Faster Act due to its clear violation of First Nations constitutionally protected, inherent and Treaty rights and its inevitable adverse environmental impacts on First Nations ancestral and traditional territories.

“The Government of Ontario’s tabling of Bill 23 is a blatant violation of First Nations’ inherent, domestic, and international rights over their ancestral and traditional territories,” said Ontario Regional Chief Glen Hare. “Bill 23 will inevitably harm Ontario’s environmental heritage and weaken land and water environmental protection.”

Tabled on October 24, 2022, Bill 23: More Homes Built Faster Act is the Government of Ontario’s latest omnibus bill that, if passed, will have detrimental impacts on nine different development and environment-related acts under the guise of addressing Ontario’s housing crisis.

“First Nations have been given no opportunity, nor the adequate capacity to be consulted regarding the tabling of Bill 23 and its significant changes to Ontario’s legislative and policy landscapes. It is deeply concerning to the Chiefs of Ontario that the mandate of the Indigenous Affairs Ontario (IAO) office, which is to ensure collaboration amongst ministries engaging and consulting with First Nations on policy and legislative changes, continues to be unfulfilled.

Unilateral legislative and administrative changes within Bill 23 without consultation or engagement with First Nations are unacceptable and an abuse of power. The unprecedented steps taken by the Government of Ontario violate existing Treaties, and their will to systemically sell off resources will have dire consequences for First Nations and future generations.

First Nations are not stakeholders; we are sovereign Nations and are entitled to proper consultation based on the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) and mutual respect.

The Government of Ontario can no longer avoid its duty to consult with First Nations by delegating responsibilities and obligations to municipalities, developers, and project proponents. The government’s requests for after-the-fact commentary from First Nations regarding the conception of Bill 23 do not discharge the Crown’s duty to consult. To move forward, First Nations require a clear commitment from the Government of Ontario to honour its duty to consult and to honour, respect, and uphold First Nations’ inherent rights and jurisdiction.

The Chiefs of Ontario support First Nations Leadership and echo their opposition to Bill 23. I look forward to meeting with Premier Doug Ford, Greg Rickford, Minister of Indigenous Affairs, and other relevant ministers to discuss the impacts of Bill 23 and the value of protecting Ontario’s natural ecosystems, lands, and waters from irreversible losses and damage for our future generations.”

Ontario Regional Chief Glen Hare

– 30 –

The Chiefs of Ontario support all First Nations in Ontario as they assert their sovereignty, jurisdiction and their chosen expression of nationhood. Follow Chiefs of Ontario on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram @ChiefsOfOntario.

Media inquiries, please contact:

Genna Benson
Communications and Public Affairs Manager
Policy and Communications Sector
Chiefs of Ontario
Telephone: 416-523-4020

November 24, 2021

AB, BC, Fed. Govt.

Coastal First Nations vs Government of Alberta and 2 Métis organizations

Coastal First Nations – In the wake of the news that two Métis groups received funding from the Alberta Government to legally challenge the Oil Tanker Moratorium Act, Coastal First Nations (CFN) will continue to fight to protect our waters, lands and resources from potential oil spills.

“We will do whatever it takes to protect our Territories,” said CFN executive director Christine Smith-Martin, adding that the decision to fund two groups, who claim to represent the Métis people, to challenge the Oil Tanker Moratorium Act has nothing to do with reconciliation. “It shows how desperate the Alberta government is to challenge the Act that they would attempt to create division between First Nations and Métis groups.”
In a statement on November 15, Métis Nation of Alberta president Audrey Poitras called the Fort McKay and Willow Lake groups “unaccountable, undemocratic and illegitimate organizations.”
President Poitras further stated: “These organizations are not elected or accountable to anyone and are made up of non-Métis individuals. These organizations do not speak for the Métis Nation, the Métis people or Métis communities in Alberta.”

The Fort McKay group was recognized by the Alberta government as an autonomous Indigenous community in 2020. “If this group, which has been around for two short years thinks our communities will stand idly by, they are mistaken,” says Smith-Martin. “We fought too long to get the Oil Tanker Moratorium Act in place.”
CFN communities have protected our Territories for at least 14,000 years, Smith-Martin said. “We know first-hand what an oil spill will do to our waters. The Heiltsuk Nation is still feeling the impacts of the Nathan E. Stewart spill.” “We take very seriously any threat or political maneuvering to challenge the Oil Tanker Moratorium Act by organizations that are not the title holders of the coastal communities in which these tankers would have traveled,” she adds.

The Act protects our lands and waters for future generations. “Pipelines and oil tankers will exacerbate climate change and move us away from creating a sustainable economy. We respect the rights of legitimate groups to their economic aspirations but not at our expense. These two groups do not hold any rights in the Great Bear Rainforest and certainly have no say in what happens in our coastal Territories.”

See also Treaties and Land Claims post from Feb. 13, 2020 on Métis Nation of Alberta opposition to two Métis organizations designated by government of Alberta

April 21, 2023

BC, Fed. Govt.

Coastal GasLink faces new fines for filing ‘false and misleading’ information

When B.C.’s Environmental Assessment Office reviewed reports filed by the pipeline it found discrepancies; now it says the company should pay up for misleading the government

B.C.’s Environmental Assessment Office is fining Coastal GasLink for misleading the government after finding reporting discrepancies. Photo: Amber Bracken / The Narwhal

The Narwhal: Coastal GasLink is facing a new fine for allegedly misleading enforcement officers and sending them false information about the company’s efforts to protect an area around the Anzac River during construction northeast of Prince George, B.C., according to a provincial inspection report.

On April 19, B.C.’s Environmental Assessment Office told decision-makers it recommends slapping the gas pipeline project with a new administrative penalty, after reviewing contradictory reports filed by the company. The documents were part of regular reporting required under the terms of a compliance agreement signed in July 2022, after the company was repeatedly found to be committing environmental infractions. 

Last October, the pipeline company submitted records that said it needed to make repairs in an active work area, mostly related to erosion and sediment control, a problem that has plagued the project since construction began in 2019. B.C. compliance and enforcement officers looked through the documents and found “multiple incidents where maintenance inspections were not completed as required in an area of construction that fell under the compliance agreement.” When the provincial officers sent their observations back to Coastal GasLink (CGL) in December for review, the company changed its story and submitted a new set of records.

On Jan.13, 2023, Coastal GasLink told the province the original field notes “were not being properly recorded in a standardized format and then maintained in an easily accessible digital format” and attached new documents. According to the provincial inspection report, the revised records claimed that all structures and mitigation measures in the work area during the time period in question “were in good working condition and that no corrective actions were required.” 

But B.C. inspectors weren’t buying it. They had firsthand evidence the original reports were accurate, after inspecting the sites themselves.

“It appears that the inspection records provided by CGL … are false and misleading,” the provincial report noted. 

The company later conceded that its reports “include contradictory statements” and attributed responsibility to its contractor, alleging workers “retroactively compiled their records using a combination of emails, field notes and timesheets,” which were not reviewed before being sent to the B.C. government. The contractor, SA Energy Group, a subsidiary of Aecon Construction, did not respond to The Narwhal’s requests prior to publication. 

A misty river near Unist'ot'en camp in Wet'suwet'en territory
The B.C. Energy Regulator also recently began investigating after Coastal GasLink reported two spills of clay lubricant from under the Wedzin Kwa (Morice River). To get its pipeline across the river, the company is boring down into the earth and drilling a tunnel that will span more than 800 metres. Photo: Amber Bracken / The Narwhal

TC Energy, the Calgary-based energy giant building the pipeline, did not answer The Narwhal’s questions, referring instead to a statement published on its website. “We made an error in the process of submitting a response to the [Environmental Assessment Office], where conflicting reports were provided,” the statement said. “While the correct information was already publicly available through past … inspection records, we regret this error. This has been clarified with the [Environmental Assessment Office] and we will continue to work with our prime contractor to do better.”

George Heyman, minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy, said he supports the recommendation of issuing a financial penalty. “This non-compliance is unacceptable, and I will be asking the [Environmental Assessment Office] about additional enforcement actions,” he told The Narwhal in a statement. “This enforcement action demonstrates the ongoing work and focus of the [Environmental Assessment Office] in overseeing the project.”  

‘Cost of doing business’

This isn’t the first time TC Energy has been in trouble with the province over its pipeline project. The company has been fined more than $450,000 for environmental infractions to date.

To Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chief Na’moks, that’s not enough. “They get a fine which is basically couch change,” he told The Narwhal in an interview. “The fines will be so minuscule, they will make absolutely no difference in the way they operate.”

In February, TC Energy announced Coastal GasLink costs had gone up again, to an estimated $14.5 billion. That’s more than double the original estimate and $3.3 billion over its 2022 projections. Costs could keep climbing. According to the company’s last quarterly report, if the project isn’t completed before the end of the year, its shareholders can expect to see an additional $1.2 billion tacked on to the final price tag. 

Meanwhile, B.C. continues to ease the project’s financial burdens. As The Narwhal recently reported, the province’s energy regulator reduced its levies from $2,650 per kilometre to $1,700 per kilometre, saving the company $16 million. That’s on top of a suite of subsidies and incentives the government already promised. To ensure the pipeline project and its coastal counterpart, LNG Canada, are completed, B.C. doled out more than $6 billion in tax reprieves, tax exemptions, reduced electricity rates and financial commitments to secure support from First Nations communities.  

On Wet’suwet’en territory, that support came in the form of agreements with five of six elected band councils but without the free, prior and informed consent of the Hereditary Chiefs, whose jurisdiction over the 22,000 square kilometre territory was affirmed in a landmark court case known as Delgamuukw-Gisday’wa.

Wet'suwet'en Hereditary Chief Na'moks talks to Coastal GasLink security
Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chief Na’moks is among those who oppose the Coastal GasLink pipeline. He fears the pipeline project is being used to set a precedent for future resource development. Photo: Matt Simmons / The Narwhal

Chief Na’moks has been on the front lines of opposition to the project for years. He said unless the province increases penalties substantially, environmental damage will continue.   “Government is caving in. They have the spine of a jellyfish and they’re not standing up for the people who actually voted them in. They’ve got to increase those fines to make it major; otherwise, it’s just the cost of doing business.”

Recently, Coastal GasLink reported two spills of clay lubricant from under the Wedzin Kwa (Morice River) on Wet’suwet’en territory. To get its pipeline across the river, the company is boring down into the earth and drilling a tunnel that will span more than 800 metres. The material leaked out from the tunnel during a process known as a frac-out, where the pressure from drilling causes stress fractures in the surrounding bedrock, releasing the muddy liquid up to the surface.

“One of the two clay deposits was identified in a small tributary on the west side of the Morice River,” a TC Energy statement said, noting the material is non-toxic. 

The Narwhal asked the company about the possibility of a frac-out in November 2022. TC Energy did not directly answer. “We take protecting watercourses very seriously, both because of their intrinsic environmental value and also because they support the diverse communities Coastal GasLink passes through,” a spokesperson wrote in an emailed statement. “We selected micro-tunneling as the safest and most effective crossing method with the input of subject matter experts, Indigenous communities and extensive environment and technical assessments.” 

Na’moks cautioned every environmental infraction sets a precedent for projects waiting in the wings, like a pair of Enbridge pipelines — Pacific Trails and Westcoast Connector — and another owned by TC Energy, all of which have been approved by the B.C. government. “The project in our territory is used as a template,” he said. “They’re pushing as hard as they can to see how little they can do in cost and in protection. And once the template is there, then it becomes normal, the standard, right? Well, it shouldn’t be normal, it shouldn’t be a standard.”

“People need to be aware, this is just the shot across the bow. It is going to get much, much worse.”


Matt Simmons is a writer and editor based in Smithers, B.C., unceded Gidimt’en Clan territory, home of the Wet’suwet’en/Witsuwit’e…

December 9, 2022

BC, Fed. Govt.

Coastal GasLink protesters sentenced after pleading guilty to criminal contempt

3 protesters receive $500 fines; 25 hours of community service for 2 others

Layla Staats, right, and Skyler Williams were convicted of criminal contempt in relation to a violation of an injunction protecting access to the construction of Coastal GasLink’s natural gas pipeline. (Courtesy of Layla Staats)

CBC News:

A B.C. Supreme Court judge sentenced five protesters Monday who pleaded guilty to criminal contempt of court for ignoring a court order forbidding them from blocking access to a controversial northern B.C. pipeline.

Justice Michael Tammen accepted a joint submission from the Crown and the lawyer for all five Coastal GasLink opponents, which resulted in a $500 fine for three of the accused and 25 hours of community service for two others.

After laying out the individual details of each of her clients’ lives, defence lawyer Frances Mahon told the judge he should consider the circumstances that drew them to a blockade of the natural gas pipeline in the first place.

A portion of the project is being built across territory to which Mahon said Canada’s top court has acknowledged the Wet’suwet’en have “unextinguished aboriginal rights” — leading their allies to call themselves “land defenders.”

“We are dealing with a unique situation involving people who have had unextinguished title over their land since time immemorial. It is largely that issue that motivated the five individuals before you today,” she said

“This is not to approve what has been done — but to answer the question of why.”

Public defiance of a court’s order

Tammen delivered his verdict Monday afternoon in a courtroom in Smithers, which is 65 kilometres north of the section of forestry road where RCMP arrested the five accused in November 2021.

According to an agreed statement of facts, Amanda Wong, Joshua Goskey, Nina Sylvestor, Layla Staats and Skyler Williams were part of a larger group of protesters who blocked access to the camp where Coastal GasLink employees were building the 670-kilometre-long pipeline.

Coastal GasLink has said that more than 500 pipeline workers were stranded behind the blockades as their food, water, and medical supplies ran low, and construction was halted.

The Coastal GasLink pipeline is being constructed along a 670-kilometre stretch from the Dawson Creek, B.C. area to Kitimat. A portion of the line is being built through Wet’suwet’en traditional territory. (CBC)

If completed, the pipeline will stretch from near Dawson Creek in the east to Kitimat on the Pacific Ocean. It’s currently more than 75 per cent complete and scheduled to be finished by late 2024, according to Coastal GasLink. 

The company has signed benefit agreements with 20 band councils along the project’s route. But Wet’suwet’en hereditary leadership says band councils do not have authority over land beyond reserve boundaries.

The cause has garnered international attention and drawn protesters from across Canada — resulting in the injunction that the five defendants were accused of violating.

Two Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs — Woos (Frank Alec) and Namoks (John Risdale) — were in the small Smithers courtroom Monday to watch the proceeding. It was the first time anyone has been convicted of criminal contempt in relation to the protests.

Previous arrests have resulted in citations for civil contempt, but it wasn’t until last spring that the Crown decided to move ahead with criminal proceedings — which arises from public defiance of a court’s order.

As he outlined an agreed statement of facts, Crown prosecutor Tyler Bauman said the protests were accompanied by widely shared social media posts indicating that Coastal GasLink had been “evicted” from the area.

Bauman said the five accused “knowingly breached the injunction … in a public way” by refusing to move after an RCMP officer read them a short script detailing the terms of the court’s order.

An ‘enormously principled person’

The joint submission recommended that Tammen allow each of the defendants to either opt for a fine or community service. Williams, Staats and Sylvestor all chose to pay the fine, while Goskey and Wong opted for service.

Goskey, Wong and Sylvestor were all in the courtroom.

Graffiti spray-painted on an electrical box near Prince George city hall in support of Wet’suwet’en opponents of the Coastal GasLink pipeline. (CBC/Betsy Trumpener)

Williams and Staats — who are a couple — appeared through video links from Ontario, where Mahon said Staats is  expecting their first child “any minute now — hopefully not during these court proceedings but very, very soon.”

Only Williams had a previous criminal record — in part for non-violent charges over land conflicts involving the people of his Haudenosaunee community of Six Nations, where he is a leader of the 1492 Land Back movement.

Williams and Staats are both Indigenous; Mahon said Staats is a filmmaker whose work includes a reckoning with the impacts of being an intergenerational survivor of residential schools.

Mahon described Sylvestor as an “enormously principled person” who has dedicated herself to both environmental and Indigenous causes — currently working as a supervisor for a group monitoring invasive plant species in the Kootenays.

The defence lawyer said Wong is from Ontario and is not working at the moment. She said Goskey has held a variety of jobs in recent years, one of which was a stint with Disney on Ice.

She said a close relative believed Goskey “made a poor decision … and was feeling overwhelmed in their life at that time.”

Tammen noted the time all of the defendants spent in custody immediately after their arrests — pointing out that judges often give people a day in jail for criminal contempt, so they experience the “short, sharp shock” that comes with the loss of liberty.

Sylvestor spent four days in jail, in circumstances Mahon described as “very challenging.”

Another 13 protesters are also facing criminal contempt proceedings in relation to the arrests. At previous hearings, Mahon has indicated that they plan to contest the charges on grounds related to alleged breaches of Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

December 11, 2022

Fed. Govt.

Delgamuukw 25 years on: How Canada has undermined the landmark decision on Indigenous land rights

The Conversation: Shiri Pasternak, Assistant Professor of Criminology, Toronto Metropolitan University

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Supreme Court of Canada’s Delgamuukw case on Aboriginal title. In 1997, the Wet’suwet’en and Gitxsan Nations brought the watershed case before the Supreme Court, yet a countrywide battle remains over implementation of the Delgamuukw decision involving all First nations.

The Nations sought a declaration of ownership and jurisdiction over their lands. The Supreme Court agreed that Indigenous Peoples held a unique property right to their land that was held as a collective interest by a nation.

The court’s ruling addressed a number of issues including the extinguishment of Aboriginal title and the use of oral history in establishing land rights.  The case presented First Nations with new possibilities to seek legal action against the government for control over Indigenous territories.

Aboriginal title and the Crown

First Nation leaders aimed to reform the comprehensive land claims policy. The policy provides the only negotiating framework for Indigenous Peoples to resolve their outstanding territorial land claims with the Crown.

As a result of the Delgamuukw decision, Indigenous leaders argued the policy no longer aligned with Canadian law because it required Indigenous people to cede their title to the Crown.  If Delgamuukw recognized the unique proprietary rights of Indigenous Peoples to their land, why should they be forced to surrender those rights through a federal policy?

A man wearing tinted glasses speaking to reporters.
Herb George, who has served as Speaker for both the Gitxsan and the Wet’suwet’en Nations, was a key figure and strategist in the Delgamuukw case. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Tom Hanson

Before Delgamuukw, the concept of Aboriginal title as a property right was subject to a kind of plausible deniability.

The 1973 Supreme Court of Canada decision in Calder v. British Columbia was the first to wobble that deniability. The court found that the creation of British Columbia did not automatically extinguish “Indian title.” The decision led then-prime minister, Pierre Trudeau to reportedly observe: “Maybe you have more rights than we thought you did.”

The case led to the creation of the comprehensive claims policy. What soon became clear, though, was that the new claims policy rested on the old colonial model of sovereignty established by the British: it required Indigenous Peoples to surrender and release their title rights to the Crown. It was, in essence, a policy that extinguished Indigenous land rights. 

While some nations optimistically entered negotiations, others turned to the courts, especially after the patriation of Aboriginal rights into the constitution in 1982.

Government indifference

By the time Delgamuukw reached the courts, the struggle was long underway to reform the comprehensive claims policy. When the Liberals came to power under Jean Chrétien in 1993, the party’s Red Book committed to an independent claims commission to address the government’s conflict of interest in the resolution of claims. 

A man siting in front of a Canadian flag hold up a red book.
Jean Chrétien holds a copy of the Liberal Red Book during the 1993 election campaign. CP PICTURE ARCHIVE/Tom Hanson

But in 1996, Assembly of First Nations (AFN) national chief, Ovide Mercredi, publicly burned the Red Book outside a Liberal convention, disgusted with the government’s failure to fulfil its promises.

Government indifference persisted. But Delgamuukw increased pressure across the country.

One AFN resolution in 1998, for example, found in archived records created by policy researcher Peter Di Gangi, called for the “complete rejection of the concept of extinguishment, and any equivalent concept, such as ‘surrender and grant back’ as the premise for settling new treaties.”

In 1998, Canada set up discussions with the AFN to undertake a Delgamuukw national review process. 

But within a couple of years, documents I received as part of a Freedom of Information request from B.C.’s Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation show that some First Nations viewed the process as a “smokescreen for the continued refusal to recognize Aboriginal title.”

The AFN created the Delgamuukw Implementation Strategic Committee (DISC) in 1998 to prepare legal briefs and recommendations for the Department of Indian Affairs to establish new mandates to review and revise the land claims policy in light of the legal decision.

The DISC made several key recommendations to Ottawa in May 2000. They included establishing a panel of experts to compare the comprehensive land claims policy to the principles contained in Delgamuukw.  However, Canadian officials instead said that “there was no Cabinet mandate to consider changes to the policy.” Others were informed that treaty negotiations are not “rights” based.

Land claims to #LandBack

The struggle over the land claims policy following Delgamuukw is a crucial chapter in the #LandBack movement. And it forecast the possibilities for land reclamation and decolonization moving forward. 

Grassroots movements brought the issue back to national attention as part of the Idle No More movement. In its wake, two senior oversight committees (SOC) were established in 2013 with First Nation representation. One on treaties and one on comprehensive claims.

People wearing winter clothing carry signs that read: Idle No More
An ‘Idle No More’ gathering on Parliament Hill in January 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Sidelining these efforts, the then-Harper government commissioned a special report in 2015 to independently review the land claims policy. The report led to a new “results-based” approach to negotiations. But that approach maintained the same frameworks that extinguished Aboriginal title.

While First Nation leaders were pushing for fundamental reform, the government instead created off-ramps into sectoral, incremental and revenue-sharing agreements. The new generation of policies over land and resources, such as forestry and fishing specific tables, would avoid discussion of title altogether. 

The Trudeau government would continue this tradition. In 2018, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised to develop a Recognition and Implementation of Indigenous Rights Framework. The new framework promised to “replace policies like the Comprehensive Land Claims Policy and the Inherent Right to Self-Government Policy.” Trudeau promised, instead, a co-development approach to negotiations and mandates.

But the proposed framework was never tabled. Instead, the federal government focused its energy on establishing Recognition of Indigenous Rights and Self-Determination discussion tables.

The mandates of these over 70 tables have never been made public. Whether and how Aboriginal title is recognized remains a mystery.

While extinguishment clauses no longer appear in the comprehensive land claim policy’s wording, it still requires the exchange of title lands for private property. The new policy off-ramps set aside any acknowledgment of title as the basis for negotiations.

Indigenous groups have made the best out of an impossible situation. But the #LandBack movement has shown both the possibilities and the dangers of working outside federal land claims frameworks.

Many nations have asserted Indigenous law on the ground by issuing declarations and exercising their jurisdiction to govern their territories and resources. They put the onus of “land claims” back on Canada to prove.

But this strategy for title recognition has also proved dangerous. For the Wet’suwet’en hereditary leadership, who brought the Delgamuukw case to court, asserting their rights in a coveted energy corridor has provoked one of the most violent colonial conflicts in Canadian history.

That violence reflects many things, but foremost among them: Canada’s refusal to align land claims policies with its own law.

December 11, 2021

BC, Fed. Govt.

Delgamuukw-Gisday’wa decision,

Union of BC Indian Chiefs – UBCIC marks the 24th anniversary of the Supreme Court of Canada’s ground-breaking Delgamuukw-Gisday’wa decision, which confirmed the continuing existence of the Wet’suwet’en and Gitxsan Title and Rights, contrary to provincial claims that their Title, if it had existed, had been extinguished. On December 11, 1997 the six members of the Court taking part in the judgment were unanimous in their conclusions that the Gitxsan and Wet’suwet’en Title and Rights were never extinguished by Crown occupation, and recognized Gitxsan and Wet’suwet’en Title as inalienable, collective rights, based on their continuing use and occupation of their territories.

Since 2019 the RCMP have used force, aggression, and intimidatory tactics against Wet’suwet’en Nation members and allies, and UBCIC notes that while the CGL pipeline has been approved by both provincial and federal governments, it has come under criticism from Amnesty International, B.C.’s Human Rights Commission and the UN Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, who say all First Nations affected by the pipeline should give free, prior and informed consent before it can proceed.

The governments of Canada and British Columbia continue to openly ignore the Supreme Court of Canada’s precedent-setting Delgamuukw decision, greenlighting the RCMP to engage in whatever violent tactics it deems appropriate to remove peaceful land defenders from their territories. UBCIC also notes that in 2020 the governments of Canada and B.C. signed an MOU with the Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs which included:

  • Canada and B.C. recognize that Wet’suwet’en rights and title are held by Wet’suwet’en houses under their system of governance.
  • Canada and B.C. recognize Wet’suwet’en Aboriginal rights and title throughout the Yintah.
  • Legal recognition that the Wet’suwet’en Houses are the Indigenous governing body holding the Wet’suwet’en Aboriginal rights and title in accordance with [their] lnuk Nuatden.
  • Legal recognition of Wet’suwet’en title as a legal interest in land by Canada and B.C.

The UBCIC calls on Canada and BC to uphold the landmark Delagamuukw-Gisday’wa decision and federal and provincial legislation to implement the UN Declaration, and stop any violent or discriminatory practices against Wet’suwet’en land defenders defending their unceded territories.

January 31, 2023

Dollar value of resources to be debated as final stage of treaty annuities trial begins

One group of plaintiffs in confidential settlement talks while other continues with litigation

The Robinson-Superior and Robinson-Huron Treaties were negotiated between the First Nations people living around Lake Superior and Lake Huron and the Crown in 1850. (Library and Archives Canada)

CBC News: The final stage of a complex trial over the payment of treaty annuities in northern Ontario kicked off Monday with one group of plaintiffs pursuing negotiations and the other in court panning the provincial government.

The case concerns a clause in the 1850 Robinson Huron and Robinson Superior treaties between the Anishinaabe of the upper Great Lakes and the Crown, which promises to increase the annual payment, or annuity, as the territory produces more wealth.

The annuity hasn’t increased since 1874, when it was capped at $4 per person. In the previous stages of the trial, the Anishinaabe successfully argued this breaks the treaty, a ruling the Ontario government appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada.

While that’s scheduled for the fall, the trial continues in Ontario’s Superior Court of Justice in Sudbury.

Harley Schachter, lawyer for the Robinson Superior treaty signatories, argued in court Monday that Ontario’s experts have dreamed up a “counterfactual world that doesn’t exist” by suggesting the modern-day value of the resources taken from the land is negative $11 billion.

This would mean the Anishinaabe are owed nothing in compensation for resources taken from their territory for 173 years. “Ontario’s vision remains an impoverished vision of the ongoing future treaty relationship, and that does not bode well,” he said. “There can be no assurance that any healing is on the horizon.”

Alternative accounting models go as high as $193 billion, Schachter said, and the plaintiffs plan to call Nobel prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz to calculate the value of the resources taken from the territory.

The court split the case into three stages due to its complexity, with stage one concerning whether the Crown is duty-bound to increase the annuity. Stage two concerned whether defendants Canada and Ontario could claim Crown immunity.

The plaintiffs have won so far, but the future of the case is far from certain. Stage three concerns liability: who should pay and how much.

Schacter filed a claim in 1999 on behalf of Red Rock Indian Band and Whitesand First Nation. Twenty-one other Anishinaabe First Nations formed the Robinson Huron Treaty Litigation Fund and filed their own case in 2012. While separate, the two groups participated in the same trial.

The Robinson Huron group however is now in settlement talks mediated by retired senator and former Truth and Reconciliation Commission chair Murray Sinclair.

Sinclair stepped down recently for health reasons, but the group said in a Monday statement they “will continue to work together at the negotiation table to try to reach a negotiated outcome outside of the courts.”

Meanwhile, inside the court, Schachter urged Justice Patricia Hennessy to view the Crown’s purported newfound embrace of its treaty duties with scepticism. “The past 173 years provide no comfort that any negotiations with the Crown would result in a fair result for the Anishinaabe,” he said, arguing that trusting Crown governments to uphold the treaties now would be like trusting a fox to keep guarding the chicken coop.

“After 173 years of government neglect and inattention, it is only fair and just for the chickens to come home to roost.”

Ontario and Canada are scheduled to respond with their opening statements Tuesday.


Brett Forester


Brett Forester is a reporter with CBC Indigenous in Ottawa. He is a member of the Chippewas of Kettle and Stony Point First Nation in southern Ontario who previously worked as a journalist with the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network.

March 2, 2023


Doug Ford government wants to speed up mining permits in Ontario

Changes to Mining Act aim to boost production of critical minerals, essential for EV batteries

Premier Doug Ford’s government will on Thursday table changes to Ontario’s Mining Act that officials say will speed up approvals for new mines, CBC News has learned. (Logan Turner/CBC)

CBC News: Premier Doug Ford’s government will propose on Thursday changes to the laws governing approval of mining projects to boost Ontario’s production of minerals essential to electric vehicle batteries and other technologies, CBC News has learned. 

The changes would speed up permits for new mines to begin operations and make it easier for companies to get a permit to recover minerals from mine tailings and waste, according to background documents that government officials provided to CBC News.        

Minister of Mines George Pirie plans to introduce the amendments to the Mining Act in the legislature on Thursday afternoon.  “This is all about securing the supply chain for critical minerals,” Pirie said in an interview. “If it’s going to take 15 years to permit a mine, we can’t secure that supply chain.” 

“Critical minerals” is the biggest buzz-phrase right now in Ontario’s $11-billion-a-year mining industry. The term covers such minerals as cobalt, lithium, nickel and platinum, each critical to high-tech products and all in high demand. Much of global supply is found in such countries as China and Congo. 

The provincial and federal governments are aiming to leverage Ontario’s supply of critical minerals to attract investment in electric vehicle production. 

George Pirie became the MPP for Timmins after winning the seat for the Progressive Conservatives in the June 2022 election and was sworn in as Ontario’s minister of mines just a few weeks later. (Erik White/CBC)

“We’ve got a generational opportunity here because we’ve got the critical minerals in northern Ontario to match with the manufacturing might in southern Ontario,” said Pirie. “We just want to be able to create the conditions to build these mines quicker.” 

The Ford government released its strategy for critical minerals in March of 2022, and the Trudeau government followed suit last December. The federal government’s strategy called for speeding up regulatory decisions on mining projects.   

The proposed amendments to the Mining Act “would increase certainty for business planning and generate investment in northern Ontario,” says a government news release to be issued later Thursday. 

One way the changes would speed up permits for new mines is by simplifying the approval of mine closure plans. Mining companies must submit a closure plan as part of their application to open a mine. The proposed changes would allow companies to start construction on the basis of a conditional closure plan.

This map shows the locations of early exploration projects underway in Ontario for critical minerals. It appears in the provincial government’s new strategy document for the sector. (Government of Ontario)

“There will be no change to the stringent environmental process that we have,” said Pirie. “The duty to consult [with Indigenous communities] will not be changed. None of that’s being affected.”  The proposed changes will be posted on Ontario’s environmental registry for public feedback until mid-April.   

The amendments to Ontario’s Mining Act are being introduced just days ahead of one of the industry’s biggest global gatherings, the annual Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada (PDAC) convention in Toronto. 

The Ford government’s auto sector strategy envisions auto makers in southern Ontario building 400,000 electric and hybrid vehicles annually by 2030, powered by batteries made in the province, using minerals extracted and processed in northern Ontario. 


Mike Crawley, Senior reporter. Mike Crawley covers provincial affairs in Ontario for CBC News. He began his career as a newspaper reporter in B.C., filed stories from 19 countries in Africa as a freelance journalist, then joined the CBC in 2005. Mike was born and raised in Saint John, N.B.

March 9, 2023


First Nations Affirm Treaty Rights Trump Provincial Firearms Laws

NationTalk: Treaty 6 Territory, Saskatoon SK – The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN), under the direction of the Chiefs, is opposing the provincial government’s Bill 177, The Saskatchewan Firearms Act. The proposed legislation was introduced without consultation and does not include provisions or exemptions for First Nations Treaty rights and sustenance gathering.

“We know our inherent Treaties trump provincial laws. The introduction of Bill 117, The Saskatchewan Firearms Act, does not include exemptions for First Nations’ inherent and Treaty right to hunt, fish, trap and gather. This right is fundamental to the assurances that were made to First Nations under Treaty and we will protect our Treaties to the fullest extent. When our Treaty people are on the land gathering sustenance, provincial and federal gun legislation or any other regulations do not apply,” said FSIN Chief Bobby Cameron.

Bill 177, The Saskatchewan Firearms Act was introduced December 1, 2022 and has gone through its first reading in the legislature. The act was formed after the federal government proposed amendments to Bill C-2 in an attempt to ban semi-automatic weapons including some guns commonly used for hunting. The province says the Saskatchewan Firearms Act was introduced to protect the rights of lawful firearms owners, however, First Nations chiefs say it overlooks the need for provisions to protect the inherent Treaty rights enshrined with the Crown to First Nations over a century ago.

“We call on the provincial and federal government to engage in meaningful discussion with First Nations instead of creating more laws to harass and criminalize First Nations while they hunt, fish, trap and gather. We stand behind First Nations who have been unlawfully removed from the land or had their guns and equipment confiscated and we will continue to do so until our rights are recognized,” said Chief Cameron.

FSIN Executive says one of the most intrusive laws impacting Treaty sustenance hunting and gathering is the requirement of a Possession and Acquisition License (PAL). FSIN is aware of many First Nations that have been brought before the courts for their lack of paperwork even though Treaty rights were established long before PAL.

“When guns are confiscated from our Treaty sustenance hunters, it takes away our Nations’ ability to pass down valuable knowledge to our younger generations and impacts our ability to feed our less fortunate, such as our elders and single mothers. Our Nations’ citizens will be unjustly targeted with any new legislation because of systemic racism. The province must recognize that any new legislation related to firearms has the potential to do real harm to our Nations, and so we strongly urge the government to ensure that robust engagement and consultation when it comes to legislation on firearms,” said FSIN Vice Chief Heather Bear. “Our children are taught from an early age that a gun is a tool. Elders, family and community members teach gun safety, conservation and respect for wildlife.”

About FSIN

The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations represents 73 First Nations in Saskatchewan. The Federation is committed to honouring the spirit and intent of the Treaties, as well as the promotion, protection and implementation of the Treaty promises that were made more than a century ago.


Lisa Risom

Director of Communications

Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations

10 – 134 Kahkewistahaw Crescent Treaty
Six Territory, Saskatoon, SK S7R 0M9

Cell: 306-987-0505 | FSIN Office: 306-665-1215

December 8, 2022

AB, Fed. Govt., SK

First Nations demand withdrawal of proposed Alberta Sovereignty, Saskatchewan First acts

Assembly of First Nations National Chief RoseAnne Archibald says she supports treaty chiefs who are opposing the proposed Alberta Sovereignty Within a United Canada Act and the Saskatchewan First Act. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

CBC News: Standing at a podium in Ottawa with several treaty chiefs behind her, the national chief of the Assembly of First Nations called for the proposed Alberta Sovereignty Act and the Saskatchewan First Act to be withdrawn.

Chiefs connected with the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations, Treaty 6 and Treaty 7 say the acts infringe on treaty rights and that making amendments to them wouldn’t be enough. “We will not stand idly by. We will not allow it to happen,” Assembly of First Nations National Chief RoseAnne Archibald said Wednesday in Ottawa, where delegates have gathered for the AFN’s assembly.

The Saskatchewan First Act, which recently passed its second reading at the legislature, aims to confirm the province’s autonomy and jurisdiction over its natural resources and ward off federal policies such as climate change rules.

Meanwhile, Premier Danielle Smith’s proposed Alberta Sovereignty Within a United Canada Act has faced widespread condemnation for language that would grant her and her cabinet sweeping authority to redress any federal policy, law or program it deems harmful to Alberta.

The Alberta government recently said it’s amending its act to take away cabinet’s unilateral powers to change legislation, as proposed in the original version of the bill. “My caucus identified some issues that they wanted to address,” Smith told the Alberta legislature earlier this week.

“They wanted to seek some clarity, and that’s the kind of leader I am. I want to make sure that we get this bill right, and I’m grateful that my caucus is going to propose amendments to do that.”

Chief Tony Alexis of the Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation, northwest of Edmonton, said that after speaking with lawyers and policy experts, he has many concerns about Alberta’s proposed legislation, including concerns the province is trying to extend its jurisdiction.

“The Alberta Sovereignty Within a United Canada Act is harmful to Albertans, Canadians and treaty people,” he said.

Alexis said an emergency resolution was put forward at the Assembly of First Nations to garner support from chiefs across the country.

Lack of consultation 

Chiefs have said that the Saskatchewan and Alberta governments didn’t consult with First Nations.

“There’s all this talk about reconciliation, but there’s no real implementation of that,” said Vice-Chief Aly Bear of the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations, which represents 74 First Nations in Saskatchewan.

“We’re asking the government to actually sit down with us [and] have conversations. Let’s talk about moving forward together.”

FSIN Vice-Chief Aly Bear hopes governments can start from scratch with meaningful collaboration. (Aly Bear)

There is a concern that Alberta and Saskatchewan’s proposed pieces of legislation could have a domino effect across Canada, chiefs say.

“What would keep other provinces from following suit? And ultimately, what will that mean for treaty rights across Canada?” Alexis said.

Last week, Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe insisted his government’s act is inclusive.

“It doesn’t change the intentions the government has to include all Saskatchewan people, Indigenous or otherwise, in the economy. What the act is focused on is to make sure we have the focus on Saskatchewan so we can collectively benefit,” Moe said.

A statement from Premier Smith’s office said “it’s clear in the Sovereignty Act that we will respect Indigenous rights and respect treaty rights.”

The government has reached out to arrange meetings with treaty chiefs since they expressed concerns, according to the statement.

“The approach this government is taking is to ensure we have strong and meaningful reconciliation with our First Nations partners,” the statement said. 

Treaty rights enshrined: Sask. justice minister

Saskatchewan Minister of Justice and Attorney General Bronwyn Eyre says the Saskatchewan First Act will not threaten treaty rights.

Section 35 of the Constitution guarantees treaty rights,” she said on Wednesday. “It guarantees duty to consult. Nothing in this act takes away from that in any way.”

The new act is about protecting the economy for everyone in the province, said Eyre.

The Saskatchewan government did not consult with Indigenous groups about the act, said Eyre, adding that the Constitution supports the province’s jurisdiction over natural resources.

“We didn’t consult with them merely because it was an assertion of what was already under [Section] 92A in the Constitution,” she said.

That section states provincial legislatures “may exclusively make laws” related to exploration, development, conservation and management of non-renewable resources and forestry, as well as development, conservation and management of sites in the province for generation and production of electrical energy.

“We didn’t consult with the First Nations when we undertook the carbon tax case, which was based on provincial jurisdictional constitutional arguments,” said Eyre.

“There was nothing new that was really being undertaken here in terms of First Nations rights.”

Saskatchewan NDP Leader Carla Beck said the lack of consultation with Indigenous groups is concerning.

The Opposition leader said it is not surprising that First Nations and Métis leaders are speaking out about their worries.

Last month, six NDP MLAs — Doyle Vermette, Vicki Mowat, Trent Wotherspoon, Matt Love, Meara Conway and Jennifer Bowes — joined 37 Saskatchewan Party MLAs in support of the second reading of the bill.

November 2, 2022


First Nations leaders push back against ‘Saskatchewan First Act’ tabled by government

First Nations leaders unhappy with Legislation and lack of consultation.

First Peoples Law Report: APTN news – The Saskatchewan government has tabled its controversial Saskatchewan First Act, in spite of push-back from the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations, the Saskatchewan Treaty Commissioner and the opposition NDP.

The government had unveiled the policy in October which is aimed at “confirming Saskatchewan’s autonomy and exclusive jurisdiction over its natural resources”, which appears to be at odds with First Nations rights laid out in the treaties.

“First Nations are not surprised with the province’s lack of consultation and accommodation when it comes to the development of laws, regulations, and policies imposed upon us, especially when it impacts our inherent, treaty and constitutional rights,” said FSIN Chief Bobby Cameron in a statement released Wednesday.

“Our people have always maintained that the lands and waters were never relinquished under Treaty. First Nations continue to be excluded from discussions related to the natural resources, just as we were in 1930 when they imposed the Natural Resources Transfer Agreement.”

The original treaties stated the land was to be shared to the depth of a plow.

A statement posted on the Office of the Treaty Commissioner of Saskatchewan’s website, reads that: Economic reconciliation requires an ethical process that respects Constitutionally protected rights, Treaty rights and United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).

Métis and Indigenous Rights Critic for the NDP, Betty Nippi-Albright, is promising to re-introduce a bill that would force the government to engage in “meaningful duty-to-consult”. She says it’s needed because the province and industry have not engaged in a meaningful way when First Nations are going to be impacted.

The premier has defended the legislation.  In an Oct. 13 statement emailed to APTN News, Scott Moe said the government’s goal was to unlock Saskatchewan’s economic potential for the benefit of everyone in the province, including First Nations.

“Our government’s actions to protect and defend our exclusive constitutional jurisdiction over natural resources does not in any way diminish or detract from First Nations treaty rights, as they are enshrined in the Constitution,” Moe said.

The province’s Attorney General Bronwyn Eyre, called the legislation historic.

“It is time to draw the line and assert our constitutional rights,” Eyre stated, echoing the premier’s comments when the plan was first outlined at a Battlefords business meeting October 11.

The Act amends the Constitution of Saskatchewan and asserts what the government sees as the province’s exclusive legislative jurisdiction under the Constitution of Canada.

That includes jurisdiction over exploration for non-renewable natural resources, the development, conservation and management of non-renewable natural and forestry resources, and the operation of sites and facilities for the generation and production of electrical energy.

The Moe government claims the federal government’s environmental polices would cost the province $111-billion over 12 years.

The FSIN hinted last month it may pursue legal recourse. It said when the province ignores its constitutional obligations to consult on important policies, First Nations have no choice but to consider their legal options.

December 8, 2022

Fed. Govt.

First Nations leaders reject Trudeau’s proposed gun law, citing risk to treaty rights

Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief, RoseAnne Archibald, speaks during the AFN Special Chiefs Assembly (SCA) in Ottawa, on Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2022. Chiefs at the Assembly of First Nations are set to vote on whether to publicly oppose Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s proposed gun-control legislation. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Spencer Colby

AFN chiefs reject Liberal gun-control bill

The Canadian Press: OTTAWA – Chiefs at the Assembly of First Nationsvoted Thursdayto publicly oppose the Liberal government’s proposed gun-control legislationand stand against sovereignty bills in Alberta and Saskatchewan’s legislatures. 

All three bills would infringe on treaty rights, the First Nations leaders said. 

An amendment to Bill C-21, which is currently being debated by members of Parliament, aims to create an evergreen definition for “assault-style” weapons and enshrine it in law, allowing the government to ban hundreds of models of firearms.

Some First Nations leaders say they’re concerned to see rifles used for hunting on the list and voted to take a stand against the bill, which they say infringes on their treaty rights. “We totally oppose this bill,” Chief Dylan Whiteduck of Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg told the gathering. 

He says these guns are a “tool,” not a weapon. 

The AFN, a national advocacy organization representing more than 600 First Nations across the country, had previously raised concerns about the legislation’s potential effects on hunting rights at a meeting of the House of Commons committee that is studying the bill. 

On Thursday, chiefs carried an emergency resolution that was brought to the floor with unanimous support at their special assembly. It called on the AFN to push the government to make changes to the bill, including ensuring that long guns used by First Nations hunters do not fall under the ban, and improve its consultations with affected groups.

Chiefs also voted in favour of supporting First Nations in Saskatchewan in their opposition to the Saskatchewan First Act tabled by Saskatchewan Party Premier Scott Moe. 

And the assembly affirmed that Indigenous leaders in Alberta could count on its support in their fight against the province’s own Sovereignty Act, introduced last week by United Conservative Party Premier Danielle Smith. 

After delivering a speech to the assembly on his government’s commitments to reconciliation, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was pressed on the issue. A representative from Onion Lake Cree Nation, located near the Saskatchewan-Alberta border, asked why the federal government, as a signatory to treaties, wasn’t doing more to oppose such legislation.

“We are extremely concerned about what the Sovereignty Act in Alberta and Bill 88 in Saskatchewan represent in terms of challenges to treaty rights that are fundamental in Canada and need to be respected,” Trudeau told the chiefs. 

He added that provincial governments can pass laws that his government disagrees with, but the way to challenge them is through the courts, not in the political ring. 

On the topic of guns, Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino, who also spoke at the event on Thursday, told reporters that he respects the AFN’s right to voice concerns with legislation. “This is not an easy debate, no matter what your perspective or your background,” he said. “This is an emotional debate.”

Mendicino repeated that the law is designed to keep weapons such as the AR-15 out of people’s hands — not to target rifles used by Indigenous hunters. 

Asked about the possibility that hunters’ guns could be removed from the government’s proposed definition of banned firearms, the minister deferred to the MPs who are still studying the bill.  He said he’s open to more debate on the matter and respects the parliamentary process. “I think we can move forward and I think that the AFN, I hope, contemplates that.”

Earlier, in his address to the crowd, Mendicino noted that Indigenous people are disproportionately affected by gun violence. 

Federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, who also addressed chiefs earlier in the day, told them he shares their concerns about the gun legislation’s effect on treaty rights. “Any amendment that in any way contravenes your treaty rights is an amendment that we will not support,” Singh said. 

Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre, who is one of the most vocal critics of the bill and the amendment, didn’t appear in person to deliver his first message to the chiefs as party leader. His office said he was out of town. 

Instead, Poilievre provided a short video, in which he spoke about his support for helping nations achieve economic reconciliation. It was played before chiefs were set to debate a set of resolutions regarding residential school survivors.

After the video ended, a few boos could be heard from the audience. Nipissing First Nation Chief Scott McLeod walked to a microphone in the room and pleaded with organizers to “not ever again put a video like that ahead of our residential school survivors,” which earned applause from the crowd. 

February 6, 2023


First Nations Leaders Resolve to Protect Land in Manitoba: AMC, MKO, SCO and ILTC Demand Immediate Stop to Agricultural Crown Lands Lease and Permit Auction

NationTalk: Treaty One Territory – The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs (AMC), Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimaknak (MKO), the Southern Chiefs’ Organization (SCO) and the Anishininew Okimawin (ILTC) are providing Manitoba with notice that they intend to initiate legal proceedings to protect the traditional and ancestral lands of First Nations in Manitoba. The Province of Manitoba intends to proceed with an online land auction taking place February 6, 2023, to 10, 2023, utilizing Garton’s Auction Service.

“We are extremely concerned that this Agricultural Crown Land Lease and Permit Auction is allowed to proceed,” said Grand Chief Cathy Merrick of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs. “When First Nations entered into treaties with the Crown, they agreed to share the lands with the newcomers, but the Crown has continuously refused to adhere to its treaty promises. Many First Nations in Manitoba still have not received the full entitlement of reserve lands promised under the terms of treaty. The Crown promised First Nations that we would be able to continue to use our lands as we have always done but then uses their laws to make it impossible to exercise our rights”.

“The Manitoba Government has failed to fulfill its duty to consult with First Nations, and we are not going to stand by and watch our traditional lands and waters be auctioned away,” said Grand Chief Cathy Merrick. “The Chiefs-in-Assembly have made their voices clear. First Nations in Manitoba will take legal action to enforce our Treaty and Aboriginal rights, which are being eroded and infringed by this government’s actions.”

The AMC wrote to the Premier on February 1, 2023, to request a meeting with Manitoba Crown officials to ensure that First Nations’ inherent and Treaty rights are being respected and upheld. The AMC also asked that the Crown land auction be postponed until the province can confirm that First Nations have been adequately consulted and Treaty rights are protected and that the lands promised to First Nations under the Treaty Land Entitlement Framework are dealt with.

It has been more than 25 years since the Treaty Land Entitlement Framework Agreement was signed, yet it is estimated that only half of the Crown lands promised under that Agreement have been set aside. First Nations in Manitoba and the AMC, MKO, ILTC and SCO continue to call on the government to honour its commitments.

The AMC Chiefs-in-Assembly passed a resolution on February 2, 2023, to state that they strongly oppose the racist and colonial approach of the federal and provincial governments in its treatment of the Treaty Lands and Traditional Territories and waters of First Nations in Manitoba. This practice of auctioning-off large swaths of unoccupied Crown land obstructs the exercise of First Nations’ inherent and Treaty rights to hunt, fish, and trap, which are protected by the Constitution Act, 1982.

Continuing to offer long-term permits and leasing arrangements in a patchwork of lands throughout the province, without consulting First Nations, results in a cumulative diminishment of Treaty rights. The Chiefs-in-Assembly are very concerned that the provincial government did not provide proper and adequate notice to the affected nearby First Nations.

“The practice of selling surplus Crown lands in auction sales goes against the very heart of Treaty obligations of the Crown in right of both Manitoba and Canada to MKO First Nations,” stated Grand Chief Garrison Settee of Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak. “The outstanding Treaty Land Entitlements and other land obligations under Treaties and agreements have never been fulfilled to MKO First Nations to this day, and yet the Province of Manitoba continues to announce auction sales of land that are deemed to be “surplus.” Of note, Treaty Land Entitlements arise from outstanding land obligations by the Crown undersigned Treaties with MKO First Nations, sacred covenants between our governments on a Nation-to-Nation basis. It is time for both levels of governments be held accountable for their outstanding Treaty obligations. We continue to possess and exercise our unfettered Aboriginal rights to hunt, fish and gather on the land and expect both levels of governments to accommodate these Creator-given rights as affirmed under Treaties. The Treaty question to land in the MKO territory has yet to be resolved and both levels of governments need to work with our MKO First Nation government going forward by discontinuing the practice of “surplus” Crown land sales. The “Honour of the Crown” and the sacred Treaties demand nothing less,” concluded Grand Chief Settee.

“The Southern Chiefs’ Organization stands with the Chiefs-in-Assembly, who have clearly expressed their opposition to the auctioning-off of lands in Manitoba. I once again call on everyone involved in this process to stop this auction immediately. First Nations must have proper input into how our lands are to be used,” shared Grand Chief Jerry Daniels of the Southern Chiefs’ Organization. “We urge the Province of Manitoba to honour the Treaties and to work with First Nations as true partners. There are serious political consequences for governments that deliberately break promises with the First Peoples of this land.”

“When I think about our lands and our connection to those lands – that is so important to us – when you take our lands, you take our identity,” says Grand Chief Scott Harper of the Anishininew Okimawin (ILTC), “When decisions like these are made without proper consultation, with First Nations it really affects our way of life. We have seen companies come into our traditional territories and we then see the aftermath and they leave behind nothing positive for our people.  We support this position taken by the Chiefs-in-Assembly and stand in solidarity with the other Grand Chiefs here today.”


For more information, please contact:

Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs

Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak

Southern Chiefs’ Organization

Anishininew Okimawin

About the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs

The AMC was formed in 1988 by the Chiefs in Manitoba to advocate on issues that commonly affect First Nations in Manitoba. AMC is an authorized representative of 62 of the 63 First Nations in Manitoba with a total of more than 151,000 First Nation citizens in the province, accounting for approximately 12 percent of the provincial population. AMC represents a diversity of Anishinaabe (Ojibway), Nehetho / Ininew (Cree), Anishininew (Ojibwe-Cree), Denesuline (Dene) and Dakota Oyate (Dakota) people.

About the Southern Chiefs’ Organization

The Southern Chiefs’ Organization represents 34 Anishinabe and Dakota  Nations and more than 83,000 citizens in what is now called southern Manitoba. SCO is an independent political organization that protects, preserves, promotes, and enhances First Nations peoples’ inherent rights, languages, customs, and traditions through the application and implementation of the spirit and intent of the Treaty-making process.

About the Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak

Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak Inc. (MKO) is a non-profit, political advocacy organization that has represented 26 First Nation communities in Manitoba’s North since 1981. The MKO represents more than 72,000 First Nations people. Incorporated in 1981, MKO is a non-profit, political advocacy organization that provides a collective voice on issues of inherent, Treaty, Aboriginal and human rights for the citizens of the sovereign First Nations we represent. The MKO First Nations are signatories to Treaties 4, 5, 6 and 10.

About the Anishininew Okimawin

Island Lake Anishininew Okimawin is represented by Grand Chief Scott Harper and Chief Charles Knott (Garden Hill First Nation), Chief Samuel Knott (Red Sucker Lake First Nation), Chief Elvin Flett (St. Theresa Point First Nation) and Wasagamack First Nation (Chief Walter Harper), located in Treaty 5 Territory. Their regional office is located in Red Sucker Lake First Nation, Manitoba.

February 7, 2023

Fed. Govt., ON

First Nations owed over $100B under 1850 Ontario treaty: Nobel-winning economist – National Post

Joseph Stiglitz is testifying in a Sudbury, Ont., courtroom why First Nations may have been short-changed under a revenue-sharing treaty signed in 1850

Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visits the Shingwauk Kinoomaage Gamig Centre of Excellence in Anishinaabe Education in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada July 5, 2021. PHOTO BY GINO DONATO/POOL VIA REUTERS

NationTalk: National Post – He is a Nobel prize winner, former vice president of the World Bank and one of the globe’s most famous economists.

And this week Joseph Stiglitz is testifying in a Sudbury, Ontario courtroom, explaining why First Nations in the province’s centre-north may have been short-changed by more than $100 billion under a revenue-sharing treaty signed in 1850.

The star economist’s appearance is the latest highlight in an intriguing battle over a 19th-century agreement that the courts have already said was given short shrift by governments — to the detriment of Indigenous people.

The two “Robinson treaties” with Anishinaabe communities north of the Great Lakes were meant to pay an annuity to Indigenous people in a vast swath of Ontario, augmented as the government’s revenue from logging, mining and other resource development grew over the years.

But the annuity was boosted only once — from $1.75 per person a year to $4 in 1875 — despite the industrial exploitation of the area.

The Ontario government’s experts argue that its “colonization” investment — in everything from health care to railways and roads — actually exceeded its revenue from natural resources in one of the treaty areas — to the tune of almost $8 billion. After 170 years of virtually unchanged payments, the province says, those treaty members are owed just $35 million.

Indigenous leaders have called that analysis “ludicrous” and Stiglitz effectively agreed in his testimony Monday. The government’s expenses were related to far more than just the hewing of wood and extraction of minerals, and didn’t result in deficits, he said.

“Was the Crown so irrational that it had all these losses and said, ‘Give us more losses year after year’?” asked the 79-year-old Columbia University professor. “The (province’s) numbers don’t make sense.”

The real value in today’s terms of resource development in one of the treaty areas – above salaries, profit and other costs – is $126 billion, and at least 84 per cent of that should go to indigenous communities, he calculates. They’ve received about $300 million since 1850, according to Ontario government figures.

  1. Alberta First Nation sues provincial government over Sovereignty Act 
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The Robinson Superior Treaty (RST) and Robinson Huron Treaty (RHT) were hammered out 17 years before Confederation as the then Province of Canada sought to exploit copper and iron ore deposits north of Lakes Huron and Superior.

First Nations in the area demanded they be given a share of the potential proceeds. Not only was it their traditional land, but the British had long benefited from an alliance with the Anishinaabe, who fought on the Canadian side in the War of 1812. “Canada, and certainly Ontario, would not look the same today without the contributions of the thousands of Anishinaabe warriors,” RHT lawyer David Nahwegahbow said at one of the treaty hearings.

To press their case the First Nations eventually seized a mine site on Lake Superior, only to be met by government troops, before the two sides sat down for negotiations in 1850. The resulting treaties — among the first to pave the way for not just white settlement but resource extraction on Indigenous land — provided an up-front payment, plus the annuities.

But the payments stagnated as logging and mining in the area grew, prompting legal action this century to recoup what the Anishinaabe say they should have received in annuities.

After the first two phases of the trial, Ontario Superior Court Justice Patricia Hennessy ruled that the federal and Ontario governments had to pay an increased annuity that reflected a “fair share,” so long as there were enough resource-based revenues to do so without incurring a loss.

The province’s Court of Appeal mostly upheld that decision. But while Ottawa let it stand, the province is taking the decision to the Supreme Court of Canada.

Earlier this year, meanwhile, the two levels of governments entered into settlement talks with one of the treaty groups — Robinson Huron, but not Robinson Superior.

Last week, the third stage of the trial started, dealing with how much the governments owe the Anishinaabe. And that’s where the dispute has shifted to an economic analysis of 170 years of data.

In their report, government experts Robin Boadway, a Queens University professor emeritus, and University of Toronto economist Michael Smart estimate that the governments’ net revenues from resource extraction in the area were $12.7 billion for RHT and a loss of $7.9 billion for RST. When the risk incurred by government because of the uncertainty of future revenue is factored in, that means RHT is owed $2.4 billion in annuity payments, and RST $35 million, they argue.

“These patterns reflect the fact that Crown resource revenues were relatively stagnant in recent years, while resource-related expenditures continued to rise,” said their report.

But Stiglitz argues that the Ontario analysis is flawed in several areas, including by ignoring the risk borne by the Anishinaabe. They gave up their land, for instance, not knowing if wealth would flow from it, if the land would be properly managed or the Crown would actually honour its obligations to them, he said.

Stiglitz stressed on Monday that the province was also wrong to connect all of Ontario’s expenses in the region just to resource extraction — mining minerals and cutting down trees — and not the much larger amount of economy activity in other, related areas. Tax and other revenue from logging-industry support services, wood manufacturing and paper-making, for example, dwarfs revenue from actual logging, he said.

If the province’s claim of growing losses on investment were true, Stiglitz told the court, it would have been desperate by the 1960s to actually unload the territory. “The Crown would have been willing to go back to Anishinaabe and say, ‘Take the land back and we’ll give you a lot of money to give it back. It’s just a burden to us.’”

March 29, 2023


First Nations protesting Ontario’s accelerated mining development plans

Neskantaga Chief Wayne Moonias, centre in green, speaks alongside First Nations community members during an improvised press conference inside the Ontario legislature at Queen’s Park in Toronto on March 29.ALLISON JONES/THE CANADIAN PRESS

The Globe and Mail: Five First Nations communities are planning to stare down Doug Ford in the Ontario Legislature Wednesday, alleging that the Premier is railroading through mining development without their consent.

Leaders of Neskantaga, KI, Grassy Narrows, Wapekeka and Muskrat Dam First Nations said in a statement they are converging on Queen’s Park with a message to Premier Ford that pushing through mining on their lands against their will, “courts conflict and violates their rights.”

“The Ford Government has granted thousands of mining claims without First Nations consent and is now trying to fast track dangerous mine approvals, delay safe closure plans and build environmentally risky roads through the muskeg to the Ring of Fire,” added the First Nations Land Defense Alliance.

The Ford government earlier this month tabled legislation aimed at speeding up mine approvals. The Ontario government’s proposed changes would make it easier for companies to obtain permits to mine metals from tailings, allow companies to defer upfront payments on plans to close mines and loosen restrictions related to the rehabilitation of shuttered mine sites.

The province said that the measures would not compromise environmental standards, and would not interfere with the government’s constitutional duty to consult Indigenous communities on mining projects.

Earlier this month, however, Neskantaga First Nation says it wasn’t adequately consulted in a key Ring of Fire environmental study, and is warning Ring of Fire Metals, the Australian mining company bent on developing the region, that it will have to use force against members of the First Nation before it would allow development.

Discovered in 2006, the Ring of Fire has long been championed by Doug Ford. Ontario’s Premier wants to start mining in the remote northern region of the province in order to be able to feed future electric vehicle and battery factories in the south. Ontario is already a manufacturing base for many of the world’s biggest automakers, and last year landed its first EV battery plant, with Stellantis NV and LG Energy Solution announcing plans to build a factory in Windsor.

Neskantaga said it was unable to participate in consultations on the Ring of Fire, or meet the process’s deadlines, in part because of the COVID-19 pandemic. With a population of just 400, Neskantaga is located about 430 kilometres northeast of Thunder Bay, and is among the most impoverished regions in Canada. The First Nation has been under a boil-water advisory for more than 28 years.

Several other First Nations, including, Marten Falls, and Webequie are generally in favour of development in the Ring of Fire and are leading the EAs.

While advanced exploration work such as drilling requires Indigenous consultation before proceeding, currently, mining claims can be staked in Ontario without consultation, a reality the First Nations Land Defense Alliance would like to change.

Two First Nations in British Columbia have legally challenged the similarly open system for prospecting in that province. The First Nations say the system is unconstitutional, and that it violates the government’s duty to consult. In April, the British Columbia Supreme Court will hear their case against the provincial government.

NIALL MCGEE: Mining Reporter – Follow Niall McGee on Twitter: @niallcmcgee

March 17, 2023


Forestry companies say they’re at risk because of Wolastoqey title claim to more than half N.B.

Companies file three separate motions with the court

Two signs above two digital clocks are seen on nearby buildings. On the left, the red and blue logo of Irving Oil is seen. On the right is the sign for J.D. Irving, with a logo that simply says "Irving" in the colour green.
J.D. Irving Ltd. is one of the forestry companies that filed a motion in the Wolastoqey title claim. That claim names some of the province’s largest companies, including Irving Oil, as defendants. (Carl Mondello/Radio-Canada )

CBC News: Some of the New Brunswick’s largest forestry companies say their business operations are at risk as a result of a title claim by the Wolastoqey Nation for about 60 per cent of land in the province. 

Three companies — and several subsidiaries — want a specific document removed from the claim, and they’ve recently filed legal motions asking the Court of King’s Bench to do so.  They say allowing “certificates of pending litigation” — which warn others the land is part of an ongoing legal dispute — to be registered “is likely to disrupt and undermine the operations” of their companies, according to the motions, copies of which were obtained by CBC. 

The companies are part of a long list of defendants that includes some of the province’s largest entities, including the Province of New Brunswick, the Government of Canada, power companies, rail lines and recreational companies. 

The Wolastoqey Nation initially filed the land title claim in 2020 for more than five million hectares, which the chiefs identify as Wolastoqey traditional lands.

Map of New Brunswick shows the portion of the province covered by the title claim and shaded parts where the named companies operate.
The Wolastoqey Nation says companies named in the claim operate on about 20 per cent of the more than five-million hectares the chiefs identify as Wolastoqey traditional lands in New Brunswick. (Submitted by Wolastoqey Nation of New Brunswick)

In 2021, they amended the claim to specifically name some of the province’s largest companies, including forestry companies J.D. Irving Ltd., Acadian Timber and H.J. Crabbe & Sons.

The Wolastoqey Nation in New Brunswick represents the Matawaskiye (Madawaska), Wotstak (Woodstock), Neqotkuk (Tobique), Bilijk (Kingsclear), Sitansisk (St. Mary’s) and Welamuktok (Oromocto) First Nations, located along the St. John River, also known as the Wolastoq.

Three separate motions were recently filed with the Court of King’s Bench by H.J. Crabbe & Sons, Acadian Timber, and J.D. Irving — plus several subsidiary companies. 

According to the motions, the forestry companies want the certificates removed from the claim because they are “incompatible” and inconsistent” with Aboriginal title.  In its motion, H.J. Crabbe & Sons argues that certificates of pending litigation are akin to an “injunction” on the land they own and prevent the company from selling land “and financing its business, and threatening the viability of the business operations.” 

The other two companies make similar claims in their own motions. 

No comment from companies

In an emailed statement, Renée Pelletier, a lawyer representing the Wolastoqey Nation, said, “We intend to fight these motions, but we won’t be commenting further on the matter as it is currently before the courts.” So far, no date has been set to hear the motions. 

Pelletier said the Wolastoqey Nation has claimed certificates of pending litigation “on the properties we are seeking returned from the Industrial Defendants. Here, CPLs would act as a tool to protect the rights of the Wolastoqey pending trial, but also to protect prospective buyers and lenders by giving them notice of the claim.”

When contacted on Thursday, a spokesperson with J.D. Irving declined to comment. Similar requests made to H.J. Crabbe & Sons and Acadian Timber were not returned by publication time.


Mia Urquhart, Mia Urquhart is a journalist with CBC New Brunswick, based in Saint John. She can be reached at 

March 24, 2023


FSIN demands inquiry over mistreatment of First Nations

The FSIN continues its calls for action to address systemic racism within First Nations

Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations Fourth Vice Chief Heather Bear.Jon Perez /

NationTalk: SaskToday: SASKATOON—The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations has called for an inquiry into the actions of Saskatchewan Environment after an Elder’s house was raided on the Makwa Sahgaiehcan First Nation.

The FSIN has documented multiple complaints from First Nations regarding mistreatment by Saskatchewan Environment and Conservation Officers. Elder Doug Morningchild and his wife were preparing for a ceremonial gathering and feast when several law enforcement vehicles surrounded their home. The Ministry of Environment Conservation Officer searched the box of Morningchild’s truck parked in his yard while others looked through the windows of their home.

Morningchild stated that it looked like a major drug bust or something of that nature due to the number of vehicles present. Despite a formal letter from the FSIN to the Ministry on June 23, 2020, requesting an impartial inquiry into the events, an investigation did not occur.

The FSIN continues to record events of mistreatment of First Nations people when exercising Treaty rights and calls for action to address systemic racism within First Nations.

May 11, 2021

Fed. Govt., NT

Giant Mine Remediation

CBC – The Yellowknives Dene First Nation says the federal government’s response to the Giant Mine petition “reflects some progress,” but when it comes to remediation contracts, the response “falls short.” They say the response fails to reflect over three months of discussions between the Yellowknives Dene and government representatives.

It also points out that the $45.8 million in contracts were not for remediation-related work but for the care and maintenance of the site. As well, the First Nation says it had to enter highly-competitive processes to win the contracts and that the contacts “were not set aside for our benefit.” The First Nation says it also partnered with established companies to win the contacts and that “considerable” financial benefits will flow to its joint venture partners.

“We are left to wonder why the government invested in us to fulfil these work packages, but selected a procurement approach which effectively prevents us from being able to participate in a substantive and meaningful way,” the release says.

February 3, 2021

Fed. Govt., NT

Giant Mine Remediation

CBC – The Giant Mine operated from 1948 to 2006, displacing the Yellowknives Dene First Nation (YNDFN) from the western part of Yellowknife Bay, affecting their harvesting rights. The mine contaminated the water and led to long-term negative social impacts among the YKDFN. The YKDFN and the federal government agreed to set up a formal process to discuss an apology and compensation for the First Nation for a mine that operated on its land without its consent for several decades. The clean-up of the mine is expected to cost up to $1 billion, including initial care and maintenance and active remediation. Remediation work at the former gold mine is imminent and the YKDFN have demanded that it be the only eligible bidder on contracts that include water treatment, long-term environmental consulting and monitoring of the project.

Chiefs Edward Sangris, Dettah chief of the YNDFN and Ernest Betsina, Ndilo Chief of YNDFN met virtually with Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett, Northern Affairs Minister Daniel Vandal, and Northwest Territories MP Michael McLeod on Jan. 29.

“They must now put their good words into action,” said Sangris. Betsina said the chiefs want to ensure people who were impacted the most by the toxic legacy of Giant Mine are the ones who will benefit from the remediation project.

February 1, 2023


Grassy Narrows hosts Historic Alliance to protect lands and waters from mining exploration companies enabled by Ford Government’s pro-industry stance 

We are proud to share with you that yesterday leadership from Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug (KI, or Big Trout Lake First Nation), Wapekeka, Neskantaga, and Asubpeeschoseewagong Anishinabek (Grassy Narrows) met in Grassy Narrows to sign a Mutual Cooperation Agreement. 

The four strong First Nations are forming an alliance to protect their lands and waters in the face of mounting concerns about encroachment on their territories by mining exploration companies who have been enabled by the Ford Government’s pro-industry stance. 

The First Nations are calling on Premier Ford to meet with them immediately and to end the “free entry” system. This is the latest escalation in a growing conflict between First Nations and the Ford Government over mining exploration occurring against the will of local First Nations. The combined homelands of the four first nations cover an area of roughly 60,000 square kilometers – nearly 100 times the City of Toronto.

Prospectors have staked thousands of new claims on these First Nations’ territories since Ford came to power. They are exploiting Ontario’s antiquated “free entry” mining system that allows companies and individuals to stake mining claims on First Nations lands from the comfort of their offices, without gaining the consent of the Indigenous people who live there. Prospectors are not required by Ontario to give any notice to First Nations until after the claims have been registered and are in force. Conversely, Ontario does not inform prospectors which First Nation’s land they are staking until after the claims are purchased.  The claims grant the prospector a wide range of rights under Crown law to explore the area for valuable minerals and to own the treasures that are found under the ground.
However, the areas that these prospectors are staking have been home to Indigenous people for countless generations and continue to provide the sources of life, culture, and livelihood for them. In spite of the well-known concerns of these First Nations, and many attempts to bring the Ford government to the table, the free entry system remains in place and new claims continue to be registered in social conflict zones against the will of First Nations.
Meeting openly in Grassy Narrows’ Sakatcheway Anishinabe School, the three Chiefs, one Deputy Chief, and many dozens of grassroots community members shared their concerns about mining, their love of the land, and pledged to support each other in defending their land and water from incursions by outside authorities who do not respect their decisions over their lands. The four First Nations were joined by Sol Mamakwa, NDPMPP for Keewatinoong and Official Opposition Critic for Indigenous Affairs.

Grassy Narrows First Nation has been fighting to control and protect its homeland since a paper mill upstream dumped 9 tonnes of mercury into the life-giving English-Wabigoon Rivers in the 1960s. Instead of respecting Grassy Narrows, Ontario authorized increasingly large and mechanized clearcuts throughout the Territory.

In 2002, grassroots Grassy Narrows people initiated what is now the longest running Indigenous blockade in Canadian history. They succeeded in kicking out the world’s largest newsprint company and in preventing all logging since 2008, sparing over 15 million trees from being clearcut.  However, since 2018 the number of mining claims on Grassy Narrows land has exploded, roughly quadroupling to around 4,000 mining claims.

Grassy Narrows has called on Ontario to respect Grassy Narrows’ 7,000 sq km Indigenous Protected Area and to withdraw the area from mining and logging activity. But the Ford government continues to allow “free entry” staking throughout the area and is proposing to open up part of it to renewed clearcut logging against Grassy Narrows’ will.

Click here to sign the Petition Calling on the Ford Government to withdraw Grassy Narrows’ Protected Area from Mining and Logging

KI and Wapekeka have decided to protect the entire intact 13,000 sq km Fawn River watershed that contains and sustains their communities. They are strong landusers whose travel routes, fishing nets, and hunt camps continue to form a dense network throughout their expansive territories. From 2005-2012 KI people defended their land from mining companies Platinex and Gods Lake Resources.

In response, Ontario took the KI leadership to court and Six KI leaders were sentenced to six months in jail in 2008. The KI Six, including Chief Donny Morris and then Councilor and grandmother Cecilia Begg, served two months behind bars before their sentence was overturned by the Ontario Court of Appeals. 

Eventually, facing KI’s unwavering commitment and repeated litigation from frustrated mining companies, Ontario withdrew 23,000 sq km of KI Homeland from mining exploration in 2012.  But large parts of KI’s Homeland remain open to “free entry” staking, including parts of the Fawn River headwaters. KI has many grievances against the Ontario Ministry of Natural resources due to their harsh and unjust treatment of KI people and lands from before and after the time of the Treaty.  These grievances are still outstanding and hurtful to KI people. KI Chief Donny Morris is calling on the Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry to come to KI to meet, apologize, and resolve these grievances.
Located near the “Ring of Fire” mineral deposit, Neskantaga has long been a principled voice advocating respect for Indigenous jurisdiction and for protecting the land and water, especially the Attawapiskat River that flows through Neskantaga’s homelands, and its watershed. This past summer, Neskantaga launched Namekaa Gaagige a youth-focused protection and stewardship program for the lake sturgeon, their relative and crucial source of cultural and spiritual sustenance.

During the provincial elections in 2018, Ford stated that he would drive the bulldozer himself in order to force a road into the remote Ring of Fire. Plans for developing the Ring of Fire, including the building of an all-season road and rail line, continue to be pushed forward without Neskantaga’s free, prior, and informed consent, and without a comprehensive assessment of the impacts that multiple industrial projects in the sensitive mushkego boreal forest – the world’s second largest intact wetland – will have on the water, fish, wildlife, and plants that Neskantaga people cherish and care for.
Aki Paamaachi Ikoo Ying Ganawaandata!
Protect the land that gives us life!
Kakanawedaamin Anishinabe Miinigowisiwin.
Take care of and keep the land!

May 24, 2019


Heitsuk Nation arguments ignored by Appeal Court

Heiltsuk Nation – the B.C. Court of Appeal handed down a decision that reduces the power of provinces to protect lands and waters from inter-provincial infrastructural projects and that fails to recognize the role of Indigenous peoples in protecting the environment. Heiltsuk and Haida made arguments related to their inherent Indigenous title and rights and addressed gaps in the existing spill response framework that B.C.’s proposed legislation would address.

However, today’s reasoning makes no mention of Indigenous arguments, instead referring solely to federal and provincial jurisdiction. Ignoring Indigenous jurisdiction reflects continued unwillingness to take practical steps towards reconciliation and recognition of title and rights in the real world.

Heiltsuk’s experience with the Nathan E Stewart oil spill brought to light gaps in federal spill response that…were not even addressed by the court and, as a result of today’s decision, they remain in place:
Gaps in compensation for Indigenous losses because compensation under Canada’s Ship-source Oil Pollution Fund and Marine Liability Act’s definition of “pollution damage” focuses exclusively on “loss of profit”, ignoring the devastating impacts spills may have on food, social, and ceremonial losses.

No requirement for a robust Environmental Impact Assessment: An environmental impact assessment is critical to understanding both the short and long-term effects of an oil spill on the natural environment.

January 7, 2023

Fed. Govt., MB

Here are 3 places to watch the Land Back movement unfold in 2023

Calls for a return of Indigenous sovereignty over traditional territories have gained momentum in recent years

A large group of Lakota people gathered in the Black Hills of South Dakota in July 2020 to protest the presence of then-president Donald Trump. (Willi White/NDN Collective)

CBC News: It was a hot, muggy July day when Nick Tilsen and about 200 other Lakotas blocked the way to a sacred mountain. The mountain is part of the He Sapa and is the centre of the Land Back movement in South Dakota.  

He Sapa is the name of the territory in Lakota, but most will recognize it as the Black Hills. Within these hills is Mount Rushmore, on the side of which the heads of four U.S. presidents are carved.

“To us, it’s an international symbol of white supremacy because each one of those men on there were responsible for the persecution, the murder, the genocide of Indigenous people and ultimately the stealing of our lands,” said Nick Tilsen in an interview with Unreserved‘s Rosanna Deerchild in which she spoke with four leaders within the Indigenous-led Land Back movement — from northern Manitoba to Hawaii to the Black Hills of South Dakota.

The movement, which has gained momentum in recent years, calls for the acknowledgement and return of Indigenous sovereignty over traditional territories. 

The land Tilsen wants back in Indigenous hands was promised to the Lakota people in the Treaty of 1868, an agreement between the United States government that recognized the Black Hills as part of the Great Sioux Reservation. Today, it is the longest existing land struggle between the U.S. government and Indigenous people in America.

The composite photo shows, on the left, a group of people holding up signs and flags. On the right side of the composite is a profile of an Indigenous man looking to the left.
Protesters, left, blocked the entrance to the park at Mount Rushmore on July 3, 2020. Right, Nick Tilsen is the CEO of NDN Collective, an organization that supports the self-determination of Indigenous people. (Willi White/NDN Collective)

And so on July 3, 2020, a large crowd of Lakota people gathered at Mount Rushmore to shine a light on the long-standing battle for the Black Hills. Former U.S. President Donald Trump was set to lead a rally there; Tilsen and others blocked entrance to the park.

Tilsen is the CEO of NDN Collective, an organization that supports the self-determination of Indigenous people and uses the motto “defend, develop and decolonize.” The He Sapa is one of a number of sites on Turtle Island, or North America, where the Land Back movement is gaining momentum. Despite many of these battles being decades in the making, Indigenous communities are displaying new ways of ensuring their rights to the land are not ignored.

That day on Mount Rushmore, said Tilsen, “there might have only been a couple hundred of us, but it felt like there was thousands of us because you could feel the spirits, you could feel the ancestors.” 

WATCH | Inside the Mount Rushmore Protest: 

Tilsen and 21 others were arrested that day at Mount Rushmore, to make way for the rally. This past December, all charges were dropped after more than two years dragging through the state and federal court systems.

“The government has tried to turn this into a bureaucracy when it’s actually not that complicated to return the land, and the title to the land, to the people.”

Mauna Kea

In Hawaii stands another sacred mountain, Mauna Kea. It’s Hawaii’s highest peak, 4,207 metres above sea level, and together with Mauna Loa, the state’s biggest mountain by volume, is seen as the source of all life for native Hawaiians, or Kanaka Maoli.

WATCH |  Like a Mighty Wave: A Maunakea Film

“We revere these areas not only because they hold the stories of our origin, but also because of their very height,” said Noe Noe Wong-Wilson, who was born and raised on the Hawaiian island of Oahu. 

Beginning in the ’60s, Mauna Kea was used for its great height by a group of independent astronomical research facilities. It is now the site of 13 telescopes commissioned by the University of Hawai’i, which had authority over the mountain at that time.

Construction altered the landscape of the summit, pressured the flora and fauna of its delicate ecosystem, and because the mountain is so sacred, amounted to the desecration of a temple. Wong-Wilson said that there is deep regret among kupuna, or elders in the community, for not fighting the development. “Our Supreme Court, in a landmark decision, made a ruling that the summit area has been so desecrated by the existing 13 telescopes that adding one more would not have any more accumulative effect. And that terrible decision still hangs over our heads,” she said of the October 2018 ruling. 

And so when the most recent proposal was made to build the Thirty Meter Telescope — designed to be 30 metres in diameter and about 18 storeys — it was met with a powerful wave of resistance. That resistance gained worldwide attention on July 17, 2019, when 38 elders were arrested for blocking the access road to Mauna Kea. 

Expecting a large police presence, approximately 50 kupuna gathered in the dark on the eve of the first day of the protests. It was a cold night and Wong-Wilson recalls sitting among the elders in chairs, many wrapped in sleeping bags, establishing a plan to be resistant but peaceful.

An aerial shot showing protesters and cars blocking the road to a mountain.
Protesters gathered to block the access road to Mauna Kea, July 17, 2019, (Mikey Inouye/Like a Mighty Wave)

That’s when it was decided to put the eldest protectors on the front line.

“One of our kupuna said, you know this isn’t going to work. If we are all arrested … then this resistance is going to last one day and there’ll be nobody here tomorrow … so we asked all the young people to move to the side of the road,” said Wong-Wilson. 

Pua Case was among the kupuna arrested that day. She and Wong-Wilson continued the fight in the courts, and today the mountain is under a new protection. It’s the result of a state bill, signed July 2022, that transitioned the management of Mauna Kea from the University of Hawaii to the newly established Maunakea Stewardship and Oversight Authority, a collective that Case says stands for the protection of Mauna Kea.

Five women of varying ages stand in front of palm leaves, holding their fists up in the air.
Noe Noe Wong-Wilson, second from left, and Pua Case, second from right, are fighting further development at Mauna Kea. (Submitted by Pua Case)

“As a collective, we have made a commitment to stop the building, really, of 18 storeys of anything. It didn’t have to be an observatory; it just happens that it is,” said Case.

Case grew up on the slopes of Mauna Kea and says she considers the mountain to be family. “We really have no choice but to stand to protect that family member, and that’s what we’re doing.”

The traditional territory of Fox Lake Cree Nation

Much further north, on the traditional territory of Fox Lake Cree Nation, land that was once the source of life for community members lies under water.

It’s water as far as the eye can see, and the skyline is painted with power lines held up by towers that people there call metal trees. “Unfortunately there’s hundreds and hundreds of miles of metal trees in the area,” said Conway Arthurson, a member of Fox Lake Cree Nation.

“It’s Manitoba’s hub of the north where 80 per cent of the power comes from these dams up here.” 

An Indigenous man wearing a cap and glasses stands in front a body of water.
Conway Arthurson, a member of Fox Lake Cree Nation, is a negotiator for his community dealing with Manitoba Hydro, the authority responsible for hydro development in Manitoba’s north. (CBC)

Arthurson is a negotiator for his community, a role he started learning 25 years ago as leaders at that time sought compensation from Manitoba Hydro, the authority responsible for hydro development in Manitoba’s north.

Flooding began in 1966 when Manitoba Hydro built its first dam on the lower Nelson River, affecting settlements and traditional hunting grounds.  More dams followed and the environmental and social impacts were many. Indigenous leaders of the day fought for acknowledgement from Manitoba Hydro and the federal and provincial governments. In 2004, they gained ground with the signing of an impact settlement agreement with Manitoba Hydro.

Today Arthurson is seeking further compensation and cooperation with Manitoba Hydro and the three levels of government with jurisdiction in the area, but his most complex fight involves converting Crown land into reserve land. It requires cooperation from all levels of government.

“My understanding is the province is still willing to provide up to 26,000 acres for Fox Lake to change into reserve [land]. So that’s the minimum we’re looking at.”

WATCH | Keeping traditions alive in Fox Lake Cree Nation: 

Young hunters from Fox Lake Cree Nation are passing on traditional knowledge of the land despite challenges.

With that step in place, Fox Lake is closer to achieving what it was promised in 1947 when it was recognized as an independent community. It’s a long time coming, said Arthurson, who holds onto the lessons of his ancestors as he works to regain his community’s sovereignty over the land. “I remember what they’ve told me, and the one most important thing that they said we need to get more of this land. And that’s been basically my life, my career, you know, for the last 25 years is trying to right the wrongs of Fox Lake.”


Kim Kaschor

Associate Producer

Kim Kaschor is a journalist living in Winnipeg. With roots in rural Manitoba, she has a passion for hyperlocal community issues, grassroots development and social justice. You can connect with Kim at

January 9, 2023

BC, Fed. Govt.

Indigenous land defenders criminalized, surveilled and harassed as pipeline construction continues on Wet’suwet’en territory: Amnesty International

NationTalk: Four years on from the first large-scale police raid on Wet’suwet’en territory, Indigenous land defenders in Canada are still experiencing serious human rights violations as the construction of the Coastal GasLink (CGL) pipeline continues on their unceded, ancestral and traditional territories, said Amnesty International today. The Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs – the authorities of the Nation according to Wet’suwet’en Law, as affirmed by the Supreme Court of Canada’s 1997 Delgamuukw ruling – oppose the construction of the liquified natural gas pipeline in their unceded territory and have not given their free, prior and informed consent to the project.

“In a democratic country such as Canada, which relies on its reputation on the world stage of being such a respectful and safe country, why are the Wet’suwet’en/Indigenous Peoples being targeted with such violence? Why are we less ‘human’ and why do we have to stand up against such abuses? Why must we be criminalized on our own unceded lands for protecting human/Indigenous rights and doing our part to protect the right to clean water, safe foods and our very existence?” said Chief Na’Moks, Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chief.

Wet’suwet’en land defenders, Hereditary Chiefs and matriarchs are frequently harassed, intimidated, forcibly removed and criminalized by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and CGL’s private security guards for peacefully defending their unceded, ancestral and traditional lands. In three large-scale police actions in the territory in January 2019, February 2020 and November 2021, a total of 74 Wet’suwet’en and other land defenders, legal observers and members of the media were arrested and detained. During these raids, the RCMP were equipped with military assault weapons, helicopters and dog units, and operated alongside private security guards to burn down buildings and desecrate Indigenous ceremonial spaces.

Following these violent police raids, criminal charges were laid against Indigenous land defenders for peacefully defending traditional and unceded Wet’suwet’en territory. Notably, in November 2021, the RCMP forcibly removed and arrested several Indigenous land defenders and others for allegedly defying a 2019 court injunction that prohibited blocking access to worksites where CGL employees build the pipeline. At least 15 of these individuals were subsequently charged with criminal contempt. In December 2022, five land defenders were sentenced with fines and mandatory community service in relation to their defence of the territory. Currently, 13 members of the Wet’suwet’en and other land defenders are planning to defend themselves against the charges of criminal contempt for allegedly defying the injunction.

‘Criminalized for being who we are’

“Indigenous peoples have always been criminalized for being who we are and standing up for the yintah. British Columbia and Canada thought they wiped us out or assimilated us enough so they wouldn’t have to use guns to control us anymore. But just like we survived genocide, we survive their militarized raids year after year because we understand the necessity to protect our way of life and life itself,” said Sleydo’, Cas Yikh of the Gidimt’en Clan, Wet’suwet’en Nation. For this reason, the Wet’suwet’en Nation continues to stand up for their human rights and speak out against criminalization. In June 2022, members of the Wet’suwet’en filed a civil lawsuit in British Columbia against the Province of B.C., members of the RCMP, the private security firm Forsythe, and Coastal GasLink, seeking damages for intimidation and other claims towards Indigenous Peoples near the roads leading to the pipeline’s worksites.

The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) enshrines the rights of Indigenous Peoples to protect and conserve the environment of their lands and to not be forcibly removed from their lands or territories, and requires States to obtain Indigenous Peoples’ free, prior and informed consent prior to approval of any project that affects their lands and territories. The UNDRIP also recognizes the right to effective remedies and redress for any and all infringements of individual or collective rights that takes into account Indigenous legal systems and international human rights. Both Canada and British Columbia have passed laws that mandate the government to bring domestic laws in compliance with the UNDRIP. Additionally, the Committee on the 

Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) has stressed that states – including Canada – that are party to the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination must obtain the informed consent of Indigenous Peoples before taking decisions that directly relate to their rights and interests.

“By allowing Coastal GasLink to continue construction on the traditional, unceded territories of the Wet’suwet’en without their free, prior and informed consent, the governments of Canada and British Columbia are not only contravening the spirit of reconciliation with Indigenous peoples, but also their binding human rights obligations,” said France-Isabelle Langlois, Executive Director of Amnistie internationale Canada Francophone. “Amnesty International calls on the governments of Canada and B.C., and CGL, to immediately cease all construction on the pipeline and return to constructive discussions with the Hereditary Chiefs that respect the laws and the right to free, prior, and informed consent of the Wet’suwet’en people.”

“The Canadian government and CGL must immediately withdraw security and policing forces from Wet’suwet’en territory. Their presence severely limits the ability of Wet’suwet’en people to exercise their rights over their traditional territories,”

Dr. Zosa De Sas Kropiwnicki-Gruber, Amnesty International Canada

In 2019, the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) called on Canada to halt CGL’s pipeline until free, prior, and informed consent was obtained. Subsequently, the Committee issued a letter to Canada in 2020 highlighting Canada’s problematic interpretation of its obligation to obtain the community’s free, prior, and informed consent, and duty to consult as a “duty to engage in meaningful and good faith dialogue with Indigenous Peoples” before proceeding with the project. In May 2022, the CERD issued a third letter to Canada noting its concern over the escalating use of force, surveillance and criminalization of land defenders and peaceful protestors by the RCMP, its Community-Industry Response Group and private security firms. Despite this, the Canadian government has not responded to the CERD’s letter and has failed to implement the Committee’s recommendations. Construction of the pipeline continues without the consent of the Wet’suwet’en and is enabled by an ongoing RCMP and private security presence that continues to maintain surveillance, intimidate and harass Indigenous Peoples.

“The Canadian government and CGL must immediately withdraw security and policing forces from Wet’suwet’en territory. Their presence severely limits the ability of Wet’suwet’en people to exercise their rights over their traditional territories,” said Dr. Zosa De Sas Kropiwnicki-Gruber, Director of Research, Advocacy and Policy of Amnesty International Canadian Section (English Speaking). “All allegations of harassment, intimidation, threats and forced evictions of Indigenous and other land defenders on traditional and unceded Wet’suwet’en territory must be investigated immediately.”

March 2, 2023


Land Defenders Call on Courts to Dismiss Criminal Contempt Charges

Charter violations and use of excessive force by RCMP are alleged by Wet’suwet’en members and supporters in their application.

A dozen people arrested by RCMP in November 2021 on and near a CGL worksite have asked for their charges to be dismissed, saying their Charter rights were violated. Photo by Amanda Follett Hosgood.

The Tyee: A dozen Wet’suwet’en members and their supporters who currently face criminal contempt charges in connection with the Coastal GasLink pipeline dispute have applied to the B.C. Supreme Court to have the charges stayed, according to a statement issued Tuesday. 

The charges stem from a police action on Nov. 18 and 19, 2021, when RCMP spent two days making arrests on the remote Morice Forest Service Road, which was closed to traffic days earlier by Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs who oppose the project. The second day of arrests occurred at a camp that was blocking access to a worksite where Coastal GasLink was preparing to drill under the Morice River, known to the Wet’suwet’en as Wedzin Kwa. About 30 people were taken into custody over two days, including several journalists. 

RCMP did not immediately respond to The Tyee’s request for comment about the application to have charges stayed. The CGL pipeline, which is set to carry fracked gas from the northeast to Kitimat, has faced years of opposition from Wet’suwet’en traditional leadership and is significantly over budget.

According to the news release issued by members of the Gidimt’en Clan, the 12 people requesting their charges be dismissed experienced “widespread Charter violations stemming from police misconduct” during the arrests. The application alleges that officers abused their authority and highlights RCMP’s “disproportionate and excessive use of force” during the arrests. 

“In violation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the applications allege that arrestees were variously denied their right to security of person, subjected to unreasonable search and seizure, arbitrarily detained and imprisoned, and denied reasonable bail without just cause,” the statement says.  It adds that the tactics used by the RCMP’s Community-Industry Response Group, a special task force formed in 2017 to police resource extraction conflicts, displayed “a systemic disregard for Indigenous rights and sovereignty and the Charter more generally.”

The November 2021 police action was the third in a series of standoffs that have occurred since the B.C. Supreme Court issued an injunction to Coastal GasLink in December 2018. The injunction prohibits anyone from blocking access to roads or worksites associated with pipeline construction. 

The dispute first made national headlines when RCMP arrested 14 people and removed barriers on the Morice Forest Service Road near an occupation on Gidimt’en Clan territory in January 2019. Dozens more have been arrested since, including 28 people taken into custody over five days and after a month-long standoff in February 2020.

Later that month, Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs formed an agreement with the federal and provincial governments that recognizes “Wet’suwet’en rights and title are held by Wet’suwet’en Houses under their system of governance.” The parties agreed to move forward with Indigenous title negotiations, building on the 1997 Delgamuukw-Gisday’wa court case that affirmed Wet’suwet’en title had never been extinguished. Those talks have since stalled. 

Despite those efforts, “the RCMP have repeatedly undertaken large-scale, violent invasions of Wet’suwet’en traditional territories and have established a sustained campaign of surveillance, intimidation and harassment, which is currently the subject of a separate lawsuit by Wet’suwet’en members,” Tuesday’s announcement said. 

Gidimt’en Camp occupants say that RCMP patrols of the area, including sweeps through the camp, began following a late-night attack at the Coastal GasLink drill site last February. While RCMP have alleged links between the camp and the incident, the force has never provided evidence of a connection and no arrests have been made in relation to the alleged attack. 

Three RCMP officers stand to the left. Four land defenders stand to the right. One is holding a cellphone, filming the interaction.
Occupants at Gidimt’en Camp, an occupation on the Morice Forest Service Road near the Coastal GasLink pipeline route, face off against RCMP officers during a patrol through the camp last year. Photo by Amanda Follett Hosgood.

While Coastal GasLink chose not to pursue a civil lawsuit against those arrested during the 2019 and 2020 police actions, the BC Prosecution Service agreed last summer to move ahead with criminal charges against 19 people arrested in November 2021. Others arrested at the same time, including a journalist who was taken into custody and released the same day and two others that spent several days in custody, have not faced ongoing action from the pipeline company. 

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RCMP Arrest 14, Clear Blockade of Pipeline Work Camps


Online news outlet the Narwhal announced last month that it is taking the RCMP to court over the arrest and three-day detention of journalist Amber Bracken, who was taken into custody while covering the November 2021 police action. 

Among those who still face criminal charges is Sleydo’ Molly Wickham, a member of the Gidimt’en Clan and spokesperson for Gidimt’en Checkpoint. In Tuesday’s statement, she said the RCMP has acted “with impunity, using racist language and violence against unarmed Indigenous women.” 

The statement notes that the arrests took place on Wet’suwet’en territory. “Defendants acted under the lawful authority of the Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs to uphold decisions made collectively by the nation in its governance hall (bahlats) to protect unceded Wet’suwet’en lands and waters,” it said. 

“The Wet’suwet’en have asserted a right to live on and protect their territories for thousands of years…. The impacts of the manner of enforcement are not limited to the individuals arrested but extend to the efforts at reconciliation between the Wet’suwet’en and the federal and provincial governments.”

Amanda Follett Hosgood

Amanda Follett Hosgood is The Tyee’s northern B.C. reporter. She lives in Wet’suwet’en territory. Find her on Twitter @amandajfollett.

April 25, 2023

Fed. Govt.

Lennox Island to fish 1,000 lobster traps off P.E.I.’s North Shore, with or without DFO signoff

‘If you want to protect rights, you have to practise them. You can’t shelve them.’

Chief Darlene Bernard of the Lennox Island First Nation says fishing 1,000 traps in LFA 24 as part of the spring lobster season is the will of her community.
Chief Darlene Bernard of the Lennox Island First Nation says fishing 1,000 traps in LFA 24 as part of the spring lobster season is the will of her community. (Nicola MacLeod/CBC)

CBC News: The chief of Lennox Island First Nation says it will fish 1,000 traps in the spring lobster fishery off P.E.I.’s North Shore this year as part of its treaty-protected fishery — whether or not the Department of Fisheries and Oceans approves.  

The First Nation was planning to do the same last year, but ended up reaching an understanding with DFO to fish no more than the 300 traps the federal government could authorize in the spring, and later fish another 700 off the South Shore as part of the fall lobster fishery. 

Chief Darlene Bernard said she’s always been clear about her community’s intention to fish all 1,000 traps out of their own wharf on Lennox Island in the spring of 2023, and now they’ll be following through. “Our plans are exactly what we said they would be last year,” Bernard told CBC News in Lennox Island on Monday.

“We have 10 people, 10 young families, young fishers who are excited to be getting started. I signed their designation forms with the band government this morning and they’ll be ready to get going. And I think everybody’s really, extremely excited about it.” Bernard said whether or not the Canadian government “approves” of her nation’s fishery in Lobster Fishing Area 24 (LFA 24) is not her concern.

'We're trying to do this a good way, in the right way, and we shouldn't be penalized for that. In some ways I think that we are,' Chief Bernard said.
‘We’re trying to do this in a good way, in the right way, and we shouldn’t be penalized for that. In some ways I think that we are,’ Bernard said. (Nicola MacLeod/CBC)

“What the DFO needs to do on their side to appease whoever they need to appease… We don’t need DFO’s traps or tags and we don’t need their permission,” she said. “I’d like to have an understanding with them… All we’re trying to do here is to practise our rights.”

‘The constraint’

Both DFO and the federal minister responsible for it, Joyce Murray, acknowledge the Mi’kmaw right to fish for a moderate livelihood — first cemented in treaties in the 1700s and affirmed and later clarified by the Supreme Court of Canada.  But the federal department has been trying to implement moderate livelihood (or treaty-protected) fisheries by buying up commercial licences in various regions and redistributing them to First Nations, so that the same amount of lobster ends up coming out of Atlantic waters.

Banking licences that people have been putting on the market… that depends on there being willing sellers at a market price. That is sometimes the constraint.— Federal Fisheries Minister Joyce Murray

When asked if DFO had been able to buy additional licences to support Lennox Island’s plans to fish 1,000 traps in LFA 24 in 2023, the minister said: “We’re working on that.” Murray told CBC News in an April 14 interview: “Banking licences that people have been putting on the market… that depends on there being willing sellers at a market price.

A woman smiles at the camera. People can be seen gathering in the background.
Federal Fisheries Minister Joyce Murray said it’s not easy for DFO to acquire commercial lobster licences that are being sold when someone retires from fishing or gets out of the business. (Paul Withers/CBC)

“That is sometimes the constraint and DFO, our [regional director general] and his team, do their utmost to find that capacity that each [First] Nation is looking for — and sometimes it takes a little bit of time.”

‘My position hasn’t changed’

Bernard said she has informed the regional director of Lennox Island’s plans. They knew exactly where I was coming from last year and my position hasn’t changed and it’s not going to change… If you want to protect rights, you have to practise them. You can’t shelve them,” she said. “I hope that everyone will respect our right to a treaty-protected fishery and be open-minded about what we’re trying to do here.”

Lennox Island's wharf had no boats on Monday, but by Saturday it will be busy with the boats of both the nation's commercial and treaty lobster fisheries.
Lennox Island’s wharf was bare of boats on Monday, but by Saturday it will be packed with the boats of the nation’s commercial crews as well as the treaty lobster fishing crews. (Nicola MacLeod/CBC)

Some First Nations in the Maritimes have opted to strike deals and sign Rights Reconciliation Agreements with the federal government in pursuit of greater autonomy in their fisheries. For example, Abegweit First Nation announced its Collaborative Fisheries Management Agreement alongside Murray and DFO officials earlier this month in Scotchfort, P.E.I.

Bernard said she did not have her community’s blessing to go that route. “If I signed the agreement, we would get money, but we wouldn’t be able to launch those 10 boats for those thousand traps for our young people and my community.

We’re not going to sign any agreements unless they are respectful of rights.— Lennox Island Chief Darlene Bernard

“I’ve had numerous, numerous engagements with [my community] over that last year,” she said. “We’re not going to sign any agreements unless they are respectful of rights.”

Some employees of DFO are now taking part in the Public Service Alliance of Canada strike, but in an April 14 email to CBC News, officials said: “Lennox Island First Nation expressed their intent to carry out a treaty-protected fishery again this year. DFO continues working with the First Nation on implementing this request.”

Lennox Island again plans for its treaty fishery to be contained within the dates of the commercial season, which is scheduled to open on Saturday in LFA 24.


Nicola MacLeod, Nicola is a graduate of St. Thomas University’s journalism program and grew up on P.E.I., where she is happy to be a reporter and producer online, on radio and on television. Got a story? Email

April 28, 2023

Fed. Govt., PE

Lennox Island, DFO agree on 2023 moderate livelihood lobster fishery off P.E.I.

PEIFA critical, says DFO tried to buy back licences but was unwilling to pay the price

'We're trying to do this a good way, in the right way, and we shouldn't be penalized for that. In some ways I think that we are,' Chief Bernard said.
Officials with Fisheries and Oceans Canada say an interim understanding was reached with Lennox Island on Wednesday. (Nicola MacLeod/CBC)

CBC News: The Department of Fisheries and Oceans says it has reached an “understanding” with Lennox Island First Nation for a treaty-protected lobster fishery off P.E.I.’s North Shore for the 2023 spring season.

In a statement to CBC News, DFO says the one-year interim understanding was reached on Wednesday. The band had said its boats would begin to set about 1,000 lobster traps on Saturday — with or without DFO approval. “The Government of Canada is committed to advancing First Nations’ Supreme Court-affirmed treaty right to fish,” DFO officials said in a statement sent to CBC News on Friday. “Designated community members are authorized to fish up to 1,000 traps total in Lobster Fishing Area (LFA) 24 during the spring 2023 commercial lobster season… This approach is being used on an interim basis for this season only.”

The First Nation launched its inaugural treaty (or moderate livelihood) fishery in the 2022 spring lobster season, striking a similar one-year interim understanding with DFO days after setting traps. The 2022 terms saw Lennox Island harvest 300 lobster traps in LFA 24 in the spring season and 700 traps in LFA 25 in the fall, but Lennox Island Chief Darlene Bernard was transparent about her community’s intention to fish all 1,000 traps from its own North Shore harbour in the more lucrative spring season in 2023.

Chief Darlene Bernard of the Lennox Island First Nation says fishing 1,000 traps in LFA 24 as part of the spring lobster season is the will of her community.
Chief Darlene Bernard of the Lennox Island First Nation had said she was not concerned about getting DFO approval of her nations’ treaty fishery this spring. (Nicola MacLeod/CBC)

“Just as we did last year, our management plan voluntarily follows the current DFO regulations and DFO will not be interfering with our treaty fishery,” Bernard said in a statement to CBC Friday afternoon.  “Other than that, there was no deal signed with DFO.”

Unsuccessful attempt to buy licences

The Mi’kmaw right to fish for a moderate livelihood was affirmed by the Supreme Court of Canada in the 1999 Marshall decision, based on treaties signed between the First Nations and the Crown in the 1700s. Since then, the Canadian government has worked to increase access for First Nations to get into the lobster fishery, typically through buying out commercial licences and re-distributing them to First Nations. That means no additional lobster is coming out of the sea, in net terms.

The P.E.I. Fisherman’s Association said these buy-backs were attempted to offset Lennox Island’s fishery this year, but DFO was unsuccessful, leaving the association “disappointed and frustrated.”

PEIFA Executive Director Molly Aylward says the association's position is that no more lobster should come out of gulf waters.
PEIFA executive director Molly Aylward says the association’s position is that no more lobster should come out of Gulf waters. (Nicola MacLeod/CBC)

“We’ve known since last year that Lennox Island First Nation would like to fish an additional 700 traps in Malpeque Bay and efforts were in place to try to purchase that access, but that hasn’t happened,” said Molly Aylward, the PEIFA’s executive director. “Our mandate is ‘One licence in, one licence out,’ and we stand behind that.”

The association said DFO did solicit lobster boat captains who were potentially interested in selling a licence in LFA 24 — where Lennox Island has its own wharf — through a series of letters sent out starting in February.

“There were people that were interested in selling, but the the price was above the threshold that DFO was willing to pay,” Aylward said, adding that while sales of fishing gear are private, licences on P.E.I.’s North Shore allowing a person to set about 300 traps can sell in the $1.2-million to $1.5-million range.

In January, fishers told CBC News that some licences are now selling for up to $1.8 million. “All that we know is that the expressions of interest that came in to DFO were above the threshold,” Aylward said. The PEIFA also said the timing of the offers was late for fishers to make such a “life-changing decision”.

It increases the pressure on the resource in a particular area and that’s always of concern.— Molly Aylward, PEIFA executive director

The PEIFA made alternative suggestions to the department, including offering fishers the chance to sell some traps from within their licence or allowing for the leasing of licences to the First Nation. Aylward said DFO rejected those suggestions and the PEIFA’s understanding is that DFO has authorized the fishery in Lennox Island by reallocating unused licences from another fishing area.

“Lobster stocks in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence are considered healthy,” DFO officials said in their statement. “The interim understanding for this fishery falls within the available access across spring lobster fishing areas in the Gulf Region and takes into account the health of the stock … Following the end of the fishing season, DFO will be launching another expression of interest for the voluntary relinquishment of licences in LFA 24 in July 2023.”

Fishing boat lies alongside a wharf.
Lennox Island treaty fishers began their first foray into the fall lobster fishery in August 2022, fishing 700 traps out of Borden. (Brian Higgins/CBC)

But Aylward said DFO sanctioning the fishery without taking other traps out of the water is not an approach it supports. “It increases the pressure on the resource in a particular area and that’s always of concern to the PEIFA,” Aylward said.

Lobster Fishing Area 24, along the province’s North Shore, has about 190,000 traps set in total each spring, and new licences are typically not created. Back in 2020, non-Indigenous and Indigenous fishing crews clashed over the Sipekne’katik First Nations moderate livelihood fishery in Nova Scotia’s St. Mary’s Bay — eventually resulting in violence, torched vehicles and fires.

When asked whether there is potential for equal tensions in LFA 24 as Lennox Island proceeds with its fishery, Aylward said there was. But she added: “The PEIFA stands for peace on the water and safety and that’s our priority.” Lennox Island’s treaty fishery will align with the commercial season, which opens Saturday.

Five-year plan for Abegweit

Earlier this month, Abegweit First Nation based in the Scotchfort area of P.E.I. signed a five-year fisheries deal with DFO.

Bernard said Lennox Island tried to negotiate a similar deal but was unsuccessful. “While the agreement had language that recognized our right, it also had language that said we could not exercise our right without the minister’s permission,” she said.  “As a leader, I would never sign such an agreement that would not allow our First Nation to exercise our right to self-determination.”


Nicola MacLeod, Nicola is a graduate of St. Thomas University’s journalism program and grew up on P.E.I., where she is happy to be a reporter and producer online, on radio and on television. Got a story? Email

April 16, 2023

Fed. Govt.

Lucrative baby eel fishery shut down

Federal agency shelves elver production for 45 days amid poaching and safety concerns

Young eels, or elvers, are shipped live to Asian markets such as China and Japan. They have become a prized commodity for commercial and First Nations fishers, with prices reaching $5,000 per kilogram in 2022.

Toronto Star: Federal fisheries officials shut down the lucrative baby eel fishery in the Maritimes on Saturday amid growing concerns of illegal poaching and violence. Fisheries and Oceans Canada said the elver fishery in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick would be closed for 45 days, effective immediately, due to conservation and safety concerns.

“Conflicts have escalated to violence and threats, risking the safety of harvesters and constituting a threat to the proper management and control of the fishery,” the federal department said in a statement. “Closing the elver fishery is a required response to address these combined risks.”

The young eels, or elvers, are shipped live to Asian markets such as China and Japan, where they are grown for food. Under 10 centimetres in length, the majority of elvers are caught with small fixed gear called dip nets that are set or operated by hand. They have become a prized commodity for commercial and First Nations fishers, with prices reaching $5,000 per kilogram in 2022. The American Eel was designated as threatened by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada in 2012.

The federal fisheries department said it stepped up monitoring of the fishery in recent weeks, including patrolling rivers, inspecting holding facilities and conducting surveillance and inspections at airports and border crossings. The extensive monitoring led to multiple seizures and arrests and showed that unreported removals account for a significant proportion of elver landings, it said. “All elver harvesting is now prohibited and subject to enforcement action,” the department said. “DFO will continue to work closely with the RCMP and local police to monitor and address criminal activity and reports of threats, intimidation, or violence.”

Conservative MP Rick Perkins, who represents the Nova Scotia riding of South Shore-St. Margaret’s, said it’s no secret what is driving what many believe is a spike in poaching this year. “Anywhere that you get something that’s $5,000 a kilogram and pretty cheap and easy to fish, you run the risk (of poaching),” Perkins said in an interview on Wednesday. “It’s become a free-for-all.”

Perkins, fellow Nova Scotia Conservative MP Chris d’Entremont and the party’s fisheries critic, Clifford Small, signed a letter sent to federal Fisheries Minister Joyce Murray last week that called for her department to “immediately enforce the law and stop all illegal elver fishing to conserve the stock and prevent violence on the rivers in Nova Scotia.”

The letter from the Tory MPs followed concerns voiced earlier this month by the Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi’kmaw Chiefs over the fishery’s safety. “We had previously expressed concerns to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans about the safety of our harvesters in this region,” said Chief Gerald Toney, fisheries co-lead for the assembly. “DFO appears to be doing little to

The fisheries department said its officers had conducted 741 patrols of rivers from March 13 to April 10, resulting in the seizure of 35.8 kg of elvers control unlawful elver harvest activity and to make sure our Kespukwitk fishers are safe from violence. This is unacceptable, and it is time that federal officers start taking steps to ensure the safety of all.” Toney could not be reached for further comment.

On Thursday, Nova Scotia RCMP said two men were facing charges following an attack linked to the elver fishery in Hubbards, N.S., on the southern outskirts of Halifax. Police allege a man was approached by a group of seven people and was assaulted with a pipe by one of the assailants. On Friday, police said the alleged victim of the assault has also been charged with uttering threats before the assault.

The fisheries department said its officers had conducted 741 patrols of rivers from March 13 to April 10, resulting in the seizure of 35.8 kilograms of elvers. That total includes 25 kilograms seized at the Halifax International Airport on April 5. To date, the department said it has seized 21 nets, storage equipment and an all-terrain vehicle and a trailer, in addition to arresting 12 people and issuing one summary offence ticket for violations of the Fisheries Act.

The illegal activity has added to growing tensions over allocations for the 2023 fishing season, which runs from March until June.

For the second consecutive year, the federal government gave Indigenous fishers 14 per cent of the commercial quota as it looks to increase their access to the fishery in recognition of a treaty right to make a moderate living from fishing. The total allowable catch is 9,960 kilograms — a limit that has been in place since 2005.

October 29, 2021


Manitoba Métis Section 35 rights

Manitoba Métis Federation – The MMF will be taking the Government of Manitoba to court as a result of Manitoba’s continued attempts to disregard the Manitoba Métis, also known as the Red River Métis, section 35 rights. The MMF also commits to supporting any Métis moose harvesting parties that are wrongfully charged by Manitoba conservation officers. his court case comes after the Government of Manitoba’s repeated attempts to hold the Manitoba Métis inherent right to harvest in the Duck and Porcupine Mountains hostage to unreasonable and unconstitutional restrictions. These harvesting restrictions were developed by the Government of Manitoba without consulting with the MMF and fail to sufficiently protect the rights of Indigenous harvesters.

This action is part of our overall three-pronged approach to protect our inherent right to hunt in the Duck and Porcupine Mountains,” said MMF President Chartrand.

  • “The first prong directly challenges Manitoba’s unconstitutional restrictions of our collective rights;
  • “The second prong is to protect our harvesters who followed our Métis conservation laws but were charged by Manitoba for hunting moose and feeding our families in our traditional ways;
  • “The third is to obtain redress from both Manitoba and Canada for the human and civil rights infractions they made against our harvesters, including an Elder and Youth, by treating them like criminals.”

In addition to imposing unconstitutional restrictions, the Government of Manitoba unilaterally developed a “shared management” process under section 81.1 of The Wildlife Act. This proposed approach has the effect of subjecting the exercise of constitutionally-protected Indigenous harvesting rights to the approval of non-Indigenous hunters. This approach does not satisfy the constitutional protections discussed by the Supreme Court of Canada in cases such as R v. Sparrow, which affirmed that Indigenous peoples must have a priority to harvest wildlife for sustenance and traditional purposes, subject only to measures necessary to conservation.

April 3, 2023


Matawa Chiefs Council issue formal Response to Ontario Government’s Proposed Bill 71 – Building more Mines Act

Ontario prepares itself to Boom on Mining and Critical Minerals while minimizing Environmental Oversight and Avoiding Crown Responsibilities to First Nations across the North

NationTalk: MATAWA TRADITIONAL TERRITORIES AND HOMELANDS: As the Matawa member First Nations have taken time to review and consider the impacts of Ontario’s Bill 71 – Building More Mines Act introduced in Queen’s Park on March 2, 2023 by Mines Minister, the Honourable George Pirie, Matawa Chiefs Council issued a formal response to the Standing Committee on the Interior in advance of Standing Committee hearings which will be held this week in Timmins (April 5) and Sudbury (April 6). Some key points of the formal response included:

  1. Matawa member First Nations were informed of amendments – not consulted.
  2. ‘Recovery’ Permits are potentially avoiding the duty to consult and accommodate, avoiding historic grievances and new revenue interests in closed mines now being reassessed and returned to production.
  3. Potential ‘Fox guarding the henhouse’ scenario developing across Ontario as mines will be self-monitoring or privatized on mine closure plans. Mine closure plans are required in order for mines to open, and chart the course of responsibility for the mine when a mine is closed.
  4. The proposed Ontario Mining Act amendments proposed by Bill 71 impact Northern First Nations including communities located in the remote Far North. The Standing Committee on this issue are holding hearings only in Timmins and Sudbury.
  5. The cumulative impact of speeding up the mining cycle in Ontario – to the benefit of industry and investors – will place the burden onto First Nations Councils, administrations and finances. The Province of Ontario must be held accountable for this exploitive and aggressive approach contrary to the principles of reconciliation and the Spirit and Intent of Treaty.


  • The Matawa Chiefs Council close the statement marking the need for Ontarians to understand the cumulative wholesale legislative, policy and regulatory changes (“the legislative bulldozer”) that have been made in incremental phases on all aspects of the Ontario lands legislations.
  • A legislative, legal and public relations strategy prepared by the Crown employed lawyers of the Province of Ontario has been planned and deployed before our eyes.
  • The Matawa member First Nations maintain the position that we have an interest in all aspects of resource development including mining and the extraction of the minerals and other strategic and critical resources from our traditional territories and homelands including the Ring of Fire Region.
  • The Province of Ontario has yet to make any substantive effort to communicate or include the meaningful participation of the Matawa member First Nations as a collective region, despite a very aggressive legislative and public agenda to access our traditional territories and homelands.


Based on a review of the Ontario Geological Survey (OGS) Report of Activities 2021 across the districts of interest to Matawa member First Nations as a region, beneficiaries of Treaty No. 9 and members of Nishnawbe Aski Nation the following is true [Thunder Bay North, Thunder Bay South, Red Lake, Timmins, Kirkland Lake]:

  • The James Bay Treaty No. 9 territory currently supports 11 operating mines and a workforce of 7,832 direct employees or contractors.
  • The recovery permit amendments will provide the mining industry access to an estimated 295 closed mines across the province of Ontario that may never have been part of the duty to consult process, and the source of historic environmental grievances and exclusion of First Nations revenue share interests.
  • The James Bay Treaty No. 9 territory has identified 13 critical minerals that are of specific interest to the governments of Ontario, Canada, USA, EU, Australia, UK, Japan, China and Korea.
  • In terms of exploration across the Matawa region and the James Bay Treaty No. 9 territory – 118/188 sites are of interest to the Matawa Chiefs Council, and 51 sites are critical minerals.

— 30 —

For more information, please contact; Carol Audet, Matawa Communications Manager at or 1-807-632-9663

February 23, 2022

Fed. Govt., ON

Matawa Chiefs Council Opposition to the Regional Assessment for the Ring of Fire

Feb. 23, 2022: The Matawa Chiefs Council and Matawa First Nations Management (MFNM) – representing (9) member First Nations call on Canada to begin the collaboration, negotiations and investment process – in partnership with Matawa member First Nations – to maximize the benefits of the development of the north. 

The land Ontario refers to as the Far North is predominantly land subject to the James Bay Treaty # 9 (1905-06 and 1929-30).

The written submission made a specific recommendation for the establishment of a Matawa/Canada Northern Development Table with Minister of Crown Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs, the Honourable Marc Miller designated the lead federal Minister to work with Matawa member First Nations with the demands of the government of Ontario and the mining industry secondary.

The Matawa Chiefs Council are assessing the proposed draft Agreement between Canada and Ontario for the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada (IAAC) Regional Assessment for the Ring of Fire, and the current approach to exclude Matawa member First Nations as a recognized Treaty partner and potential ‘Indigenous governing body’ to have a directing and decision-making role alongside Canada and Ontario is unacceptable. 

Canada and Ontario’s maneuvering on the Regional Assessment is the start of the failure of promises made to Indigenous Rights Holders under Bill C-69 (Royal Assent, 2019) to overhaul the environmental legislation of Canada as well as the upcoming implementation of Bill C-15 the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act (Royal Assent, 2021).

As part of its own internal work to date on the development of the north and the emerging new northern Ontario economy, the Matawa Chiefs Council, Matawa First Nations Management Board of Directors, CEO and staff have continued to identify and work on the priority areas such as:

  • Regional infrastructure and economic opportunity investments; and
  • Planning for the tangible improvements to Matawa member First Nation quality of life, high cost of living, and lack of services currently delivered on-reserve; and
  • Regional and local financial management supports and investment planning; and
  • Significant capacity building within the Matawa region in health, health co-op, physician and nursing services, and child welfare and family supports within the MFNM organization and programs/services umbrella; and
  • Strategic regional education, employment and training initiatives related to supporting First Nations communities and industry partners to prepare for specific and specialized job opportunities; and
  • Regional ecological and environmental initiatives that ensure the best science and technology are used in the remote north.

“The Matawa Chiefs Council have consistently stated the position that the development of the North including the Ring of Fire mineral deposit will require the participation of our people of the Matawa First Nations, the governments of Canada and Ontario, industry and investors to maximize the potential multi-generational benefits that are anticipated.” says David Paul Achneepineskum, CEO of Matawa “Now is the time for Canada to demonstrate its commitment to reconciliation and the implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in its approach to its relationship with the Matawa First Nations, Canada’s economic recovery and major project development.”

– David Paul Achneepineskum, CEO, Matawa First Nations Management

November 17, 2022

Fed. Govt., ON

Matawa chiefs push back against U.S. military agenda in the Ring of Fire

First Nation leaders demand a big say over any industrial development on their James Bay homelands 

First Peoples Law Report: Northern Ontario Business Staff Nov 17, 2022 1:00 PM

(Webequie Supply Road photo)

Toronto media reports about talks between the U.S. military, mining interests and government about funding development in the Ring of Fire has angered Indigenous communities in Ontario’s Far North.

The leadership of the Matawa First Nations are asserting their sovereignty, rights and jurisdiction over their traditional territories in the mineral-rich James Bay region. Chiefs from across Ontario met this week at their fall assembly in Toronto and are lending their support.

In a news release, the Matawa Chiefs’ Council contend that while Queen’s Park, Ottawa and Washington are devising their “resource development agendas” to develop a domestic critical minerals supply chain for their strategic and national security interests, the rights and interests of the James Bay communities will not be ignored.

“The agenda must be First Nations-driven and not determined by government, industry and environmental interests only,” said Marten Falls Chief Bruce Achneepineskum in a statement. His community is one of two proponents of a road network into the remote area of the province.

The signatories to a statement released by Matawa include communities supporting industrial development in the Ring of Fire and those against.

The council represents nine Indigenous communities in northwestern Ontario and the area of the James Bay region where, potentially, road-building and mine construction could take place in an area that has never had industrial development. Engineering and environmental assessments are currently underway.

In a statement, Neskantaga First Nation Chief Wayne Moonias said, “as rights holders in our homelands,” it is “imperative” that the voices of his membership and their community protocols be respected.

“First Nations are waiting for the Government of Canada and the Province of Ontario to demonstrate the proper respect and for an appropriate government-to-government relationship and dialogue to be established,” Moonias said in a news release.

In one media report, discussions with the Pentagon was acknowledged by Wyloo Metals chief executive Luca Giacovazzi. Australian-based Wyloo is the parent company of the former Noront Resources, now dubbed Ring of Fire Metals, the most advanced exploration company operating in the region.

Media reports say these discussions are related to the Biden Administration’s eagerness to establish a North American supply chain of critical minerals like nickel, copper and platinum group metals that feed the electric vehicle battery manufacturers and the high tech industry to counter international threats from China.

Eabametoong Chief Sol Atlookan said the rights and interests of his members “will be respected,” especially if road and mine development presents risks that changes their homelands. He wants a new approach with “shared decision-making and real commitment to positive generational change driven by our people.”

In the statement, the Matawa Chiefs Council said with the constantly evolving situation with the Ring of Fire, they reserve the right to “continually reassess positions and statements as required in order to protect and implement the rights and interests of their members”

June 13, 2022

Fed. Govt., ON

Matawa Chiefs’ Council work towards solidifying approach to Ring Of Fire Regional Environment Assessment

NationTalk: TORONTO, ON: Chiefs of the Matawa First Nations of Northern Ontario announced today they are working towards solidifying a regional approach to the federal Impact Assessment (IA) in the Ring of Fire. This announcement was made during the Matawa Chiefs Council’s participation in the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada’s 2022 convention which was hosted in person in Toronto from June 13-15 and online from June 28-29.

In addition to  previous approaches to work with federal/provincial governments on the issue—some of the areas they are reviewing, amongst others, are: Constitutional level impacts, previous work on decision-making, strengthening relationships with other First Nations who share the same watershed, community and other reports on the matter, and their 2021 call for meaningful and significant inclusion of First Nations in the federal Impact Assessment Agency process for the proposed Ring of Fire development Regional Assessment which, to-date, has not been answered.

As part of their meeting that took place on June 11 and 12, 2022, the Matawa Chiefs Council are looking at jointly run studies and a process that focus on the ‘big picture’ of multiple projects throughout shared lands. They also discussed how they can work collaboratively to form a committee/Indigenous Governing Body/Commission to oversee and co-lead the Regional Assessment and how they can move forward with an opportunity to involve communities together in a new way on a core set of priorities and objectives. They discussed how the work would potentially link to national or international obligations, such as climate change commitments and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). They also discussed ways a regional assessment process can be set up for the people from the Matawa communities to have an opportunity for a direct voice in a different way that they have in the past.

While no decisions have yet been made, the Matawa Chiefs Council will be continuing their discussions on the regional approach at their 34th Annual General Meeting scheduled to take place in Webequie First Nation from July 26 – 28, 2022.

“Ginoogaming First Nation is a signatory to Treaty #9 historically as Long Lake #77,  and will participate within the Spirit and Intent of Treaty #9 to share the land and resources. Although now that the Federal and Provincial governments hide behind non-derogation clauses and process, it is important for our People to begin taking a position on lands and resources based on Treaty.”

– Chief Sheri Taylor, Ginoogaming First Nation

“We fully understand that it is not just 1 corridor is needed to be opened for mining, it’s really a thousand corridors that will open from that 1 corridor.  Because there isn’t a road into our territory—our People are free to live our Anishinabek identity. We need Mother Nature to be intact to nurture us in our healing from colonization in Canada.”

— Ogamakan Michael Sugarhead, Nibinamik First Nation

“We will not lose our voice for the land. We will not give up on our responsibility to speak and advocate for the land which forms our way of life. Any changes to it will be irreversible and we take that very seriously because losing our land to development has great potential to be tantamount to the genocide of our People. We want a process that respects First Nations’ protocols and our People need to have a direct voice.”

— Chief Wayne Moonias, Neskantaga First Nation

“A re-focus on how impact and environmental assessments are done in northern Ontario is needed. A decade has passed since we began talking about the Ring of Fire, and from our perspective, we are nowhere near resolution on the matter. Canada’s reconciling of their relationship with Indigenous People must include the stopping of its continued infringement of Inherent, Aboriginal, and Treaty rights.”

— Chief Ramona Sutherland, Constance Lake First Nation

February 15, 2023

Fed. Govt., NB

Mi’kmaw First Nations expand Aboriginal title claim to include almost all of N.B.

Claim expands on 2016 Elsipogtog claim that covered a third of province

CBC News:

Two maps side by side, one highighting a third of the province and the other nearly all of it.
The map on the left shows the Aboriginal title claim made by Elsipogtog in 2016, while the one on the right shows the claim made by the other eight Mi’kmaw communities represented by MTI. (CBC)

Mi’kmaw communities in New Brunswick are once again asserting Aboriginal title to land in the province — and it’s a lot more land than in the previous claim.  In fact, according to a map released on Wednesday, the most recent claim covers nearly all of the province and even extends into offshore water. Together with a previously made Wolastoqey claim, the entire province now falls under title claim, according to a government spokesperson.

Eight Mi’kmaw communities in New Brunswick represented by Mi’gmawe’l Tplu’taqnn Inc. “are formally asserting title to lands and waters in New Brunswick,” according to a news release from MTI on Wednesday. The group said the move is “another step in the process to reasserting jurisdiction over lands and waters within our territory. This is a step towards self-determination and full recognition of our rights.”

The claim builds on a 2016 action by Elsipogtog First Nation, a Mi’kmaw community formerly called Big Cove.  The new claim represents the other eight Mi’kmaw communities in the province, explained Dean Vicaire, executive director for MTI. 

A map of New Brunswick that shows an area almost as big as the province, and that extends into offshore waters.
Eight Mi’kmaw communities in New Brunswick represented by Mi’gmawe’l Tplu’taqnn Inc. are asserting title to lands and waters in New Brunswick, indicated by the horizontal lines. (Submitted by Mi’gmawe’l Tplu’taqnn Inc.)

According to the news release, MTI says the Mi’kmaw never ceded the lands and waters under treaties signed by their ancestors.  “The Peace and Friendship Treaties were signed by our ancestors with the intention that we would have a say and role in how our lands and waters are managed. We can no longer sit back and be spectators in our homeland. It’s now the time to govern lands for the protection and benefit of future generations,” said Chief Rebecca Knockwood of Amlamgog First Nation.

Although the Mi’kmaw are claiming title over the whole province, MTI said “we are not seeking the return of private lands to Mi’gmaq ownership, only Crown lands and industrial freehold lands.

Chief George Ginnish of Natoaganeg said private landowners in New Brunswick need not worry.  “We are not looking at taking your homes, cottages, or properties. Our assertion of title is against the Crown and a small number of companies using industrial freehold lands in which the Crown still asserts an interest. We will be seeking compensation from the Crown for the loss of use of private lands,” said Ginnish, according to the news release.

The release also acknowledges an “overlap” in the territory claimed by the Mi’kmaw with that claimed by the Wolastoqiyik.

“Overlap discussions with the Wolastoqiyik have already commenced,” stated the release.  “We have also shared this map with Elsipogtog and the Migmawei Mawiomi Secretariat. Title belongs to the Mi’gmaq Nation and will work with other Mi’gmaq organizations to coordinate our efforts at recognition of Mi’gmaq title.”

“For thousands of years our nations and communities have worked together to identify lands that would be used and shared for hunting, fishing, and development. Any overlaps between the assertion of titles will be resolved among the Nations,” said Chief Sacha Labillois of Ugpi’ganjig, according to the news release.

Chief Bill Ward of Metepenagiag said if the government of New Brunswick isn’t willing to have ‘meaningful discussions around our Mi’gmaw title, MTI will explore other options for recognition, which could include going to court.’ (Logan Perley/CBC)

Chief Bill Ward of Metepenagiag said if the government of New Brunswick is “unwilling to have meaningful discussions around our Mi’gmaq title, MTI will explore other options for recognition, which could include going to court.”  Vicaire said MTI will only go to court if the province is “unwilling to sit down and engage in meaningful, good faith negotiations around the recognition and implementation of Mi’gmaq title. Canada has already indicated their willingness to negotiate recognition of our title.” He said MTI has already asked the province to negotiate. 

“The Government of Canada has indicated they are willing to discuss title,” said Vicaire. “Going to court is always an option but we hope the Government of New Brunswick will be willing to negotiate in good faith and those negotiations can start soon. We’ll see how the process unfolds.”

Claims now encompass entire province

The New Brunswick Department of Aboriginal Affairs said it was just notified about the claim. “The Province will review this development in the coming days and weeks,” said department spokesperson David Kelly. “The Province will address the Mi’gmaq’s position in due course and as part of that process must consider how it implicates the current claim by the Wolastoqey to land that is in the Mi’gmaq map area.

“As a result of the Mi’gmaq’s position, there are First Nation claims against all land in New Brunswick. First Nations are claiming the entire Province of New Brunswick, including the majority of the Bay of Fundy and the Northumberland Strait.”

Previous claims in N.B.

In 2016, Elsipogtog First Nation filed for Aboriginal title over nearly one-third of New Brunswick on behalf of all Mi’kmaq in the province. With the claim expanded to nearly all of the province, if granted, it would give the Mi’kmaq more say in nearly all of the province’s natural resources.

At the time, Elsipogtog members said the action was motivated by fears of shale gas exploration clashes like the one that ensued between protesters and police in Rexton, near Elsipogtog, in October 2013. More than 40 people were arrested during the protests.  In 2019, the federal government and Elsipogtog First Nation signed a memorandum of understanding that was supposed to launch discussions about the Mi’kmaw claim of Aboriginal title to a third of New Brunswick.

The Wolastoqey nations filed a similar title claim in 2020. That claim alleges the province is not upholding the Peace and Friendship Treaties signed in what is now Maine, New Hampshire, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia between 1725 and 1779. According to the federal department of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada, “Aboriginal peoples did not surrender rights to land or resources” in those treaties.

The Six Chiefs of the Wolastoqey Nation in New Brunswick issued a statement in response to the newly released map.  It says, “the overlap between the title asserted by MTI and the title claimed by the Wolastoqey Nation has been the topic of discussions between the respective leadership groups and we are working towards a Wampum Agreement regarding the overlap area with our neighbours.”

The statement said the discussions, “like our collaboration on many matters, have been open, friendly and productive.” It also states, “We wish to amplify today’s call from the Mi’gmaw chiefs: It’s time for the Government of New Brunswick to see the importance of negotiating recognition and implementation of Indigenous title.”


Mia Urquhart, Mia Urquhart is a journalist with CBC New Brunswick, based in Saint John. She can be reached at

April 26, 2023

BC, Fed. Govt.

New agreements between First Nations and B.C. government a step toward fulfilling Canada’s treaty obligations

Blueberry River First Nation Chief Judy Desjarlais (middle) called her nation’s agreement with the province a “historic moment.” (Flickr/Province of British Columbia), CC BY-NC-ND

First Peoples Law Report: The Conversation – Treaty 8 First Nations and the government of British Columbia have recently concluded two historical agreements on Treaty Land Entitlement and land and resource management.  These agreements are expected to better honour the provincial government’s treaty obligations, significantly change how land is managed and how natural resources are developed in the First Nations’ traditional territories. 

Yahey v. British Columbia

The agreements were signed in January as a result of the verdict of the Yahey v. B.C. case. In 2015, Blueberry River First Nation sued the B.C. government for failing to adequately address the effects of industrial development in the nation’s traditional territory.

Oil and gas extraction, logging, mining, construction of hydroelectric power plants, roads and pipelines and other disturbances have had a detrimental impact on the land, ecosystem and the ability of Indigenous people to live their daily lives and maintain their cultural practices.

Treaty 8 encompasses an area of more than 841,000 square kilometres. It comprises parts of northeastern British Columbia, northern Alberta and portions of Saskatchewan and the Northwest Territories. It is the largest land area covered by a treaty in Canada.

A map of Western Canada showing land covered by different treaties.
A map of Western Canada showing the area of Treaty 8 shaded in green. (Native Land Digital)

Treaty 8 created reciprocal rights and obligations, which the province violated by allowing industrial development without seeking the Nations’ approval. In 2021, the B.C. Supreme Court sided with Blueberry River First Nation, saying that by authorizing industrial development, the province breached its treaty obligation to the First Nation and failed to ensure that they could keep living according to their traditional mode of life. 

Read more: What a landmark court victory for B.C. First Nation means for Indigenous rights and resource development

Restoration fund

The new agreement signed with Blueberry River First Nation provides economic compensation for land restoration activities. A $200 million restoration fund is to be established by June 2025 to support land restoration efforts after decades of industrial exploitation. Moreover, the agreement provides for an ecosystem-based management approach for future land-use planning in Blueberry River First Nation’s most culturally relevant areas, and also limits new oil and gas development projects.

A man in a suit sitting in front of a Canadian flag.
Marc Miller, the federal minister of Crown-Indigenous relations, says the Canadian government has disrespected the First Nations for 100 years. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

The individual agreements signed with other Treaty 8 First Nations share the same commitments. The province and First Nations agree to work together to honour Treaty 8, heal the land and ensure certainty for natural resource development in the region.

Honouring Treaty 8 is at the core of another historical agreement recently concluded by the federal government and five Treaty 8 First Nations: Blueberry River, Doig River, Halfway River, West Moberly and Saulteau.  The Treaty Land Entitlement agreement solves a long-lasting claim on lands that were not assigned to First Nations when they signed Treaty 8 in 1899

It gives back 443 square kilometres of land to five Treaty 8 Nations while ensuring a $800 million payment from the federal government. Marc Miller, the federal minister of Crown-Indigenous relations, called the payment “a bill that has gone unpaid for more than 100 years by the government of Canada.”

Resource exploitation

Northeastern B.C. is expected to experience a significant boom in resource exploitation activities in the near future due to the abundance of gas in the Montney Play. Montney Play is one of the biggest shale gas formations in Canada and a large portion of the traditional territory of the Blueberry and Doig River First Nations is located in the Montney Play.

Blueberry River First Nation in northeastern B.C. sits on top of a vast reservoir of natural gas that companies want to extract and sell.

Montney Play has also been characterized as Canada’s largest carbon bombs, due to the emissions it could generate if it’s exploited. If such a scenario becomes reality, Canada will most likely miss its climate goals, which are already at risk of being unmet.

Read more: How a Supreme Court case could decide the future of Canadian climate policy

B.C. is already experiencing massive industrial development elsewhere. Major projects such as the Site C Dam and the Coastal GasLink pipeline are expected to be completed in the next few years.  In addition, two Indigenous-led liquefied natural gas projects will likely be realized: an LNG facility proposed by the Haisla Nation, and another proposed by the Nisga’a Nation. 

Incorporating UNDRIP

These massive developments are taking place at a time when the B.C. and federal governments are working to implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).  B.C. passed its Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act in 2019. The act establishes UNDRIP as a framework for reconciliation and is to be implemented according to an 89-point action plan

The federal government passed the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act in 2021 and has released a draft Action Plan for its implementation. The plan, still under development, has not received the approval of First Nations

Without a clear action plan and legislation in place, the implementation of UNDRIP could be jeopardized, with one of its most important principles at risk: the free prior and informed consent of Indigenous communities (FPIC). This is currently happening in B.C., where FPIC implementation is fragmented. Some First Nations are successfully implementing FPIC amid newly approved development projects. Other nations are going to court to demand that FPIC be implemented

Years from now, it will be possible to reflect on what’s happening and have better information to evaluate. For the time being, implementing UNDRIP and the principle of informed consent is essential. It makes it possible to assess whether UNDRIP is being implemented properly while reflecting on what the future in northern B.C. will look like.


Giuseppe Amatulli: Postdoctoral fellow, School of Public Policy & Administration, Carleton University

Disclosure statement

Giuseppe Amatulli is a Post-doctoral Fellow in the Rebuilding First Nations Governance (RFNG) project at Carleton University. This applied action research project is supported and funded by several First Nations and a $2.5M SSHRC Partnership Grant. Previously, Amatulli received funding for his PhD from The Leverhulme Trust, through the Durham ARCTIC PhD Programme at Durham University, UK.

May 12, 2023


Nuchatlaht First Nation has 14 days to decide how to proceed with landmark claim

Nuchatlaht and Nuu-chah-nulth First Nation leaders and supporters rally at the BC Supreme Court in Vancouver on Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022, ahead of closing arguments in an Indigenous title case between the Nuchatlaht First Nation and the B.C. government. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Brieanna Charlebois
Nuchatlaht and Nuu-chah-nulth First Nation leaders and supporters rally at the BC Supreme Court in Vancouver on Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022, ahead of closing arguments in an Indigenous title case between the Nuchatlaht First Nation and the B.C. government.
THE CANADIAN PRESS/Brieanna Charlebois (Brieanna Charlebois/The Canadian Press)

CBC News: : A British Columbia Supreme Court judge ruling on a First Nations land title lawsuit says it did not prove it had rights to its entire claim area, although he suggested it may be time for the provincial government to rethink its current test for such titles.

The Nuchatlaht First Nation, a community on Vancouver Island’s northwest coast, wanted title over an area of Crown land that included a portion of Nootka Island and much of the surrounding coastline. Justice Elliott Myers said in his decision issued Thursday that there “may be areas” the nation can establish in its claim, but if it wants to do that, another hearing would be required.

“I stress that I am not prejudging any of the issues or whether a pleading amendment would be necessary,” he said in the decision. “I am merely leaving it open to the plaintiff to come back before me to canvass these issues should it wish to do so.”

He’s given the nation 14 days to decide if it wishes to proceed on the further claims.

Nuchatlaht First Nation Tyee Ha'with (Chief) Jordan Michael, right, is embraced by a supporter during a rally outside B.C. Supreme Court before the start of an Indigenous land title case, in Vancouver. The lawsuit seeks to reclaim part of territory on Nootka Island, off the west coast of Vancouver Island.
Nuchatlaht First Nation Tyee Ha’with (Chief) Jordan Michael, right, is embraced by a supporter during a rally outside B.C. Supreme Court before the start of an Indigenous land title case, in Vancouver. The lawsuit seeks to reclaim part of territory on Nootka Island, off the west coast of Vancouver Island. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

The nation said in a statement issued Friday that it was celebrating the judge’s finding that it has Aboriginal title within its territory, while it’s disappointed it has been asked to return to court to identify just where that title is. “Nuchatlaht were victorious on nearly every point at issue in the trial, pushing the state of the law forward,” the statement said.

It said it would return to the court to identify the locations of its title and will apply to the B.C. Court of Appeal over the decision to deny awarding the entire claim area. “We need to take this victory and continue fighting for recognition of our rights,” Nuchatlaht Coun. Mellissa Jack said in the statement.

The court heard the Nuchatlaht moved to a village on Nootka Island in the 1780s, and they say they occupied the area in 1846 when the Crown resolved boundary disputes with the United States and claimed sovereignty over what is now British Columbia.

However, the province denies the Nuchatlaht occupied all of the territory it was claiming.

In the lawsuit filed in 2017, the nation argued that the B.C. and federal governments denied Nuchatlaht rights by authorizing logging and “effectively dispossessing” the nation of territory. The B.C. government said the Nuchatlaht did not hold Aboriginal title over the entire 230-square-kilometre area and said it has met its obligations under agreements with the nation with respect to forest resources.

This map depicts the traditional lands of the Nuchatlaht First Nation on the west coast of Vancouver Island B.C.
This map depicts the traditional lands of the Nuchatlaht First Nation on the west coast of Vancouver Island B.C.(Nuchatlaht First Nation)

Myers said in his decision that the case demonstrates “the peculiar difficulties of a coastal Aboriginal group meeting the current test for Aboriginal title, given the marine orientation of the culture.” For example, he said it is difficult to prove the nation had used the land because they primarily travelled by canoe, so there were no established trails between coastal locations.

He wrote that this case may be indicative of the need for a “reconsideration of the test for Aboriginal title as it relates to coastal First Nations.” “That would be for a higher court to determine,” the decision said.

The land claim was the first to be heard since B.C. passed legislation in 2019 to align its laws with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

It was also the first case since the landmark 2014 Tsilhqot’in Aboriginal title decision by the Supreme Court of Canada, which recognized the Tsilhqot’in Nation’s rights and title over a swath of its traditional territory in B.C.’s central Interior, not only to historic village sites.

Brieanna Charlebois · The Canadian Press ·

March 8, 2022

BC, Fed. Govt.

Nuchatlaht Nation Aboriginal Title case with BC Supreme Court – The Nuchatlaht Nation began its legal battle in 2017 fighting BC and the federal government to get their land back. Their territory includes a large part of Nootka Island off the west coast of Vancouver Island. It has been impacted by industrial logging and fishing for almost a century since Nuchatlaht was displaced by the BC government. BC has awarded licenses to corporations to work the land. Western Forest Products, one of those licensees, is also a defendant in the case.

The remedy being sought, said Woodward, is that Aboriginal title exists and BC’s Forest Act ceases to apply.

“The forest companies are going to have to deal with Nuchatlaht, not with the provincial government and Nuchatlaht may decide they’re not going to keep cutting down those trees,” he said.

Woodward said he had just received the province’s statement of defence on the case, which outlined three arguments, that :

  • Nuchatlaht did not presently occupy the land; 
  • BC laws displaced or extinguished Aboriginal title; and
  • Nuchatlaht was “too small and weak” to have Aboriginal title.

Woodward chided the province for its “disgraceful argument” and called on the attorney general David Eby to “turn it around.” Woodward also called on the province to implement the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act (DRIPA), which came into law in November 2019. BC was the first province to pass legislation that established the United Nations Declaration for the Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP) as its framework for reconciliation.

The Nuchatlaht case will be the first land title to be tested against DRIPA and could be precedent setting.

Woodward said there are a number of other potential cases – Haida, Coquitlam, Cowichan Tribes – that could be impacted by this decision. The Nuchatlaht case is also a direct application of the precedent-setting 2014 Tsilhqot’in decision. The Supreme Court of Canada stated that a semi-nomadic tribe can claim title to a tract of land even if used sporadically.

July 20, 2020


Omnibus Bill 22 and Honour of the Crown

Fort McKay First Nation – This omnibus Bill 22 includes amendments that would make the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) the sole judge of the public interest for all Albertans, allowing the elected government to cut itself out of the decision-making process. This means the AER will be the final decision maker about impacts to Treaty rights and the cumulative effects of development in our Traditional Territory. These are both matters the regulator has previously said are outside its mandate and for which it has no expertise.

In April 2020, the Alberta Court of Appeal threw out the AER’s approval of Prosper Petroleum’s Rigel project with strong language about the AER’s failure to enforce promises made under Treaty 8, and its failure to uphold the Honour of the Crown. Prosper’s project would have threatened the ecological and cultural integrity of the area around our Moose Lake reserves, one of the last unspoiled wildernesses in our Traditional Territory, and central to our ability to practice constitutionally recognized Treaty rights. Fort McKay was forced to take the AER to court and is shocked that after such serious criticism from the highest court in Alberta, the government is rewarding this tribunal with even more power.

Fort McKay and other First Nations will now be forced to turn to the courts even more often to resolve these regulatory and constitutional conflicts. Rather than reducing red tape, this actually increases uncertainty and delay for industry, something both government and AER say they want to avoid.

“If the AER becomes the final authority on oil sands projects, it must be demonstrably neutral in all matters before it. It must be more open, transparent, and accountable. It must improve its ability to understand and make the right decisions related to Treaty rights. It must behave like a quasi-judicial body, with the strict independence of a court, and it must not act like a friend to industry. The AER must learn the new rules quickly or its decisions will be challenged and overruled by the courts time and again”.

December 19, 2022


Onion Lake Cree Nation files lawsuit challenging Alberta’s sovereignty act

The Alberta Sovereignty Within a United Canada Act is Premier Danielle Smith’s signature piece of legislation. The bill, which took effect last week, gives cabinet power to direct provincial entities to disregard federal laws that are deemed to be unconstitutional or harmful to Albertans. TODD KOROL/REUTERS

The Globe and Mail: A First Nation has filed a lawsuit against the Alberta government claiming Premier Danielle Smith’s Sovereignty Act violates the constitutionally recognized treaty rights of its members as it asks a court to strike it down.

The Onion Lake Cree Nation, which is located on the Alberta-Saskatchewan boundary, filed a statement of claim on Monday, naming the provincial government, Lieutenant-Governor Salma Lakhani and Justice Minister Tyler Shandro as defendants.

The Alberta Sovereignty Within a United Canada Act, Ms. Smith’s signature piece of legislation and her first bill since becoming Premier, took effect last week. The law gives cabinet power to direct provincial entities to disregard federal laws that are deemed to be unconstitutional or harmful to Albertans. The legislation has faced intense criticism from political opponents, Indigenous groups and legal experts. Ms. Smith has defended the law, arguing that it will allow the province to push back against federal intrusion.

The First Nation alleges in court documents that the law infringes on its sovereignty and jurisdiction by granting too much authority to cabinet, and that the act breaches existing land rights and the First Nation’s ability to pursue traditional ceremonies, associations and practices, like hunting, fishing and trapping. It also alleges the province breached constitutional and treaty rights by not consulting with Indigenous peoples before it was enacted.

“The Alberta Sovereignty Act is utterly repugnant to the letter and spirit of the Treaty,” reads the statement of claim. The lawsuit alleges the act negates the guarantees in the First Nation’s treaty by “wresting” control away from the federal government and giving it to provincial cabinet.

Rebecca Polak, press secretary to Ms. Smith, declined to comment on unresolved litigation but said in a statement that the act “is constitutional and does not interfere or undermine Indigenous and treaty rights.” Bill 1 states nothing in the act is to be construed as a repeal of or exemption to existing Indigenous and treaty rights.

Onion Lake is among several First Nations that have voiced opposition to the Sovereignty Act, as well as the Saskatchewan First Act, which aims to unilaterally amend the Constitution to assert provincial jurisdiction over resources and set up a tribunal to be used in future court cases. Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe has said the act will not affect treaty rights and said its purpose is to build the economy for all residents, including Indigenous people.

Last Friday, First Nations leaders in Saskatchewan warned that they will enact protest blockades in the new year if the legislation is not withdrawn, also arguing the act breaches treaty rights and that there was no consultation before its introduction. Onion Lake Chief Henry Lewis, who announced the Alberta lawsuit, said similar legal action will be taken against the Saskatchewan government if it passes in the legislature.

“We have no choice but to use the colonial courts to defend our Treaty rights and sovereign jurisdiction as Alberta has passed this law without any consultation from our nation,” said Mr. Lewis in a statement, adding it is imperative to defend these rights for future generations and to signal that constitutional rights cannot be “ignored, infringed and trampled on.”

The statement of claim states Bill 1 circumvents a section of the Constitution that says the federal government has exclusive authority over First Nations’ lands and another section that recognizes and affirms Indigenous rights. The First Nation is seeking a declaration from Alberta’s superior trial court that the act unjustifiably infringes on treaty rights and is of no force and effect, in addition to injunctions against the act and legal costs.

Irfan Sabir, New Democratic Party critic for justice, said the court challenge is a direct result of the United Conservative Party’s failure to properly consult with First Nations. “It’s an avoidable setback for reconciliation and a blow to economic certainty,” he said in a statement.

With a report from The Canadian Press

April 14, 2023


P.E.I.-based Abegweit First Nation signs 5-year fisheries deal with Ottawa

First Nation also receiving DFO funding to restore habitat for Atlantic salmon and eel 

CBC News · Posted: Apr 14, 2023 10:19 AM EDT | Last Updated: 10 minutes ago

Chief Roddy Gould in traditional headdress
This agreement is really about the children of Abegweit First Nation, says Chief Roddy Gould Jr. (Fisheries and Oceans Canada)

CBC News: Federal Fisheries and Oceans Minister Joyce Murray was on Prince Edward Island Friday to sign a deal with Abegweit First Nation Chief Roddy Gould Jr., affirming the band’s right to participate in a moderate livelihood fishery.

The agreement recognizes the right of Indigenous communities to fish as recognized by the Supreme Court of Canada in 199, in what is known as the Marshall decision.

The five-year renewable agreement includes

  • Recognizing Mi’kmaq Indigenous treaty rights to harvest and sell fish.
  • Funding for Abegweit First Nation to strengthen its capacity for fisheries management.
  • Establishing joint structures and processes for a collaborative fisheries management approach.

Speaking at the signing ceremony, Gould said the agreement lays the groundwork to ensure the coming generation will have more opportunities than his generation did. “It’s our children. What we are doing today is we are giving them the power and the tools to do better than we have done,” said Gould. “That’s the future.”

Gould talked about the controversial fishery of the Sipekne’katik First Nation in Nova Scotia, which generated conflict between Indigenous and non-Indigenous fishermen. He said witnessing that convinced him there was a better way. “We decided as a community to be a productive part of the industry, to go in a positive way forward,” he said.

“We will be working in partnership with the federal government as we continue to move towards the implementation of our moderate livelihood fisheries.”

In a separate announcement, Murray said the government would provide $1.47 million over the next four years to the Abegweit Conservation Society to manage threats to Atlantic salmon and American eel on the Island.

These are two culturally important features for the Mi’kmaq, and the society will apply both western science and Indigenous knowledge in an ecosystem-based approach to the problems facing these species.

Kevin Yarr · Kevin Yarr is the early morning web journalist at CBC P.E.I. 

January 22, 2021

AB, Fed. Govt.

Partial Advanced Cost Award

CISION – LAC-LA BICHE, AB – The Supreme Court of Canada granted leave to appeal the decision of the Alberta Court of Appeal overturning Beaver Lake Cree Nations’ partial advanced cost award. After ten years of litigation, including 5 years where Alberta and Canada unsuccessfully tried to strike its claim, the Beaver Lake Cree could no longer afford the litigation. Recognizing it was undisputed that the Beaver Lake Cree are financially impoverished and that its publicly important, meritorious case deserved to be heard, in 2019, the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench granted the Beaver Lake Cree a partial advanced cost order that would allow it to continue its case to trial. However, in 2020, during the pandemic, Alberta and Canada successfully appealed the decision.

For over ten years, the Beaver Lake Cree Nation has endeavoured, at a cost of $3 million. Half of the funds were from generous donors who understand the importance of these matters being heard by the courts. Knowing that this case rests on environmental justice, health and protection, they continue to support Beaver Lake’s efforts to enforce its Treaty rights, which ultimately protects the environment now and for the generations to come.

It argued the Alberta Court of Appeal applied the wrong test in determining whether or not the Beaver Lake Cree could genuinely afford the litigation, and that courts are divided on whether affordability means the Nation must exhaust all funds potentially available, including by liquidating assets, or whether other priorities the Nation has for the funds must be considered. The Beaver Lake Cree argued clarity from the Supreme Court was required on how the test for advanced costs applies to a First Nation government charged with managing poverty. In considering whether a First Nation can afford to litigate a meritorious and publicly important constitutional rights case, the court must consider that it is not open to a First Nation government to exhaust all the Nation’s available funds in favour of a singular cause. Rather, affordability requires consideration of the reasonable choices a First Nation government is required to make to ensure its community endures, and its members are not left destitute. The Nation will argue the partial advanced costs award should be restored so a decision on its novel Treaty Rights case can be rendered.

January 18, 2022


Québec Summit on Land Use Planning

Assembly of First Nations Québec-Labrador – AFNQL Chiefs are opposed to any form of government strategy, policy, or development project impacting their territories without, as a priority, being actively involved in discussions. “This announcement is yet another announcement that illustrates the lack of sensitivity, even contempt of the CAQ government towards our territories,” said Interim Regional Chief Lance Haymond. It is, moreover, in this context that last Fall, the AFNQL Chiefs in Assembly adopted a Territorial Declaration to officially advise the Quebec government that First Nations’ elected officials would not hesitate to use all means at their disposal to protect their territories and their inherent, ancestral and treaty rights from any action or policy put forward by the province that is prejudicial to their peoples.

On January 13th, 2022, the Assembly of First Nations Quebec-Labrador (AFNQL) learned, through the media, that a Quebec Summit on Land Use Planning would be held virtually on January 27th. Not only does the program that has been unveiled completely ignore the concerns, rights, and claims of First Nations, but this announcement also goes against what Minister Laforest stated to AFNQL Chiefs during her participation in the First Nations and Quebec Grand Economic Circle, last November, in Montreal.

On that occasion, when questioned by AFNQL Chiefs on the “National Strategy on Urbanism and Land Planning” (Stratégie nationale d’urbanisme et d’aménagement des territoires), the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing committed to holding political level discussions with First Nations on this specific subject matter, considering the level of discontent expressed by several Indigenous communities with regard to this Strategy which was developed unilaterally, by Quebec.

January 11, 2023

BC, Fed. Govt.

RCMP, Coastal GasLink deny conspiring to intimidate, harass Wet’suwet’en members

Mounties acted ‘reasonably’ while enforcing injunction, B.C. legal defence says

RCMP officers on the Morice River Forest Service Road on Nov. 19, 2021. (Submitted by Dan Loan)

CBC News: The RCMP denies it conspired with a natural gas pipeline builder and a private security firm in a campaign designed to harass Wet’suwet’en people off their unceded territory in northern British Columbia, court filings say. The RCMP, Coastal GasLink and Forsythe Security, named as defendants in a lawsuit three Wet’suwet’en members launched last June, all deny the allegations.

The $6.6-billion Coastal GasLink pipeline project is designed to carry fracked natural gas to a $40-billion LNG terminal in Kitimat, B.C., for export to Asia. Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs say Coastal GasLink does not have consent to cross their territory.

The latest defence filing to the lawsuit comes from B.C.’s public safety minister, the provincial politician in charge of policing, who is being represented by a Justice Canada lawyer because the claim involves the Mounties. The minister’s 17-page response, filed after a months-long delay, says the RCMP acted “reasonably” and within the bounds of a court-ordered injunction prohibiting interference with the project. 

Police increased enforcement after an “escalation of unlawful activity” that included a violent February 2022 incident involving mask-wearing, axe-wielding assailants at a pipeline construction site, the filing says.

It then offers an RCMP account of the incident. Mounties gave chase after Coastal GasLink told them roughly 20 people were threatening and attacking security personnel, but police were foiled by a roadblock of downed trees, tar-covered stumps, wire, spiked boards and debris, the filing says. “The group ran down the road and into the trees before RCMP members were able to manoeuvre through the hazards and debris.” 

Police announced no arrests since then.

The subsequent increased enforcement, led by the force’s Community-Industry Response Group (C-IRG), was “commensurate with the circumstances” and not “unlawful or overzealous,” the filing says.

Plaintiffs Janet Williams, Lawrence Bazil and Sleydo’ (Molly Wickham) allege the defendants used intimidation, harassment, invasions of privacy, seizure of private property and unlawful detention in a bid to suppress law-abiding, constitutionally protected activity.

None of the allegations have been proven in court.

The events at issue unfolded at remote camps known as the Gidimt’en Checkpoint and Lamprey Village, both situated near the proposed pipeline route along a remote northern B.C. logging road.

Molly Wickham is one of three plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed against RCMP, Coastal GasLink and a security firm.(Betsy Trumpener/CBC)

The checkpoint is intended to re-establish Wet’suwet’en occupancy of Gidim’ten clan territory on which their ancestors lived for thousands of years, the plaintiffs say, calling it a symbol of resistance that sends an important political message.

The Lamprey Village, the plaintiffs say, is an ancient village site along the banks of the Morice River, or Wedzin Kwa, that doesn’t impede traffic on the road. Both sites are important bases from which clan members engage in traditional cultural practices, the claim says.

The minister says Mounties have seen structures at Lamprey Village that were later used in a November 2021 blockade, and says a blockade at the Gidim’ten Checkpoint was previously established despite the injunction.

Plaintiffs have no ‘proven right of property’ in area: Coastal GasLink

In a Nov. 1 amended response, Coastal GasLink also denies the allegations. Like the minister, the builder says the project and its contractors “have been subject of an escalating campaign of unlawful acts” by the plaintiffs and their allies.

The three Wet’suwet’en plaintiffs “do not possess a proven right of property” in the Gidimt’en Checkpoint and Lamprey Village area, which “largely consists of public Crown land,” Coastal GasLink says.

The project has all necessary provincial permits alongside signed community and benefit agreements with 20 elected First Nations bands along the proposed route, the filing says. Five of six Wet’suwet’en bands have signed such agreements, but the nation’s hereditary chiefs remain opposed to its construction.

While the pipeline builder denies it harmed Sleydo’ and the other plaintiffs, the filing says if any damages were caused, “those damages were only suffered as a result of the plaintiffs being abnormally sensitive, and would not have been suffered by an average person.”

Forsythe Security, owned by Forsythe Investments ULC and hired by Coastal GasLink, also denies “engaging in any campaign of intimidation and harassment, or any conspiracy, as alleged or at all” in a five-page response.

The notice of claim alleges Forsythe routinely shared information, video footage and pictures with the Mounties in a joint effort to target the plaintiffs and visitors to the sites. 

It says the C-IRG, an outfit founded in 2017 to police resource extraction in B.C., carried out the alleged intimidation campaign “with the full knowledge, co-operation, and assistance of Forsythe and CGL.”

The plaintiffs allege this was part of a conspiracy to harm them.

Coastal GasLink says the conspiracy claims are “scandalous, vexatious and are made without any reasonable basis in fact.” The public safety minister says the claim contains no facts capable of proving the trio conspired to harm the Wet’suwet’en plaintiffs.


Brett Forester


Brett Forester is a reporter with CBC Indigenous in Ottawa. He is a member of the Chippewas of Kettle and Stony Point First Nation in southern Ontario who previously worked as a journalist with the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network. Reach him at

April 20, 2022


Robinson-Huron and Superior Treaties, 1850

NationTalk: Robinson Huron Treaty Territory — The Robinson Huron Treaty Litigation Fund (RHTLF) leadership, Ontario and Canada officials have established a negotiation table to find common ground for resolving the annuities litigation outside of court.

The Robinson Huron Treaty First Nations have outstanding litigation against both Canada and Ontario relating to treaty annuities. There is much work to be done, with a spirit of cooperation and partnership, to advance these important discussions and find a good way forward towards a negotiated resolution.

“We are pleased to be in a place where we are talking about negotiating a resolution to our annuities case outside of the court. We have always known that reconciliation will not happen in the courtroom,” said Chief Dean Sayers.

Ogimaa Duke Peltier added “It has been a long journey to get to this point and we are ready to work with our treaty partners toward a settlement. We remain grounded in our commitment to ensure the Robinson Huron Treaty is implemented.”

January 7, 2022

Fed. Govt., ON

Robinson-Huron and Superior Treaties, 1850

CBC – Ontario will appeal the Robinson Huron Treaty Annuity Case to the Supreme Court. The case was upheld by both the Ontario Superior Court and then the Ontario Court of Appeal. The 21 First Nations involved said that amount needs to be re-negotiated, and the courts have agreed.

November 5, 2021

Fed. Govt., ON

Robinson-Huron and Superior Treaties, 1850

The Manitoulin Expositor – The Ontario Court of Appeal releases judgment on Ontario’s Stage 1 and 2 in Robinson–Huron Treaty Annuities Case that affirms much of the trial decision and only disagrees with the trial judgment on a limited number of issues. As we explain, we unanimously reject the majority of the arguments raised on appeal. We dismiss Ontario’s appeal from the Stage Two proceedings in its entirety …” “Our initial analysis of the judgement is that the Court of Appeal affirms the enforceability of the treaty and the obligation of the Crown to increase the annuities,” said Chief Dean Sayers of Batchewana First Nation. “This decision shows yet again that Ontario must drop these lengthy and unnecessary appeals.”

August 16, 2021

Fed. Govt., ON

Robinson-Huron and Superior Treaties, 1850

Wawa News – The Government of Canada has completed their mandating process and are prepared to negotiate and settle the ongoing annuities case. Canada has stated that the negotiation and settlement process requires participation from the Government of Ontario. “Now, we need the province to come to the table to make this settlement happen,” said Chief Sayers. “It is time for Ontario to honour the escalator clause and engage in negotiations on behalf of all people we have welcomed on our lands.”

April 28, 2021

Fed. Govt., ON

Robinson-Huron and Superior Treaties, 1850

Wawa News – the Ontario Court of Appeal concluded its hearing of the Government of Ontario’s appeal of the Stage 1 decision in the Robinson Treaties annuities case. The Court of Appeal has reserved its decision on the Stage 1 appeal, which it will likely release in the months following its hearing of the Stage 2 appeal.

July 8, 2020

Fed. Govt., ON

Robinson-Huron and Superior Treaties, 1850

Manitoulin Expositor – Since the Ontario Government launched their appeal of the Dec. 24, 2018 decision, the Superior Court has sided with the Anishinabek Nation in two of three challenges:

Phase 1: Established that the original treaty created a ‘sui generis fiduciary relationship’ (meaning the colonial government was required to manage the lands and act in the best interests of the First Nations, a relationship that was specifically applicable to this case

Phase 2: Justice Hennessey rejected the crown’s various arguments that it should not have to increase annuities or make up for lost payments in past. These arguments included a statute of limitations—that too much time has passed between the last annuity increase and it should not be responsible for annuities before 1963, and that the Crown may be ‘immune’ from being sued.

Phase 3 – Final phase addresses the compensation issue (TBD)

January 22, 2019

Fed. Govt., ON

Robinson-Huron and Superior Treaties, 1850

The Government of Ontario appealed the Robinson-Huron and Robinson Superior Treaties Superior Court decision around Annuities claims while at the same time negotiating with the 21 First Nations making up the Anishinabek people in northern Ontario. In her December ruling, Justice Patricia Hennessy wrote the annuities described in the treaties — which hadn’t been raised since 1874 — were meant as a mechanism to share the wealth from the treaty territory’s resources. “As the historical and cultural context demonstrates … the parties were and continue to be in an ongoing relationship,” wrote Hennessy. The government of Ontario disagrees but the Government of Canada does not.
The Royal Proclamation of 1763 was issued by King George III and is a document that set out guidelines for European settlement of Aboriginal territories in parts of North America. The Royal Proclamation was clear that lands did not become available for settlement – known as public lands – until after a treaty with Aboriginal inhabitants.

“The treaties were entered into on a nation-to-nation basis; that is, in entering into the pre-Confederation treaties, the French and British Crowns recognized the Aboriginal nations as self-governing entities with their own systems of law and governance and agreed to respect them as such.” (source: Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples). Through the Treaty, the Lake Huron Chiefs and leaders of the Anishinabek signatory First Nations intended to protect the territory and establish relations. Contrary to what many Canadians believe, nothing has been given to our First Nations. In fact, it was our First Nations who agreed to share our resources with the newcomers, now Canadians. The Robinson-Huron Treaty intended to provide economic benefits for the First Nations parties to the Treaty in perpetuity. Significant wealth has been and continues to be generated from resource development within the Treaty territory.

June 23, 2022

Fed. Govt., ON

Robinson-Huron Superior treaty annuity payments appeal heading to Supreme Court

Supreme Court to hear Ontario case on treaty payments to Anishinaabe

APTN: The Supreme Court of Canada says it will hear a legal battle over Crown payments to beneficiaries of two Robinson treaties which cover the upper Great Lakes in Ontario and 21 Anishinaabe bands.

The Ontario government sought to challenge a ruling by the Court of Appeal for Ontario, which found the Crown had violated the terms of its treaties with the Anishinaabe of the northern shores of Lakes Huron and Superior by capping its annual payments at $4 per person for more than a century. According to court documents, the annuity was raised to that amount in 1875 and has not changed since.

In its ruling last year, the appeal court said that while both the federal and provincial governments acknowledge the annuity should be increased in some way, “no steps have been taken to do so.” As a result, it found the Crown had violated the treaties’ promise to share the resource-based revenues from the territory.

It sent the case back to the trial judge to determine how much money is owed to the First Nations involved, and which government — provincial, federal, or both — would be responsible for that compensation.

The Robinson-Huron Treaty was signed in 1850 by Anishinaabe bands and the Crown.

It provides for the surrender of a large portion of what is now northern Ontario. In return, among other things, the treaty requires the Crown to make annual payments or annuities, to the Anishinaabe. The Crown promised to raise the treaty annuity “from time to time” if the territory began producing enough wealth to enable the increase “without incurring loss.”

But the annuity hasn’t gone up since 1875 when it was set at $4 per person, even though the characterization of the territory at the time as “notoriously barren and sterile” proved incorrect.

While the area contains vast timber and mineral wealth, which are under provincial jurisdiction, the federal government currently pays the annuity. It’s not clear when the case will be heard by the justices of the supreme court.

November 8, 2022

Fed. Govt., ON

Robinson-Huron Treaty annuities case: Ontario seeks stay – lawyer

Robinson-Huron Treaty Litigation Fund says Ontario has asked for a stay in final stage of court case while it appeals previous court decision on treaty annuity payments

A map of Robinson Huron Treaty territory. Whitefish River First Nation website The third and final stage of an ongoing court case over treaty annuity payments launched by signatories to the Robinson-Huron Treaty is slated to begin early in the new year, but could face potential delays in light of legal wrangling by Ontario to stay the proceedings while it appeals a previous decision made in the case.    

Justice Patricia Hennessy has ruled in favour of treaty beneficiaries in previous court decisions, finding that the Crown had failed to live up to its obligations to increase annuity payments over time as mineral and forestry resources were being developed in treaty territory. Two appeals launched by the province regarding those decisions have since been rejected, for the most part, by the Ontario Court of Appeal. 

The Crown initially promised to pay a perpetual annuity of £600 or $2,400 under the 1850 Robinson-Huron Treaty, which in 1850 worked out to roughly $1.60 per person. An augmentation clause, which allowed for increases in annuity payments over time, was supposed to provide additional incentive for Anishinabek communities to sign the treaty. 

The last increase in treaty annuity payments took place in 1874, when the annuity was increased to $4 per person in Robinson-Huron Treaty territory, which is home to 21 First Nations that are signatories to the treaty.   

The final stage of the court case, known as Stage Three, will deal with the amount of compensation owed to beneficiaries under the treaty and which Crowns will be liable to pay the augmented annuities. 

Daniel McCoy, a member of the legal team for the Robinson-Huron Treaty Litigation Fund, told attendees of a virtual treaty week presentation Tuesday that Ontario appealed the Stage One decision earlier this year to the Supreme Court of Canada over issues surrounding treaty interpretation, treaty implementation and remedies for breach of treaty.    

“It’s a highly legal issue, and it really doesn’t have a lot of play in the facts around the annuities, the augmentation promise. But it is something I think the Supreme Court is very interested in tackling,” said McCoy. “Really, the question is how should appeal courts deal with appeals about treaty rights.”

Deadline for the submission of intervenor motions is Nov. 18.  

“It’s an interested party who’s going to assist the court. We have heard from a number of First Nations and First Nation groups who are interested in intervening,” McCoy said. 

The hearing for Ontario’s Supreme Court appeal of the Stage One decision is anticipated to take place in the fall of 2023, with a decision being handed down as early as spring or early summer of 2024.

Ontario also brought a motion before the Supreme Court of Canada requesting to stay the Stage Three hearings, which was denied. The Supreme Court directed Ontario to bring its motion to Justice Hennessy to make a decision instead. 

Ontario’s request for a stay in the Stage Three hearing was heard by Justice Hennessy Nov. 4. The Robinson-Huron Treaty Litigation Fund expects that decision to be made soon, given that the Stage Three trial is scheduled to begin Jan. 16. 

McCoy says that about 80 days of evidence is anticipated for the Stage Three trial, which will include a series of economic expert reports prepared by the litigation fund’s legal team and evidence supplied by Anishinaabe elders. 

“We’re going to be asking the elders to give the court some guidance on the importance of land, principles for sharing, the process for sharing wealth and resources,” he said. 

The seventh annual Treaties Recognition Week in Ontario takes place Nov. 7-11.  

January 26, 2023


Saskatchewan does have a constitution; it’s called Treaty

The provincial government plan to auction Crown lands covered by treaties with Indigenous Peoples shows that it does not understand the Constitution.

NationTalk: Policy Options: Saskatchewan’s provincial government has much to learn about the political history of the lands to which it lays claim.

On Jan. 20, the Onion Lake Cree Nation called for Indigenous people to unite in opposition to a scheduled auction of Crown land leases and is encouraging the provincial government to honour nation-to-nation treaty relationships. In so doing, Onion Lake is acting on a matter to which First Nations groups have been calling attention for decades – the dispossession of our lands, minerals and natural resources in areas covered by treaties.

The provincial government has sold off nearly an estimated 2 million acres of Crown lands since 2007, which allows them to be converted to private property subject to minimal regulation and oversight by federal, provincial or Indigenous governments. The Saskatchewan government has paused Crown land sales while reviewing its First Nation and Métis Consultation Policy Framework, but it has also pushed ahead with its annual lease auction for agricultural use, claiming that it falls outside the purview of the framework. At minimum, the province should immediately halt the scheduled auction and employ a nation-to-nation approach to ongoing land matters as the first steps to end its violations of Indigenous treaty rights.

The political context is noteworthy here. Treaty-based legal and political positions and actions are being advanced across Saskatchewan against the backdrop of a federal agenda purportedly oriented toward reconciliation and a provincial agenda that is anything but that. Consider the current provincial government’s Saskatchewan First Act, a declaration of self-described “sovereign autonomy” that claims to allow the province to amend “the Constitution of Saskatchewan” and protect “Saskatchewan’s exclusive legislative jurisdiction” over natural resources.

The Wolastoqey title claim in N.B., a centuries-old issue and the honourable solution

Treaty training is vital for Indigenous youth

Readers of this statement have every reason to be confused. Saskatchewan is not an autonomous political entity, nor is it separate from any other order of government. Legal and political analysts have rightfully interrogated the substance of the act, perched as it is atop a parochial reading of the Constitution Act, 1867 and an interpretation of provincial powers shared by virtually no legal or constitutional experts aside from the party’s own. Indigenous people have broadly panned the act due to the Saskatchewan Party’s absolute lack of engagement with Indigenous people and Indigenous governments in its drafting, as well as in the act’s failure to even name, let alone engage with, the province’s treaty obligations.

On the matter of Saskatchewan positioning itself “first,” the Onion Lake statement offers an important corrective. “We remind the Province of Saskatchewan that our peace and friendship Treaties were entered into before the creation of this province. Our Treaties are the law of the land.”

Saskatchewan came into existence as a province in 1905 as a result of the Saskatchewan Act, which forms part of the Constitution Act. It does not have exclusive sovereignty – inherent or delegated – nor does it have the power to autonomously enter into or alter nation-to-nation treaties. It is one of two orders of government in a settler-colonial state that claim to share sovereignty. The 2021 Supreme Court ruling on the federally imposed carbon tax underscores just how much Saskatchewan does not have exclusive sovereignty or jurisdiction.

Canada’s Constitution enables and places limits on provincial political authority and while not situating Indigenous Peoples as a distinct order of government, it recognizes the constitutional significance of nation-to-nation relations with Indigenous Peoples. These include the Royal Proclamation of 1763 and treaties negotiated throughout the 18th and 19th centuries. The aboriginal and treaty rights of Canada’s Indigenous population receive constitutional protection under Section 35 while other parts, such as Section 25, include the rights and freedoms recognized by the Royal Proclamation of 1763.

Under Section 91(24) of the Constitution Act, the federal government holds responsibility over “Indians and Lands reserved for the Indians.” Yet, under Section 88 of the Indian Act, provincial laws of general application can extend to Indigenous people whether on or off reserve.

This situates the federal government with a constitutional responsibility under Section 91(24) to act when provincial laws might infringe on aboriginal and treaty rights.

In theory, the federal government could use Section 91(24) with an expansive understanding of “Indian people and lands,” and could invoke this authority to guard against the exercise of provincial authority, or to pre-empt the sale of Crown lands. However, this section has historically been interpreted in such a way that reduces its application to a narrow category of legal “Indians” and reserve lands, providing little accountability in practice.

What we are left with is far from a nation-to-nation process. We have a federal government and now provinces that all claim jurisdiction and take unilateral actions over treaty lands that were always intended to be shared, and over resources that our ancestors maintain were never discussed. There remains a gap in jurisdiction, with federal or provincial governments diverting questions to one another, and the courts perpetually declining to adjudicate broader questions involving land or self-determination because they see them as political issues.

That the Crown has by and large misinterpreted and violated the treaty relationship does not diminish its significance to Indigenous Peoples or to Canada’s own Constitution. The political formation known as Saskatchewan would not have a land base to claim if Indigenous Peoples, who exercised longstanding forms of law and governance in these spaces for millennia, did not agree to share the lands with the settlers. In any sense of the word, treaty rights and obligations come first.

Onion Lake is wise to reframe the matter not as one of federal interference in provincial politics, but of federal and provincial interference with its treaty rights. As relationship agreements, treaties affirm Indigenous Peoples’ longstanding role as stewards of these lands, including the commitments and responsibilities to Creation that arise from our traditional laws and governance. They represent living political agreements that affirm the governing powers of nations that are party to them, but also that establish inter-governmental frameworks for negotiating and renegotiating conditions of co-existence into the future.

Indigenous consultations must be better integrated into Ontario policy

Shifting the relationship between provinces and First Nations to a diplomatic focus

Saskatchewan’s proposed Jan. 31 auction of Crown land without Indigenous consent violates the rights that flow from treaties, including the duty to consult flowing from the “honour of the Crown” as well as substantially higher standards, such as the notion of free, prior and informed Consent (FPIC) articulated in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. But it also points to a matter that extends beyond the duty to consult, or even the legitimacy of the 1930 Natural Resources Transfer Acts (though the NRTA itself is also a violation of treaty rights).

The sale and leasing of Crown land illuminates the contours and operations of structures of colonial oppression, illustrating how settler political orders continue to actively benefit from, while simultaneously denying, the ongoing legal and political significance of treaty relationships. As is now widely recognized in legal and political scholarship, and as the courts observed in Restoule v Canada, treaties are not transactions, but living relationships. The sale of Crown land reveals processes of dispossession that occur within, but also that exceed, treaty relationships because it concerns minerals, natural resources, and land that was not shared by Indigenous people beyond the depth of a plow. These gaps and omissions are terrain for future analysis, litigation and political action grounded in treaty relationships.

Indigenous people in Saskatchewan have always understood treaties as ongoing relationships intended to grow over time and to ensure the continuity of our responsibilities to Creation and to future generations. Not only does the Saskatchewan government appear not to understand the treaties or its treaty obligations, but it, like Alberta, evidently doesn’t understand Canada’s Constitution, either.

Gina Starblanket

Dr. Gina Starblanket is an associate professor in the school of Indigenous governance at the University of Victoria. She is Cree/Saulteaux and a member of the Star Blanket Cree Nation in Treaty 4 in Saskatchewan. Dr. Starblanket researches Indigenous political orders, Indigenous-settler relations and Indigenous feminism. Twitter @gstarblanket

October 27, 2022


Saskatchewan Office of the Treaty Commissioner says throne speech offends treaty rights

Premier Scott Moe at a press conference before the Throne Speech at the Legislative Building in Regina on Wednesday, Oct. 27, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Michael Bell. MLB

The Office of the Treaty Commissioner of Saskatchewan responded to the 2022 throne speech on Thursday, saying its contents do not work for everyone and offends the treaty and inherent rights of Indigenous people.

“While the Office of the Treaty Commissioner welcomes programs and initiatives with Indigenous communities on health, education, and community policing among others, there remains an ongoing concern on a lack of true engagement and actions,” the Office of the Treaty Commissioner stated in their release.

They say that Scott Moe’s White Paper and The Saskatchewan First Act do not consider First Nations access to provincial resources.

“While talking about having provincial jurisdiction over resources there continues to be no consideration to the impacts of implementing these measures to First Nation inherent rights to access those resources,” they say.

During the throne speech, Scott Moe said, “These measures are about removing barriers to unlock Saskatchewan’s incredible economic potential. We have everything the world needs — food, fuel, fertilizer and an ambitious and talented workforce. We just need to remove the barriers that are preventing us from sustainably developing our resources to their full potential and exporting them to markets around the world where they are needed.”

The constituents of the United Nations Declaration of Indigenous Peoples states that the government must cooperate with First nations and obtain prior, informed consent in order to adopt and implement measures that may affect them.

“Complete disregard of obligations and infringement of Treaty is not in the best interest of Treaty rights holders, citizens, governments or industry,” said the treaty commissioner.

“First Nations hold inherent rights to the land and natural resources of Canada. They are not stakeholder groups, they are to be co-decisionmakers and acts such as these need to be written collaboratively taking a holistic view of socio, environmental and cultural issues, not just impacts to the economy.”

READ MORE: Saskatchewan Treaty Commissioner hopes new monarch will strengthen Indigenous relationships

The Office of the Treaty commissioner places responsibility upon the Crown to uphold treaties and has submitted formal correspondence to the Government of Saskatchewan to further discuss.

Global News reached out to the Saskatchewan government but did not hear back before publication.

October 11, 2022


Saskatchewan premier overstepping his authority over land rights: FSIN

Territory signs are ready to go up along Hwy 11 in Saskatchewan. Photo courtesy: Office of the Treaty Commission. 

Scott Moe says he plans to fight Ottawa over natural resource jurisdiction.

APTN News: The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) is taking Saskatchewan’s premier to task for his plan to “protect” the province’s constitutional rights against Ottawa.

On Oct. 11, Premier Scott Moe unveiled what he’s calling The White Paper – Drawing the Line: Defending Saskatchewan’s Economic Autonomy, a plan to protect Saskatchewan’s jurisdiction over natural resources.

Moe was addressing the Battleford’s Chamber of Commerce and did not mention Treaties or First Nations. During his presentation of the plan, Moe said he was taking steps to clarify and protect Saskatchewan’s rights against Ottawa’s environmental policies including levelling a carbon tax on users in the province.

Those steps could include introducing new provincial legislation. The policy paper claims the federal government’s environmental policies would cost the province $111 billion over 12 years.

In light of the financial impacts on Saskatchewan, Moe vowed to affirm and advance the province’s constitutional authority and autonomy within Canada. In a statement emailed to APTN, Moe said his government wants all Saskatchewan people to participate in the economy and benefit from it.

“Saskatchewan has a great history of working together with First Nations partners on economic opportunities, whether it be through the Indigenous Investment Financing Corporation or through initiatives like forestry agreements,” said Moe’s office in a statement.

“Our government’s actions to protect and defend our exclusive constitutional jurisdiction over natural resources does not in any way diminish or detract from First Nations treaty rights, as they are enshrined in the Constitution. Our goal is to unlock Saskatchewan’s economic potential for the benefit of everyone in our province, including First Nations.”

Moe said his government is in “continuous contact with Indigenous stakeholder groups and individuals. That feedback is always considered as a part of the government’s actions.”

But the FSIN sees the plan as a direct threat to First Nations’ inherent and treaty rights under section 35 of the Constitution. According to the FSIN, the province can’t protect land that doesn’t belong to them.

“First Nations are not surprised with the province’s lack of consultation and accommodation when it comes to the development of laws, regulations, and policies imposed on us, especially when it impacts our inherent, Treaty and constitutional rights,” according to FSIN Chief Bobby Cameron in a news release.

“It is clear that the government failed in its fiduciary obligations it owed to First Nations, and our people have always maintained that the lands and waters were never relinquished under Treaty. First Nations continue to be excluded from discussions related to natural resources, just as we were in 1930 when they wrongfully imposed the Natural Resources Transfer Agreement,” Cameron said.

According to Cameron, First Nations have always maintained they never relinquished their rights to the natural resources on their lands. He also said the province has never fully considered the environmental impacts of resource projects on First Nations.

“First Nations do not know what the effects of this plan will be because we were not even provided with any information on this plan. Climate change is real, and we all know that First Nations in the north will be impacted before everyone else,” Cameron said.

FSIN Vice Chief Heather Bear said when the province ignores its constitutional obligations to consult on important policies, First Nations have no choice but to consider their legal options. “The Premier must do better and he must address his obligations to First Nations before he develops plans that will no doubt impact our Nation,” said Bear.

A Saskatchewan group that works to educate landowners about treaties agrees that Moe is overstepping his authority. The Treaty Land Sharing Network is a group of farmers and ranchers that work to honour the treaties by sharing their land with First Nations people who hunt, fish and trap.

“The White Paper assumes that the province has the jurisdiction to make unilateral decisions about land that has at no point been surrendered by the Indigenous Nations of these territories,” the statement reads.

“The Natural Resources Transfer Agreement was a violation of the Treaties signed between First Nations and the Crown, and the province must approach any discussions about our response to climate change and obligations to the land and waters here in partnership with Indigenous Nations.”

The Natural Resources Transfer agreement between Canada and the provinces of Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba and Saskatchewan was made up of a series of Acts passed by Parliament in 1930 to transfer control over Crown lands and natural resources from federal jurisdiction to provincial control.

This is not the first time First Nations have protested Saskatchewan legislation that infringes on treaty rights.

Last fall, several first Nations marched at the legislature in Regina to protest the government’s Trespass Act.  Even so, the Act became law on Jan. 1, 2022, forcing First Nations and other people to get permission from landowners before going onto private property. Under treaty, first nations people are supposed to be able to hunt, fish and trap anywhere in their home territory.  Asking a farmer for permission violates this.

NDP critic for First Nations and Métis issues also points to the government’s sale of crown lands as an example of their failure to consult.

Betty Nippi-Albright introduced The Meaningful Duty to Consult Act which died on the order paper when the last session ended. The private member’s legislation, titled Bill 609, would seek to improve government policy regarding how affected Indigenous communities are consulted in land use deals in the province.

Federally, the government is required to include impacted Indigenous communities in decisions regarding land use, including sales and industry development proposals, under the Crown’s duty to consult.

Nippi-Albright plans to keep bringing the bill back until it’s adopted.  She says it’s needed because the province and industry have not engaged in a meaningful way when First Nations are going to be impacted.

“What was happening was First Nation-Métis communities were only getting faxes and emails as notification. And then the turnaround for consultation was so short that it didn’t give the communities the time, nor did they have the capacity to do that consultation.” Nippi-Albright said.

The Act would be in line with provisions laid out in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, and there’s no indication the Saskatchewan government will support it.

In a May 28, 2021 letter written to the Federal government’s Standing Committee on Aboriginal Peoples, the Moe Government opposed adopting legislation surrounding UNDRIP because it said doing so could harm the Saskatchewan Economy.

March 26, 2020


Site C Dam and COVID-19

Open Letter from Union of BC Indian Chiefs to Premier John Horgan and Adrian Dix, Minister of Health – to halt construction of Site C Dam due to concerns around COVID-19. Through UBCIC Resolution 2011-25, UBCIC highlighted the environmental dangers of the Site C Dam and pointed to the devastating effects it will have on the Treaty and Aboriginal Rights of Treaty 8 First Nations. BC Hydro has confirmed that 16 of its construction workers at the Site C Dam site are under self-isolation with flu like symptoms. Given the close quarters and inevitable contact points at the 1,600-worker camp, an outbreak of COVID-19 would be disastrous and with dire implications for nearby communities, including First Nation communities.

There is an extreme shortage of health services in northeast British Columbia, with virtually no hospital beds available to handle an outbreak in Fort St. John or nearby Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities. BC Hydro’s recent news release also reveals that it is barrelling ahead with Site C Dam construction, including work on river diversion, transmission lines, highway realignment, clearing and other elements. This negligence and irresponsible continuation of construction places the welfare of workers and communities at an unacceptable risk and is utterly inconsistent with the health advice provided by Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry.

December 14, 2022


Smith apologizes for Indian Act comparison after remarks make some First Nations leaders bristle

Premier Smith said Wednesday she apologizes for earlier comments if they were ‘misconstrued’

Alberta Premier Danielle Smith speaks at a press conference in Edmonton in November. She met with Treaty 6 chiefs on Wednesday. (Jason Franson/The Canadian Press)

CBC News: Alberta Premier Danielle Smith attended a pre-arranged meeting with Treaty 6 chiefs on Wednesday amid pushback from Indigenous leaders, who continue to call for her flagship Sovereignty Act legislation to be withdrawn.

That meeting evidently did not move the chiefs from their initial request. “It was clear from our discussions that Premier Smith does not understand treaty or our inherent rights, nor does she respect them,” reads a statement released after the meeting.

The meeting took place a day after Smith compared Alberta’s relationship with Ottawa to that of First Nations under the Indian Act.

“This is all about making sure that Ottawa stays out of our jurisdiction,” Smith said Tuesday during question period in the Alberta Legislature. 

“The way I’ve described it to the chiefs that I’ve spoke with is that they have fought a battle over the last number of years to get sovereignty respected, and to extract themselves from the paternalistic Indian Act.

“We get treated the exact same way from Ottawa. They interfere in our jurisdiction all the time, and we are looking forward to pushing back and being treated exactly like Quebec.”

Indian Act broad in scope

The Indian Act, which was originally passed in 1876, is a set of laws intended to govern First Nations people in Canada. It has since been amended multiple times, and is broad in scope, legislating areas such as land use, education and healthcare in Indigenous life.

The controversial act has attracted scores of criticism over the years, and attempts to enact major changes have failed. Dan Christmas, the first Mi’kmaq member of the Senate, said in 2017 that the act condemned Indigenous communities to a lifetime of poverty.

“The point I’m making is a very stark one: Life under the Indian Act is a horrible and unproductive existence whose ultimate destiny is insolvency and ruin, both economically and emotionally,” he said at the time.

Chief Tony Alexis from Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation previously said there had been no consultation or dialogue with First Nations around the Alberta Sovereignty act and said it could set a harmful precedent. (Trevor Wilson/CBC)

Treaty 6 Chief Tony Alexis of Alberta’s Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation rejected Smith’s drawing of parallels between the relationships of First Nations, Alberta and the federal government.

“We know this not to be true,” Alexis said in an emailed statement. “I want Premier Smith to focus on our concerns about the Sovereignty Act, rather than try to use our people in her fight against Ottawa.”

Autumn Eaglespeaker, one of the co-founders of Idle No More in Calgary, similarly rejected the comparison, calling the two “apples and oranges.”

“They have nothing to do with another. The Sovereignty Act is a complete infringement and disregard for Indigenous rights,” Eaglespeaker wrote in a text message.

The provincial government has said that the legislation should not be construed as “abrogating or derogating from any existing” Aboriginal or treaty rights.

Premier apologizes if comments were ‘misconstrued’

During question period on Wednesday, Smith was asked to apologize for the comments by Opposition NDP Indigenous Relations critic Richard Feehan.

“Does the premier understand the harm her comments create when she minimizes abuse of First Nations [that] they have faced throughout Canada’s history, and they’re still fighting now?” Feehan said.

During question period on Wednesday, Alberta Premier Danielle Smith was asked to apologize for her comments on the Indian Act by Opposition NDP Indigenous Relations Critic Richard Feehan.

In response, Smith said that had not been the intention of her comments, adding that “if my comments were misconstrued, I absolutely apologize for it.”

“My intention was to demonstrate that we have a common problem with Ottawa,” she said. “Ottawa, I think, unfortunately, treats First Nations with disrespect, and they also treat provinces with disrespect.

“What we need to do is to go back to the original intention of the Constitution and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and make sure that Ottawa is respecting both First Nation sovereignty rights as well as our rights under the Constitution.”

Indigenous leaders want act withdrawn

The Alberta Sovereignty Within a United Canada Act is intended to give the province the power to reject federal laws. 

Last week, the national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, RoseAnne Archibald called for the act, and the similiar Saskatchewan First Act, to be withdrawn.

“We are talking about an infringement not only on treaty and inherent rights, but we’re talking about an attempt to usurp natural laws, which is quite impossible,” Archbald said, specifying that First Nations were not asking for amendments, but for the acts to be withdrawn.

Indigenous leaders had also sent a letter on Friday to Lt.-Gov. Salma Lakhani, asking her to withhold royal assent, Treaty 8 First Nations Grand Chief Arthur Noskey said.

“We have always been a sovereign people. So the issue is the Royal Crown has parliamentarians here in Canada that do not know squat about the treaties. That is the issue,” Noskey told CBC News in an interview.

“If they acknowledged and recognized the treaties and implemented the treaties as the courts have been saying, we wouldn’t have need of a sovereignty act.”

Last week, Assembly of First Nations National Chief RoseAnne Archibald said she supported treaty chiefs who are opposing the proposed Alberta Sovereignty Within a United Canada Act. (Spencer Colby/The Canadian Press)

After the bill was passed, Indigenous leaders said there had been no consultation or dialogue with First Nations.

In their press release, the Confederacy of Treaty 6 Nations called the legislation “dangerous.”

“‘The Treaty Six Chiefs would like to clarify that, while Premier Danielle Smith did meet with Treaty Six Chiefs today — this does not, in any way or sense, constitute her duty to consult with regard to any matters of mutual concern,” the release reads. 

“The premier will not dictate how we will be consulted. We will point her once again to the duty to consult to learn more about how to engage and work with us appropriately.”

February 28, 2023


Some traditional lands to return to Wolastoqey Nation, agreement signed

AV Group signs memorandum of understanding despite being named in land title claim by Wolastoqey chiefs

A group representing six Wolastoqey nations in New Brunswick have signed a memorandum of understanding with AV Group that will see a parcel of land transferred back to the nation. From left: Neqotkuk First Nation Chief Ross Perley, Welamukotuk First Nation Shelley Sabbatis, Matawaskiye First Nation Patricia Bernard, and Conway Elkins, director of woodlands and fibre sourcing for AV Group. (Jon Collicott/CBC)

CBC News: A New Brunswick forestry company is agreeing to transfer a parcel of land to Wolastoqey communities in the province and allow their members input into their forest management practices.

The agreement is part of a memorandum of understanding signed between the Wolastoqey Nation in New Brunswick and AV Nackawic, one of the province’s largest forestry companies with operations in Nackawic and Atholville. The Wolastoqey Nation in New Brunswick represents the Matawaskiye (Madawaska), Wotstak (Woodstock), Neqotkuk (Tobique), Bilijk (Kingsclear), Sitansisk (St. Mary’s) and Welamuktok (Oromocto) First Nations, located along the Wolastoq River, also known as the St. John River.

The agreement was announced at a news conference in Fredericton Tuesday, with Sitansisk First Nation Chief Allan Polchies describing it as the first of its kind between the six nations and a large industry player.

A group of people sit at a conference table.
The Wolastoqey Nation in New Brunswick and AV Group announced their memorandum of understanding during a news conference in Fredericton Tuesday. (Jon Collicott/CBC)

“It is a clear signal that what we’re asking of companies, of Crown corporations and the provincial government is not unreasonable, but in fact, precisely the right way to proceed into the future,” Polchies said.

In 2020 the Wolastoqey Nation filed a land title claim for more than five million hectares the chiefs identify as Wolastoqey traditional lands, equating to about half of New Brunswick.

In 2021, they amended the claim to specifically name AV Group and some of the province’s other large forestry companies, including J.D. Irving Ltd. and its subsidiaries, Twin Rivers Paper, Acadian Timber and H.J. Crabbe and Sons, as well as N.B. Power.

The claim has led to comments by Premier Blaine Higgs that it could lead to Indigenous people winning control of 60 per cent of the province’s land, including homes and businesses. Those comments prompted backlash, with accusations that he stoked fear among the public and spread misinformation.

Largely symbolic, says chief

Matawaskiye First Nation Chief Patricia Bernard said the memorandum of understanding with AV Group doesn’t change the company’s status as a respondent in the title claim. She said the claim is still in the discovery stage and while the Wolastoqey Nation is open to negotiations, there’s no sign of reaching a settlement with any of the respondents.

The AV Group’s mill in Nackawic is one of two in New Brunswick that process the wood harvested on land the company owns and on Crown land it leases. The company said discussions about the agreement began about two years ago.

She said the new agreement with the AV Group is largely “symbolic” and serves as an acknowledgement that First Nations deserve to have a say in how their traditional lands are developed. “I think this is a great day and is a great opportunity for this particular company to initiate this memorandum of understanding, because it actually sets the stage for other companies to do the same,” Bernard said.

Bernard said the Wolastoqey Nation in New Brunswick is not in discussions with other companies for a similar agreement. She said the specific parcel of land to be transferred to the Wolastoqey Nation is yet to be determined.

Not about settling claim, says AV Group

Mike Legere, director of government relations with AV Group, said the memorandum wasn’t signed with the intention of reaching a settlement in the title claim, but rather about improving engagement with the Wolastoqey nations.

Asked whether he thinks it could help result in a settlement, Legere said it “opens up options.” “Any time you build a relationship and that relationship improves, it opens conversations. Again, it’s not the intent … but obviously if the relationship improves, it opens up options.”

A man in a suit speaks into a microphone.
Mike Legere, director of government relations with AV Group, says the move isn’t about settling the title claim in which it’s been named. (Jon Collicott/CBC)

Conway Elkins, director of woodlands and fibre sourcing for AV Group, said discussions about the agreement began about two years ago. He said they were prompted in part by customers challenging the company to become more aware of how their practices impact Indigenous communities and to explore ways to build trust with them.

He said the memorandum of understanding will result in AV Group engaging with the Wolastoqey Nation on its long- and short-term forest management plans, and incorporating their knowledge into the company’s operations. “We will explore economic opportunities as it relates to forest management,” Elkins said. “We will work to truly define co-management and what co-decision making means.”


Aidan Cox, Journalist

Aidan Cox is a journalist for the CBC based in Fredericton. He can be reached at and followed on Twitter @Aidan4jrn.

May 14, 2021


Summit of Treaty 5 First Nations Declaration on Natural Resources on Treaty Territory

NationTalk – O-Pipon-Na-Piwin Cree Nation, Treaty 5: The Summit of Treaty Five Sovereign Nations comprising of 40 First Nations in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Ontario will stand with the Treaty 5 First Nations and individual Treaty 5 holders who will be adversely impacted by the issuance of a permanent licence for Churchill River Diversion, Lake Winnipeg Regulation and Jenpeg Generating Station in Manitoba. There are numerous First Nations that are directly impacted.

On May 13, 2021, the Manitoba Conservative government unilaterally made the decision to issue these licences which infringe on the Aboriginal and Treaty rights and will have an adverse cumulative impact on the environment by Hydro development. Once again, inadequate consultations; a legal obligation Manitoba holds, and an absence of meaningful accommodation are echoed among Treaty 5 people. With the increased concerns on the lack of fulfillment of the Treaty provisions, the Summit of Treaty Five Sovereign Nations recently adopted the Declaration on Natural Resources on Treaty Territory, which they vow to uphold.

Chief Clarence Easter, Chemawawin Cree Nation said, “Our history began many centuries before Canada became a country. Our ancestral lineage to this land is sacred and immemorial. Our homelands have never been surrendered, released, or been conquered. Indigenous people allowed access to the land to build this great country. Time is long-overdue for our Treaty partners to respect Indigenous nations power to decide our own fates according to inherent jurisdictions. While this country flaunts the flag of reconciliation, we are once again seeing an erosion of the spirit and intent of the Treaty: to share the land. Having said that, I think it’s a travesty that the province of Manitoba is not following the rule of law on consultation and section 35 of the constitution that recognises our rights regarding hydro development in the north.”

Chief Sheldon Kent, Black River First Nation stated, “Regardless of continued opposition to this project and continued demands for fair and adequate consultation, regardless of Canada’s recent adoption in principle of UNDRIP’s standards to provide free prior and informed consent, Manitoba has made the decision to grant a permanent license for the Churchill River Diversion, once again leaving First Nations as an afterthought. We have time and time again honoured our Treaty by sharing the land and resources while the provinces reject our participation and leave us impoverished economically, socially and, without access to lands for ceremony. There is no honour of the Crown when it refuses to work with First Nations as equal partners and, instead commits ongoing cultural genocide by eroding our livelihood and the articles of Treaty.”

November 17, 2020


The Anicinape Nation ancestral rights

The Minister Responsible for Indigenous Affairs – Minister Ian Lafrenière met with the chiefs of the Algonquin communities and the Grand Chief of the Tribal Council of the Anishinabeg Algonquin Nation, Verna Polson. All parties agreed to immediately begin a negotiation process to find lasting solutions to avoid a repeat of the situation experienced in the fall, during the moose hunting season, in the La Vérendrye Wildlife Reserve. it was agreed that the random draw for hunting, conducted by the Sépaq, would be postponed until March 2021 and that there would be no pressure applied during the negotiations

October 8, 2020


The Anicinape Nation ancestral rights

First Nations Drum – The Anicinape Nation is calling for a complete moratorium on moose hunting on its unceded ancestral territory. Faced with the Quebec government’s refusal to authorize this moratorium, roadblocks have been erected in the La Vérendrye wildlife reserve to prevent hunters from passing through. Yesterday, the Quebec Superior Court granted a provisional injunction to the Petawaga zec, part of the La Vérendrye wildlife reserve. The Anicinape Nation holds ancestral rights, including an unextinguished ancestral title, on the entire territory of the wildlife reserve.

Moose hunting is at the heart of the culture and identity of the Anicinape Nation and all First Nations in Quebec. The protection of moose is a collective duty to ensure the vitality and sustainability of culture and traditions. Government leniency in this file has direct impacts on the rights of the Anicinapek, which are enshrined in the Canadian Constitution and protected by Canadian and international law.

October 6, 2022

BC, Fed. Govt.

The complicated truth about pipelines crossing Wet’suwet’en territory

Alberta-based energy giant TC Energy frequently points to its agreements with 20 First Nations along the route of the Coastal GasLink pipeline. This is true, but look a little deeper and it’s a lot more complex

The Narwhal: Three years after starting construction on a gas pipeline in northern B.C., Calgary-based energy giant TC Energy has begun to drill and lay pipe under the Wedzin Kwa (Morice River) on Wet’suwet’en territory. 

The river crossing, about 63 kilometres south of the town of Houston, has been the focal point of conflict between the pipeline company and Indigenous land defenders and their supporters, who argue the company did not receive Free, Prior and Informed Consent to build the Coastal GasLink project. In the fall of 2021, land defenders occupied the drill sitefor more than 50 days in an attempt to stop the company from drilling under the river. In November, RCMP conducted a series of raids, arresting more than 30 people and paving the way for the company to resume construction. The company told The Narwhal it has safely completed “eight out of 10 major watercourse crossings” to date. 

“We will never stop defending our yintah [territory] the way our ancestors have done for thousands of years,” Gidimt’en Camp, a growing village site near the confluence of the river and Ts’elkay Kwe (Lamprey Creek), wrote in a Sept. 18 press release. “The pipeline will never be put into service.”

  • The Coastal GasLink pipeline is being built to connect shale gas formations in B.C.’s northeast with a liquefaction and export facility currently under construction on the Pacific coast
  • Spanning some 670 kilometres, the route traverses mountain passes, crosses salmon rivers and transects numerous Indigenous territories
  • The pipeline’s parent company, TC Energy, regularly notes it has agreements with 20 First Nations along the pipeline route. This is true. But look a little deeper and it’s more complicated
  • Those 20 First Nations are six Treaty 8 nations and 14 elected band councils. The latter only have jurisdiction over federally designated (and federally owned) reserve lands. Reserves represent just 0.4 per cent of all land in the province, according to the B.C. Treaty Commission
  • Of the 20 First Nations with signed agreements, none has reserve land intersected by the pipeline

Elected councils are in essence municipal governments, with a mayor and councillors, overseeing things like local bylaws, construction permits and zoning. In Lax Kw’alaams, a northwest coast Indigenous community, the elected government uses the term “mayor” but most nations across the province use “chief” or “elected chief.”

The system that governs reserve lands was forced on Indigenous Peoples through the Indian Act. The 19th century legislation criminalized Indigenous cultural practices and formally authorized residential schools, where thousands of children died and countless more suffered horrifying abuse. 

As a B.C. Supreme Court judge recently wrote in a ruling on a case between the Saik’uz and Stellat’en First Nations and Rio Tinto Alcan: “The legacy of 150 years of systemic discrimination and attempted assimilation is bleak and intractable. It has resulted in cultural erosion and alienation, relentless intergenerational trauma and socio-economic marginalization.”

While parts of the legislation have been amended since it was first enacted, the Indian Act remains in effect today and continues to provide the framework for how elected councils operate and the jurisdiction they have.

The bands’ agreements with the pipeline company are confidential but elected councils also signed agreements with the province. Those documents are public. In return for an initial payout and the promise of more when the project is completed, councils were required to sign a clause effectively surrendering constitutionally protected rights. 

By supporting the project the nations agreed “not to bring any court actions or proceedings that directly or indirectly challenge any government actions in relation to the natural gas pipeline project on the basis that the province has infringed any … rights recognized and affirmed” by the Constitution Act.

The province told The Narwhal it attempted to reach an agreement with the Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs during the environmental assessment process. It noted the Office of the Wet’suwet’en, an administrative non-profit that operates under the leadership of the Hereditary Chiefs, is the “appropriate entity for consultation purposes” but said B.C. was unsuccessful in its attempts, instead completing agreements with band councils.

Reconciliation is dead sign BC Legislature Wet'suwet'en solidarity action
red dress Wet'suwet'en
Photos: Carol Linnitt, Amber Bracken, Matt Simmons / The Narwhal

Recently, 16 of the 20 First Nation governments with existing agreements — a mix of bands and treaty nations — signed equity agreements with the company securing an option to purchase a 10 per cent ownership stake of the project if the pipeline is completed. While the project is expected to go significantly over-budget, this could provide economic support sorely needed by communities that continue to face disproportionate levels of poverty and socio-economic challenges.

“It’s long-term predictable income for the nation that’s reliable,” Justin Napoleon, elected chief of Saulteau First Nations, told The Narwhal. “It’s basically utility: if there’s gas flowing, the pipeline’s going to get its fees.”

Saulteau is a Treaty 8 nation and Napoleon said working with industry provides benefits to his community, which has borne the brunt of decades of heavy industrialization.

“We’re already living with all of the impacts from the industry up here,” he said. “But we’ve never been offered the option for equity in these giant projects that come through the area.” “For me, it’s always a balance of trying to balance the economic needs of the nation with the Treaty Rights and environmental protections that are so important to us.”

But for Robert Michell, elected chief of Stellat’en First Nation, signing an agreement with the pipeline company has not led to benefits that were originally promised. “For what we’re giving up, we’re definitely not happy with it,” he said. “Maybe some First Nations are doing very well by the pipeline. I mean, monetarily, they’ve probably gained employment, gained money, they gained a bunch of other stuff. But, unfortunately, some of the other First Nations along the line are not as fortunate.”

TC Energy did not directly answer questions about how it disperses benefits along the pipeline route, but told The Narwhal in an email the Coastal GasLink project has provided over $1.4 billion in contracting opportunities to Indigenous and local communities and noted 6,000 workers were employed this summer.

“We have hosted 45 economic summits and job fairs to match local and Indigenous individuals and businesses with career opportunities,” the company wrote. “Since 2014, we have provided 590 bursaries and scholarships to post-secondary institutions in northern B.C., with 267 awarded to students identifying as Indigenous.”

Michell said the concerns of his community have not been addressed. “There has not been a meeting within the 20 First Nations to sit down and say, ‘Hey, how’s things going with CGL? Are you guys still happy? Are you sad about some parts of it? Are they fulfilling obligations?’ That hasn’t happened.”

“CGL is in the media quite a bit over spills and all the other stuff,” he continued. “None of those questions are really answered — you’re always kind of pushed back to say, ‘Oh, our person that’s looking after that particular section of pipeline, our native liaison person, will get back to you on that.’ ”

Anuc’nu’at’en: Wet’suwet’en law

Prior to colonization, Indigenous Peoples made decisions about land, water and communities through existing governance systems and laws. On Wet’suwet’en territory, those laws are called Anuc’nu’at’en, and are upheld by Dinï ze’ and Tsakë’ze (Hereditary Chiefs).

  • In 1997, the Supreme Court of Canada declared that the Wet’suwet’en and Gitxsan nations never gave up Rights and Title to the lands and waters in a landmark case known as Delgamuukw-Gisday’wa. This means the authority and jurisdiction over what happens on Wet’suwet’en territory outside of reserve boundaries lies with the hereditary government
  • The Coastal GasLink pipeline route cuts through around 190 kilometres of the heart of the 22,000 square-kilometre Wet’suwet’en territory, crossing wetlands, cultural sites and the Wedzin Kwa (Morice River).
  • Wet’suwet’en Dinï ze’ and Tsakë’ze have opposed the pipeline since it was first proposed in 2012, but the B.C. government still approved the project
  • There are six reserves on the territory: Hagwilget, Witset (formerly known as Moricetown), Wet’suwet’en First Nation (formerly known as the Broman Lake Indian Band), Skin Tyee, Ts’il Kaz Koh and Nee-Tahi-Buhn. Together, the six reserves account for 35 square kilometres of Wet’suwet’en territory
  • Five of these elected councils signed agreements with TC Energy and the province, Hagwilget being the only council that refused.
    • “Hagwilget really acknowledges the hereditary system, and the inherent title and right that comes with it. Hagwilget knows its place within that and that’s certainly not in making decisions over land and territory outside of the reserve boundary.”Jesse Stoeppler, Elected councillor, Hagwilget village

The hereditary system is, like all forms of government, complex. 

The Wet’suwet’en Nation consists of five clans — Gidimt’en, C’ilhts’ëkhyu, Likhsilyu, Tsayu and Likhts’amisyu — and each is made up of a number of houses. Each house has a chief, who is responsible for decisions about the house territory. If decisions impact multiple territories, multiple chiefs make decisions together. 

All decisions reflect the positions of the chiefs’ members — which include elected chiefs and councillors — and are made in the balhats, or feast hall. Similarly, any conflicts that need to be resolved are addressed in the balhats and there are complex and specific protocols that govern all decisions.

Wet’suwet’en Dinï ze’ and Ts’akë ze’ (Hereditary Chiefs) gather around a fire on the territory. Together, the chiefs are responsible for upholding Anuc’nu’at’en, Wet’suwet’en law. Photo: Amber Bracken / The Narwhal

“In my case, as a council member of Hagwilget village I’m not just functioning as a councillor, I still belong to a house group, a wilp,” Stoeppler said. “That makes it very complicated and also very easy at the same time.”

“They all have a voice in our feast hall, they all have a voice as clan members, but as elected officials, they’ve got to stay within the boundaries of what that elected position is for,” Dinï ze’ Na’moks explained. “They are there for the infrastructure of that reserve, not beyond. You don’t see a mayor and council telling the province or Canada what to do.”

“Since the beginning of the project, Coastal GasLink has sought to engage and consult with the Wet’suwet’en Houses through the Office of the Wet’suwet’en and the elected leadership,” TC Energy told The Narwhal in a written statement. “We want to listen and seek meaningful ways to address interests and concerns including ensuring the pipeline is built under the Morice River using the safest technology available.”

None of the other five band councils responded to The Narwhal’s requests for comment.

Coastal GasLink isn’t the only pipeline on the books for the area.

  • The Pacific Trails pipeline project and the Westcoast Connector Gas Transmission pipeline, both owned by Enbridge, and the Prince Rupert Gas Transmission pipeline, owned by TC Energy, would each supply fracked gas to one or more proposed liquefaction facilities near Prince Rupert
  • All three pipelines received approval from the B.C. government but construction has not started on any
  • While the Prince Rupert Gas Transmission line was slated to connect to Petronas’s Pacific Northwest LNG on Lelu Island, at the mouth of the Skeena River, that project was cancelled in 2017. The pipeline, however, is still approved and TC Energy continues to apply for and receive extensions
  • The Westcoast Connector and Prince Rupert transmission pipelines are cited as potential feeders to the proposed Ksi Lisims LNG project, a floating natural gas liquefaction facility and marine export terminal on Nisga’a territory
  • “Once one pipeline comes through, you can almost guarantee 100 per cent there’ll be a second one. I, personally, don’t want this pipeline as a kind of measuring stick as what is required for the second one to come through. There needs to be way more consultation, way more understanding as to what it all includes.”Robert Michell. Elected chief, Stellat’en First Nation

What is true on Wet’suwet’en territory is not true everywhere. Governance is complex and individual nations have the right to decide what structures they want to uphold. As the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples clearly states, “Indigenous peoples have the right to self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.”

Data used to produce maps was compiled from publicly available sources, including provincial and federal databases and the B.C. Oil and Gas Commission. The Narwhal strived to ensure accuracy but territory boundaries are only an estimate as they are often disputed due to the ongoing impacts of colonization.

Updated on Oct. 6, 2022, at 10:42 a.m. PT: This article was updated to note the Wet’suwet’en governance structure is not true for all nations.

July 27, 2022


The Wolastoqey title claim in N.B., a centuries-old issue and the honourable solution

New Brunswick never signed a land-sharing treaty and is in violation of laws governing compensation. It’s time for a resource revenue-sharing agreement.

Policy Options: In New Brunswick, a Mi’kmaw title claim by the Wolastoqey Nations is underpinned by a simple truth: the Mi’kmaw Nation of New Brunswick was unfairly dispossessed from its  traditional territory by Euro-Canadian settlement without its consent or compensation. This title claim needs to be considered within its broader historical and legal significance, and with the recognition that Canadian governments have systematically ignored Indigenous land and treaty rights at least since Confederation.

The claim is at least decades long in its making and was filed in October 2021. It seeks the court’s declaration that the Wolastoqey have Aboriginal title to their traditional territory, which they never ceded by any treaty agreement with the Crown. The territorial claim still stands as an “existing Aboriginal right.”

An honorable solution exists to resolve this centuries-old issue. 

Given that the Wolastoqey Nations hold a pre-existing and unextinguished plenary title to all of New Brunswick, the Wolastoqey Nations and the province could enter into a modern-day treaty to craft a resource revenue-sharing agreement based on existing constitutional and treaty law. That would be the honourable way to deal with the Wolastoqey title claim and would be a win-win solution for both parties without disturbing private interests and property.

Instead, New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs and his ministers have treated it as a confrontational issue. They have spoken out against the land title claim by stating that it would jeopardize private land and business interests. Their assertion shows great ignorance of Indigenous history, Indigenous law and how European settlers unilaterally claimed ownership of North American Indigenous territories. 

However, Higgs and his ministers cannot be totally blamed. The provincial education ministries and the public school system in Canada have failed in their obligation to teach Indigenous history beginning with the Royal Proclamation of 1763 and all the way to section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982, which recognizes and affirms existing Aboriginal and treaty rights.

The notion of European discovery of the New World laid the seeds for the current disputes concerning North American Indian land rights. In 1823, in the case of Johnson v. M’Intosh, Chief Justice John Marshall of the U.S. Supreme Court reasoned that discovery gave legal title to the English, “which annulled the pre-existing rights of its ancient possessors.” 

N.B.’s ongoing battle with Wolastoqey Nation is not reconciliation in action

Shifting the relationship between provinces and First Nations to a diplomatic focus

Indigenous consultations must be better integrated into Ontario policy

In Canada in 1888, the Privy Council of England reasoned in the case of St. Catharines Milling that Indians held no legitimate title to their lands and were considered no more than mere leasehold tenants when British sovereignty was established in 1759. It said, “…the tenure of the Indians was a personal and usufructuary right, dependent upon the good will of the Sovereign… There has been all along vested in the Crown a substantial and paramount estate, underlying the Indian title…” 

Such denial did not abate until 2014, when the Supreme Court of Canada held in Tsilhqot’in that Aboriginal title confers ownership rights akin to fee simple title, similar to private land property rights. Indigenous nations such as the Wolastoqey of New Brunswick are now challenging the legitimacy of the English claim to North America based on the justiciable legal fictions of discovery and terra nullius (no one’s land).     

Fifteenth-century popes, kings and Premier Higgs

The reaction to the Wolastoqey land title claim has been incredulity, which is emblematic of the Euro-centric attitude dating back to the 16th century, when the pope and European kings would argue that Christian nations had a God-given right to dispossess non-Christian nations from their lands. Higgs’s and his ministers’ assertion shows a great depth of prejudice against legitimate Indian land rights. 

Let’s puts things in modern perspective: very little remains of the original Mi’kmaw traditional territory. Crown lands in Canada are extensive and they were carved out of Indigenous territories: 99.75 per cent of New Brunswick is occupied by the descendants of the original European settlers. New Brunswick encompasses 72,908 square kilometres. There are 32 Indian reserves totalling 183 square kilometres. That amounts to only 0.25 per cent of the province. 

Premier Higgs’s position is hard to fathom or justify given that the Mi’kmaw Nations in the Maritime provinces never signed any land-sharing treaties with the British.

Obviously, the Maritime provinces ignored the dictates of the Royal Proclamation after Confederation in 1867. Nonetheless, the proclamation still applies throughout Canada not only via its geographic reach but also by the development of pre-Confederation constitutional law and the common law: Regina v Koonungnak (1963-64), which can be found in Aboriginal Legal Issues, Cases, Materials & Commentary.

Today’s hard truths

Canadians have to face some hard truths behind the Wolastoqey land title claim. 

First, the British needed the co-operation of Indigenous nations for early European settlement. The Mi’kmaw Nation greatly assisted the early English settlers as the Maritime provinces were established. Diplomatic and treaty initiatives were essential requirements for the “peace, order and good governance” of the British colonies. The Maritime provinces have yet to express their gratitude to the Mi’kmaw Nation for the land and all that it provides. 

Second, after the repatriation of the Canadian Constitution in 1982, Canada entered what is now the “rights recognition and reconciliation era” in relation to Aboriginal peoples as per section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982. The Wolastoqey land title claim falls within that era and it probably won’t be the last title claim. 

There is a solution to this impasse: the New Brunswick government needs to take a hard look at its current policies and legislation in relation to Indigenous legal interests in land and resources. Reconciliatory action is needed and it is a quintessential Canadian issue. It’s not solely Aboriginal. 

Canada should take a cue from Australia’s High Court 1992 decision in Mabo, which holds that Australian land laws should not be based on terra nullius and that Torres Strait Islander peoples have land rights that existed prior to British occupation, which can still be exercised today. The facts are the same. Canada and Australia belong to the same British Commonwealth family, they share the same Indigenous land issues and have the same history of long denial of Indigenous land rights.                                                                                                                             

Past federal policies and legislation since 1867, such as the Indian Act under the Macdonald and Mackenzie governments, are to blame for creating today’s tensions. Safeguards for Indian land trusts and interests were routinely ignored but nonetheless remained constitutionally protected via the British North America Act (1867), i.e., sections 109, 146, and the Rupert’s Land Order, Term 14. The continuing denial of Aboriginal land rights did not abate until 1973 via the Calder Supreme Court decision. This led then-prime minister Pierre Trudeau to declare, “You Indians have more rights than I thought you had.” Thereafter, Canada instituted the Indian land claims policy to address the wrongful taking of Indian lands.

Rupert’s Land is the territory in pink. York Factory was a trading post created in northeastern Manitoba in 1684. Credit: anonymous, Wpdms ruperts land, CC BY-SA 3.0

A legal obligation to honour Indigenous land rights                                                                                                                  

Section 146 of the B.N.A. Act, 1867, provided for the admission of Rupert’s Land and the North-Western Territory into Canada based on certain terms and conditions. They included the equitable principles doctrine, which provides as follows: “…upon the transference of the territories in question to the Canadian Government, the claims of the Indian tribes to compensation for lands required for purposes of settlement will be considered and settled in conformity with the equitable principles which have uniformly governed the British Crown in its dealings with the aborigines.”                                             

Is acknowledging Indigenous territory enough?

The divide and conquer land rights policies that harm communities

Canada’s “prove it” approach to Aboriginal title 

Also, pursuant to  the Rupert’s Land and North-Western Territory Order of June, 23, 1870, Term 14, the transfer of all Crown lands and natural resources to the provinces is “subject to any Trusts existing in respect thereof, and to any Interest other than that of the Provinces in the same,” i.e., B.N.A. Act, s. 109. All provinces are constit utionally obligated to respect residual Indian trusts and interests existing on Crown lands. The current Euro-Canadian occupation of New Brunswick might be challenged on the basis that the requirements set out in the Rupert’s Land Order for settling Indian claims were not adhered to.

It is therefore clear that the Higgs government remains in continuing violation of the Rupert’s Land Order including section 146 of the Constitutional Act, 1982, and now sections 25 and 35 of the said constitutional provisions. 

Brokenhead Mission. Cutline: Brokenhead Mission, Ruperts Land, MB, about 1895. Credit: McCord Museum

No evidence of land-sharing treaty in New Brunswick

Indigenous territories constitute high Crown trust responsibilities and, as such, orderly and lawful occupation of Indigenous territories is required. Indigenous nations in the provinces where land-sharing treaties are absent, such as New Brunswick, are entitled to be compensated for the Euro-Canadian occupation their lands. New Brunswick stands in direct violation of such law and such justiciable Euro-Canadian occupation in that part of Canada is contrary to our liberal-democratic ideals and respect for the rule of law.

The Wolastoqey title claim is based on the Peace and Friendship Treatiessigned by the Mi’kmaw Nation and the British Crown between 1725 and 1778 for the sharing of resources. However, those treaties did not provide for the surrender of any Mi’kmaw land. Those historic treaties perhaps provide a template for a possible resolution, though.

An amicable resolution

Canada was built on the backs of Indigenous Peoples, their lands and resources. European settlers became prosperous. Indigenous Peoples did not, and that was not by chance. Natural resources revenues, to which First Nations have a rightful claim, create the wealth needed to drive the Canadian economy for all Canadians, including Indigenous Peoples. Yet, through restrictive and racist government policy and legislation since 1867, Indigenous Peoples have been totally excluded from sharing in such wealth. Importantly, such exclusionary policy is contrary to the spirit and intent of the Victorian Treaties (1871-1921) in Western Canada, otherwise referred to as the Numbered Treaties (1-11).

An amicable resolution to the title claim of the Wolastoqey Nations exists. It would go a long way toward improving their capacity to participate in the Canadian economy as equal partners in Confederation. New nation-to-nation arrangements such as resource revenue sharing and equity participation in resource development projects between the Mi’kmaw Nation and the New Brunswick government will have to be made. Such initiatives have been started with the Yukon, the Northwest Territories, Nunavut, British Columbia, Quebec, and Newfoundland and Labrador, to their credit. One thing is for certain: the status quo of government denial and exclusion is no longer sustainable.   

March 3, 2021


Treaty 8 and Site C Dam

First People’s Law – The Site C dam, downstream of the WAC Bennett Dam, capitalizes on the destruction of Treaty 8 territory and the ongoing infringement of treaty rights. It will also cause additional, irreversible impacts on the lands and rights of Indigenous Peoples in Treaty 8 on both sides of the Alberta-BC border.

In July 2020, the BC government revealed there were significant structural problems with the foundation of the Site C dam. The Province commissioned a series of expert reports to assess the safety issues but allowed construction to proceed in the interim. The Province also refused to share the reports with First Nations or the public. Six months later, the BC government announced it had determined, based on the expert reports, that the proposed solutions were adequate and that it intended to move ahead with the project. The announcement did not address the impacts on Treaty 8 territory or the fact that significant legal challenges remain outstanding. It also did little to resolve First Nations’ safety concerns, particularly given BC’s refusal to share the reports until after the decision was issued.

The Indigenous signatories to Treaty 8 entered into treaty to establish a relationship of mutual respect, benefit and peaceful co-existence with incoming settlers. In exchange, the Crown promised, among other things, that the Indigenous treaty parties would be free to hunt and fish after the treaty as they would be if they never entered into it. The Site C dam, which would result in the permanent destruction of significant portions of Treaty 8, is antithetical to this promise.

BC’s decision to forge ahead with the Site C project, even when both treaty rights and public safety is at stake, is further testament to how treaty rights can be undermined when the entity that determines whether a project goes ahead–the provincial government–also has a vested interest in the project proceeding.

However, BC’s failure to honour its treaty obligations does not mean Site C will proceed. First, courts have confirmed the importance of implementing treaties in a way that respects and protects the Indigenous treaty parties’ rights and territories, including by taking into account the cumulative effects of resource development and justifying any infringement of the treaty. The BC Supreme Court will determine whether the Province has met these obligations in West Moberly First Nations’ treaty infringement action, which is scheduled to be heard over 120 days beginning in March 2022.

In addition, there are signs the Province’s announcement will serve to strengthen First Nations’ commitment to work together in Alberta and BC to ensure their rights are respected. In February, the Treaty 8 First Nations of Alberta issued a Declaration of Indigenous Solidarity calling for the immediate suspension of the Site C project until the Crown’s consultation obligations are fulfilled and until the court has determined West Moberly’s treaty infringement claim.

May 17, 2023

BC, Fed. Govt.

Trial Begins for a Hereditary Chief Charged in the CGL Pipeline Conflict

Chief Dsta’hyl says he was acting as an enforcement officer for the Likhts’amisyu Clan when he seized construction equipment.

A man with greying hair tied back in a ponytail smiles at the camera. Behind him is a white and beige institutional looking building.
Chief Dsta’hyl, a wing chief of the Likhts’amisyu Clan who also goes by Adam Gagnon, stands outside the courthouse in Smithers, where his trial got underway Monday. Dsta’hyl is charged with criminal contempt for his role in opposing the Coastal GasLink pipeline. Photo by Amanda Follett Hosgood for The Tyee.

The Tyee: Security was unusually tight at the courthouse in Smithers on Monday, with sheriffs using metal detectors and searching the bags of those who attended the first day of the trial of a Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chief criminally charged for his role in opposing the Coastal GasLink pipeline.

Chief Dsta’hyl, a wing chief of the Likhts’amisyu Clan who also goes by Adam Gagnon, was arrested Oct. 27, 2021, following an interaction with Coastal GasLink security on his clan’s traditional territory. Although he was originally taken into custody for mischief and theft over $5,000, Dsta’hyl now faces a charge of criminal contempt. The original charges are not proceeding, his lawyer, Rebecca McConchie, confirmed. 

BC Prosecution Service announced last year that it would proceed with criminal contempt charges against some of those charged in the pipeline conflict in October and November 2021. Coastal GasLink has not proceeded with civil lawsuits against those accused of breaching its injunction, which prevents anyone from blocking access roads and pipeline worksites.

A lawyer for the pipeline company sat behind Crown prosecutors in the courtroom Monday. 

According to facts read by Crown prosecutor Paul Battin, Dsta’hyl had several interactions with police and Coastal GasLink security over the 10 days leading up to his arrest. The exchanges occurred in an area covered by the injunction and were captured in videos recorded by security workers and police between Oct. 17 and 26, 2021, he said. 

On the afternoon of Oct. 27, an RCMP officer was on the Shea Forest Service Road southwest of Houston when he received a call that Dsta’hyl was heading his way from a nearby work camp and was “arrestable for mischief and theft,” Battin said. In the back of the truck, police found four batteries used in heavy duty equipment, he told the court.

Dsta’hyl was handcuffed, searched and taken to the Houston RCMP detachment that evening, where he was held in custody until the following afternoon, Battin said. Also recording the exchanges were Dsta’hyl and his supporters, who uploaded videos to social media accounts supporting Wet’suwet’en pipeline resistance, the court heard. According to Battin, it was the public nature of the actions that shifted them from civil to criminal contempt. 

“There are four elements of criminal contempt: the existence of an order, knowledge of that order, that the accused breached that order and then the accused did so in a public way, this last element being what distinguishes criminal contempt from civil contempt,” he said. 

As the trial got underway Monday morning, the court heard from a consultant hired by the RCMP to collect content posted to Gidimt’en Checkpoint and Sovereign Likhts’amisyu, public social media accounts supporting Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs who oppose pipelines through their traditional territory.

A brown sign that says “courthouse government office building” stands in front of a white and beige institutional looking building. There is blue sky and a birch tree overhanging the sign.
The Smithers courthouse, located on Wet’suwet’en territory in northern BC., where the trial of Likhts’amisyu Clan Chief Dsta’hyl, Adam Gagnon, takes place this week with Crown prosecutors presenting their case. The trial continues for a week in July, when the defence will provide its response. Photo by Amanda Follett Hosgood for The Tyee.

Julie Jones was contracted in May 2022, through her business Human-i Intelligence Services, to “retrieve materials” posted to the Facebook and Instagram accounts in the days leading up to Dsta’hyl’s arrest. 

Jones testified that RCMP provided her with a list of 14 videos, including names of the accounts, the dates they were posted and a title for each video. She used a virtual private network, or VPN, to mask her identity while downloading the files and software that recorded her steps. “On that list there was also two websites. One was a news website and the other one was the Coastal [GasLink] pipeline website,” she added.

In the videos, which were played for the court, Dsta’hyl introduces himself to Coastal GasLink security workers as the Likhts’amisyu enforcement officer. He tells them that they are trespassing on the clan’s territory and asks them to leave, saying he will “seize” equipment and decommission vehicles used for pipeline construction.  “As Wet’suwet’en, we’re not recognizing that injunction because we’re not part of B.C., we’re not a part of Canada, so that injunction is completely invalid on Wet’suwet’en territory,” Dsta’hyl says in a video posted Oct. 25, 2021.

In another video, posted two days later, Dsta’hyl is shown climbing onto heavy machinery and removing its batteries, saying he is securing the equipment “because none of the executive at CGL will come to the table if we don’t have a few assets in order to bring them onto the table.”

Under cross-examination, Jones confirmed that her role focused on “evidence collection” rather than investigation. In response to questions from McConchie, she said RCMP had not asked her to conduct internet research related to allegations of the pipeline’s environmental or cultural impacts, or details of Wet’suwet’en law. 

Later in the day, the court heard from two witnesses who worked for security companies contracted by the pipeline company. 

Douglas Drappier was working for SecureGard, a company providing contract security services, on Oct. 17, 2021, when he crossed paths with Dsta’hyl, who was driving a red Chevy pickup on the pipeline right-of-way near the Parrott Forest Service Road south of Houston. Initially thinking it was a pipeline worker, Drappier pulled onto the right-of-way and the two vehicles pulled up next to one another.

Dsta’hyl introduced himself as the Likhts’amisyu enforcement officer and said he had warned Coastal GasLink to remove its equipment from the clan’s territory or it would be seized, Drappier said. Another person in the pickup recorded their exchange. “They told me I was on Native land and they had the right to be there, that I didn’t,” Drappier said. “He wasn’t rude. We weren’t rude to each other. We were very polite to each other. He understood I was doing my job.”

He estimated the pair spoke for about a half hour. Following the interaction, Drappier said he called his supervisor on a satellite phone and another company hired by Coastal GasLink, Forsythe Security, sent several vehicles to the site. 

Forsythe field security advisor Angela Robinson was among those patrolling the Parrott road that morning, she testified. She met with SecureGard personnel at about 9:30 a.m. but “it wasn’t until later in the afternoon that I actually had the opportunity to engage with Mr. Gagnon,” she said.  She described how, just before 3 p.m., Dsta’hyl’s red pickup pulled from the Parrott road onto the right-of-way where the security workers were parked near heavy machinery. A number of other vehicles followed, she said. 

After at first observing Dsta’hyl’s exchange with another security worker from her vehicle, Robinson stepped out of her vehicle and began speaking with the Hereditary Chief. The court watched the exchange, which was recorded on Robinson’s body camera. 

Jailed Wet’suwet’en Chief Has a Friendly Warning for Coastal GasLink


In it, Dsta’hyl introduces himself as the Likhts’amisyu enforcement officer and reminds Robinson of an eviction notice previously issued to Coastal GasLink by Wet’suwet’en hereditary leadership.  “I’m asking you guys to all please leave,” he says. “That injunction is bogus as hell. We have a supreme court decision on our side.” 

Dsta’hyl tells Robinson that he’s going to seize equipment. Robinson can be heard relaying updates to her colleagues via satellite communications, describing Dsta’hyl removing batteries from an excavator.  He was arrested by RCMP about an hour later on the Shae Forest Service Road, roughly 70 kilometres southwest of where he removed batteries from the excavator. 

About two weeks later, Wet’suwet’en hereditary leaders would close the Morice Forest Service Road through neighbouring Gidimt’en Clan territory, leading to a four-day standoff and the arrests of about 30 people. Some of those arrested in November 2021 also face criminal contempt charges and have applied to the B.C. Supreme Court to have the charges stayed.

The Crown said it plans to call eight witnesses in Dsta’hyl’s case and expects to wrap up on Thursday. The defence is scheduled to present its case over a week in July.

Amanda Follett Hosgood,

Amanda Follett Hosgood is The Tyee’s northern B.C. reporter. She lives in Wet’suwet’en territory. Find her on Twitter @amandajfollett.

April 12, 2023

AB, BC, Fed. Govt., MB, NB, NL, NS, NT, NU, ON, PE, QC, SK, YT

Trudeau says premiers’ claims about natural resources power grab have ‘no grounding in truth’

Premiers criticized justice minister for saying Ottawa will look at resource agreement

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau responds to a question from the opposition during Question Period, Tuesday, March 21, 2023 in Ottawa.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau responds to a question from the oppositionin the House of Commons on March 21, 2023 in Ottawa. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

CBC News: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is accusing the premiers of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba of misinterpreting remarks by a federal minister on whether Ottawa might review agreements that give those provinces control of natural resources.

“Let me be very clear. The minister of justice said no such thing,” Trudeau said.

At an Assembly of First Nations special chiefs’ meeting last week, Minister of Justice David Lametti said that the government would be “looking at” the 1930 Natural Resources Transfer Agreements (NRTA). The agreements, signed by the federal government and the four western provinces, gave Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia control over their natural resources.

Justice Minister David Lametti is pictured at a news conference.
Justice Minister David Lametti was asked about natural resources agreements with provinces during a recent meeting of First Nations chiefs. (Spencer Colby/The Canadian Press)

“I obviously can’t pronounce on that right now, but I do commit to looking at that. It won’t be uncontroversial, is the only thing I would say with a bit of a smile,” Lametti told the meeting.

The premiers of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba swiftly denounced Lametti’s remarks. In a joint statement issued Tuesday, the premiers called on Trudeau to reject Lametti’s comments, which they called “dangerous and divisive.” Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre accused Lametti of “threatening to overturn the Constitution.”

On Wednesday, Trudeau said the premiers misinterpreted Lametti and denied his government was reviewing the agreements. Trudeau said Lametti was instead talking about the federal government’s commitment to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP)

“If you actually look at his remarks, it is very clear that we’re talking about the importance of the federal government living up to our responsibilities under UNDRIP,” Trudeau told a news conference. “[That’s] something that, unfortunately, the Prairie premiers have not taken seriously, and they are instead trying to elevate fears that have absolutely no grounding in truth.”

WATCH | PM responds to Prairie premiers’ concerns about natural resource control

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks with reporters about comments Justice Minister David Lametti made about the Natural Resources Transfer Act and the criticism those comments received from three western premiers.

Click on the following link to access the above video:

UNDRIP, which the UN General Assembly adopted in 2007, stipulates that “Indigenous peoples have the right to the conservation and protection of the environment and the productive capacity of their lands or territories and resources.” The Trudeau government has committed to implementing all 46 articles of the UNDRIP declaration.

On Wednesday, Trudeau said the federal government, the provinces and Indigenous people can all benefit from natural resources development. “Indigenous people need to be partners in how we develop land, in how we move forward in respectful and responsible ways,” Trudeau said. “We know we need to move forward in true reconciliation, in partnership with Indigenous peoples, and that’s something that we certainly hope we’re going to work on with the premiers and with Indigenous peoples.”

Manitoba chiefs denounce premiers

The Southern Chiefs’ Organization (SCO), which represents 34 Anishinaabe and Dakota Nations in southern Manitoba, criticized the premiers’ position on the NRTAs. “NRTAs were created in the 1930s by the federal government to purposely exclude First Nations from benefiting from the wealth of our territories, and instead give that control and financial windfall to the provinces,” SCO Grand Chief Jerry Daniels said in a media statement.

“I am dismayed to see our Prairie province Treaty partners wanting to continue that colonial trend. This is not about federal control over provincial resources, this is about First Nation control of our lands and resources.”

Daniels said the federal government never had the authority to transfer the lands and resources to provincial control in the first place, and the agreements violate treaty rights. He called on the provinces and the federal government to work with the SCO.”I want to invite all parties to the table, so that together we can find ways to partner and build strong economic relationships that will benefit us all,” he said.

Richard Raycraft, Web writer and producer


April 11, 2023

AB, BC, Fed. Govt., MB, NB, NL, NS, NT, NU, ON, PE, QC, SK, YT

Western premiers blast Lametti for suggesting Ottawa might ‘look at’ provinces’ power over natural resources

Lametti told an AFN meeting he would examine calls to rescind Natural Resources Transfer Act

David Lametti at a press conference.
Justice Minister David Lametti is being pressed to retract a comment that suggested the federal government is willing to revisit the legislation giving western provinces control over their natural resources. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

CBC News: Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre and three western premiers are calling on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to disassociate his government from comments made by his justice minister — who promised last week to “look at” a decades-old law that gives control over natural resources to the four western provinces.

“The federal government cannot unilaterally change the Constitution,” the premiers of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba said in a joint statement Tuesday. “It should not even be considering stripping resource rights away from the three Prairie provinces. “The prime minister needs to immediately retract these dangerous and divisive comments by his justice minister.”

Opposition Leader Pierre Poilievre accused Justice Minister David Lametti of threatening to overturn the Constitution and take federal control over provincial resources. “I’ll never allow this attack by the costly coalition on our Prairie resource workers,” Poilievre tweeted. “I’ll put westerners in control of their resources and lives.”

Poilievre’s tweet prompted Lametti to shoot back. “This isn’t true,” Lametti tweeted Tuesday afternoon. “At no point did I commit our government to reviewing areas of provincial jurisdiction.”

The controversy was sparked by comments Lametti made on April 5 while answering questions during a meeting of the Assembly of First Nations.

‘It won’t be uncontroversial’

Grand Chief Brian Hardlotte of the Prince Albert Grand Council and Chief Donald Maracle of the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte called on the federal government to rescind the Natural Resources Transfer Act — legislation passed by the federal government and provinces in 1930 which transferred the administration of natural resources from Ottawa to the four western provinces.

“Canada exports natural resources to other countries. They earn trillions of dollars in revenues from those resources,” Maracle said. “Those resources were given to the provinces without ever asking one Indian if it was okay to do that, or what benefits would the First Nations expect to receive by Canada consenting to that arrangement.”

Lametti acknowledged the chiefs’ comments. “I obviously can’t pronounce on that right now but I do commit to looking at that,” he told the AFN. “It won’t be uncontroversial, is the only thing I would say, with a bit of a smile.”

Premier Scott Moe is in India on a trade mission. His government opened a trade office in New Delhi, India last year.
Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe called Lametti’s comment “dangerous and divisive.” (Michael Bell/The Canadian Press)

That proved to be an understatement. On Monday, Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe described Lametti’s comment as “dangerous and divisive.””On what basis does the federal justice minister think he has the authority to unilaterally strip Saskatchewan and the other western provinces of our constitutional authority over our natural resources?” he said in a tweet.

“Saskatchewan has always had reason to be concerned about this federal government’s agenda to infringe on provincial jurisdiction and autonomy, and we will be relentless in defending our jurisdiction and autonomy. “The prime minister needs to immediately tell his justice minister he has no business even speculating about rescinding western provinces’ constitutional authority to control our natural resources.”

Manitoba Premier Heather Stefanson described Lametti’s comments as “needless provocation.” “Reckless comments from the federal justice minister threatening Manitoba’s control over natural resources need to be immediately withdrawn,” Stefanson tweeted Tuesday.

“The recent suggestion that the federal government will look at rescinding constitutional Natural Resource Transfer Agreements from the 1930s with Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta is another example of divisive disregard for the Prairie provinces.”

A woman is pictured in front of a green backdrop.
Alberta Premier Danielle Smith said any move to change the rules on natural resources would jeopardize national unity. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

Alberta Premier Danielle Smith called on Lametti to retract and apologize for his comments. “I just received word that the federal justice minister may attempt to rescind the 1930 Natural Resources Transfer Agreement with the Prairie provinces,” Smith tweeted Monday. “This would pose an unprecedented risk to national unity and Alberta condemns this federal threat in the strongest possible terms.”

Lametti was not available Tuesday for an interview. In a statement issued on Twitter Monday to clarify his comments, he said it’s part of his job to listen to the concerns expressed by First Nations chiefs. “To be clear, at no point did I commit our government to reviewing areas of provincial jurisdiction, including that over natural resources,” he wrote. “The focus of our government’s work is to co-develop an action plan with Indigenous partners that will show the path we must take towards aligning federal laws and policies with UNDRIP (the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples).”

Lametti’s tweet did little to reassure Conservative MPs from Saskatchewan, who vowed to protect the province’s control over natural resources. “Developing our oil, gas and minerals is tough enough with the Liberal government’s regulations designed to stifle projects and Justin Trudeau’s carbon tax making costs higher in Canada,” 15 MPs said in a joint statement. “Imagine how much worse it would be if the Trudeau Liberals were to take direct control over resource development.”

The MPs called on NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh to say he would not support that kind of move.

NDP natural resources critic Charlie Angus called on all parties to work together. “We all have to work together to ensure that Indigenous communities are able to benefit and make decisions about potential natural resources projects on their land,” Angus said in a media statement. “This means that both the federal and provincial governments have an obligation to engage in proper consultation, build in strong economic partnerships and set high standards for environmental protection of traditional lands. That’s the way we move forward as a nation.”

Grand Chief Cathy Merrick of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs said the transfer of land and natural resources to the western provinces was done contrary to First Nations laws and customs.  “First Nations were never involved in this process. It was something that was done unilaterally without any First Nations people at the table,” she said. “I think it’s time that we be heard as well. We have shared our lands for over 100 years and we need to be considered, to be at the table.”

Chief Bobby Cameron of the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations praised what he described as Lametti’s “awesome” comments and had a message for western premiers. “You have unsettled business in your provinces, you have unsettled business with those First Nations and you had better meet with them and listen to them,” he said Monday. “Your way is not the right way. Your way has failed. It is the First Nations’ treaty perspective that will prevail.”

The Assembly of First Nations has not yet responded to requests for comment from CBC News.


Elizabeth Thompson, Senior reporter

Award-winning reporter Elizabeth Thompson covers Parliament Hill. A veteran of the Montreal Gazette, Sun Media and iPolitics, she currently works with the CBC’s Ottawa bureau, specializing in investigative reporting and data journalism. She can be reached at:

April 10, 2023


When anarchists attack

How police say a peaceful, Indigenous-led protest over a B.C. pipeline was hijacked by violent outsiders

Damage to the Coastal GasLink worksite on Feb. 17, 2022, included heavy machinery that had been smashed with excavator.Coastal GasLink

CBC News: A security guard was swarmed in a truck near a worksite by a group of people in masks and camouflage firing flare guns. He was then forced to flee into the dead of night, while the assailants escaped.

When the RCMP released those details last week about a recent incident along the Coastal GasLink pipeline project near Houston, B.C., they could have copied and pasted them from a news release they issued more than a year ago.

But that’s where the comparison ends.

Because while the incident on March 26 resulted in the alleged theft of a chainsaw and some unrelated arrests, what happened at the worksite on Feb. 17, 2022, was far more dangerous and destructive. During that attack, assailants swung axes into the side of security trucks, a police officer was injured in a booby trap and tens of millions of dollars in damage was done. But more than a year later, not a single suspect has been taken into custody.

A torn-apart mobile trailer and damaged machinery is shown at the Coastal GasLink worksite after the Feb. 17, 2022, attack. Estimated damage from Independent Contractors and Business Association was around $20 million. (Coastal GasLink)

Now, for the first time since the 2022 attack, RCMP are revealing key details about the investigation to CBC News — including who they believe orchestrated the attack that night, how they escaped and how many suspects have been identified.

According to the Mountie in charge of the investigation, a local group of peaceful protesters with environmental and Indigenous land rights concerns was infiltrated by outsiders with a different agenda. “We saw a number of people come into the protest camps that had been involved in previous protests elsewhere in the country, elsewhere in North America, that had a propensity to cause violence,” Chief Supt. John Brewer told CBC News.

Brewer described the outsiders as “anarchists,” a small group of people who aren’t necessarily tied to each other but subscribe to an ideology aimed at causing chaos — in Brewer’s words, “targeting government, government facilities, government agencies, infrastructure.”

A man in a police dress uniform poses for a portrait standing in front of blue curtains and three flags.
Chief Supt. John Brewer is the gold commander of the RCMP’s Community-Industry Response Group (C-IRG), a controversial new RCMP unit formed to protect large resource projects. (Shawn Foss/CBC)

He said these anarchists either volunteered or were invited to join the protest, but that once they were in northern B.C., they hijacked the local movement.

Molly Wickham, a local Indigenous leader of the protest who also goes by Sleydo’, believes police are trying to create divisions. “They will use any opportunity to do damage to us and frame people as violent criminals,” she said. 

The project and the protest

If completed, the 670-kilometre Coastal GasLink pipeline would carry natural gas from near Dawson Creek in the east to a massive LNG Canada processing facility in Kitimat on the West Coast, where it would be liquified and shipped to markets in Asia. At $40 billion, the still-under-construction LNG Canada plant is the largest private sector infrastructure project in the country’s history.

If a small group of anarchists are indeed responsible for the February 2022 attack, they have had a big impact on the project and the opposition to it. Private security around the worksite has been beefed up with extra RCMP patrols and surveillance.  Fourteen months later, Brewer believes the project is still under threat. He says there’s a police presence there 24/7, 365 days a year

A graphic showing the route of a pipeline from Groundbirch in northern Alberta, all the way to Kitimat in northwest B.C
Coastal GasLink’s gas pipeline crosses about 625 rivers, creeks, waters, streams and lakes on its 670 kilometre route across northern B.C. (CBC)

He also says the violence appears to have sapped the momentum of the local protest movement. On a recent visit to the main protest encampment, which is 44 kilometres up a rough logging road from the town of Houston, CBC News encountered only a handful of self-described land and water defenders.

Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chief John Risdale, known as Na’Moks, told CBC News that whoever is responsible for the 2022 attack, it wasn’t sanctioned by local leaders of the anti-pipeline movement. “We would never ever tell anybody or support anybody to do any kind of damage. We said we’re going to do this [protest] peacefully and we have done it peacefully,” he said. 

An older man wearing glasses, a denim shirt and a blue jacket stands next to a snowy riverbank.
Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chief John Risdale (Na’Moks) says the pipeline attacks were not sanctioned by local Indigenous leaders (Mia Sheldon/CBC)

TC Energy, which owns and is building the Coastal GasLink pipeline, has signed benefit agreements with 20 band councils along the route of the pipeline, including five of six elected Wet’suwet’en councils.  But several of the Nation’s hereditary chiefs say band councils do not have authority over land beyond reserve boundaries. Those chiefs have not given consent for the project.

The 2022 attack on the worksite came three months after the RCMP’s last raid on the protesters, conducted by the Community-Industry Response Group (C-IRG). The C-IRG is a controversial new unit that was formed to protect the $14-billion pipeline and other resource projects like it. The C-IRG has spent almost $30 million policing the Coastal GasLink project alone.

In three separate raids over three years, the C-IRG forcibly removed Indigenous activists and their supporters from unceded Wet’suwet’en territory (the land was never surrendered or signed over in a treaty). Indigenous protesters accuse the RCMP unit of using undue force, harassment and intimidation. The C-IRG is currently the subject of a federal probe.

Brewer, who is in charge of the unit, stands by its tactics. He says police had no choice but to enforce a court order forbidding interference with the project.

But when his officers removed unarmed peaceful protesters at gunpoint in late 2021, it marked a turning point in the conflict. For the first time, some protesters were charged with criminal contempt of court.

WATCH | New details from the RCMP more than a year after the attack on the Coastal GasLink pipeline project:

WatchAnarchists behind Coastal Gaslink Pipeline project attack, police say

Click on the following link to access the above video:

At the same time, Coastal GasLink ramped up operations at the worksite, an urgent concern for protesters, who worried about the company’s plan to tunnel underneath the Morice River (Wedzin Kwa). The river is a sacred waterway for the Wet’suwet’en people, who have relied on it as a source of salmon and clean, glacier-fed drinking water for centuries.  Coastal GasLink says tunnelling under the Morice River should be finished by June, and that the entire pipeline will be in the ground by the end of 2023. 

According to records from the B.C. Environmental Assessment Office, the company has been fined $456,200 for repeatedly failing to protect fish habitat along the pipeline. 

A stretch of river is shown, with snowy trees lining its banks.
The glacier-fed Morice River is a source of salmon and clean drinking water for the Wet’suwet’en people. Coastal GasLink is tunneling under the riverbed. (Ousama Farag/CBC)
The attack and the escape

In a video posted to Facebook in the weeks after the last RCMP raid in November 2021, Molly Wickham said “our warriors are not here to be arrested. Our warriors are here to protect the land and water and will continue to do so at all cost.”

Police believe that intentionally or not, statements like this have served as a rallying cry for the anarchists. About a month after that post went up, a group of 15 to 20 people wearing snow-white camouflage and masks emerged from the forest at the worksite around midnight.  First, the attackers scared off private security by swinging axes into the side of security vehicles and firing flare guns. Then their focus turned to destroying everything on site.

When RCMP tried to respond, they found the only road into the site had been blocked with downed trees, burning tires, wire and an old school bus. 

WATCH | Raw RCMP video of the February 2022 attack:

RCMP video shows attack on Coastal Gaslink worksite

Click on the following link to access the vide:

By the time police and private security had cleared the road, the damage had been done. Police say the attackers used a Coastal GasLink excavator at the worksite to destroy other heavy machinery and mobile trailers. The company has never revealed the cost of the attack, but B.C.‘s Independent Contractors and Business Association (ICBA) estimates the loss at $20 million.

For more than a year, how the attackers escaped remained as mysterious as who was behind those masks that night — until now.  John Brewer told CBC News in detail why police say such a large group was able to slip past RCMP even though officers were parked along the only road into the worksite.

When RCMP arrived at the crime scene, some attackers were still there and police gave chase on foot. But when an officer was injured after stepping on a board with nails driven through it — what Brewer calls a “man-trap” — the pursuit was called off over safety concerns. 

RCMP photos of the blocked road leading to scene of Coastal GasLink worksite on Feb. 17, 2022, shows downed trees, a school bus and debris that had been set on fire. (Coastal GasLink, B.C. RCMP) The attackers then used snowmobiles and the path that had been cleared for the pipeline — which runs parallel tothe access road — to make their getaway.

While officers were still at the site assessing the threat and securing the scene, the attackers had ditched their snowmobiles at a nearby protest camp to meet up with waiting vehicles. They then drove down the access road until they reached the Yellowhead Highway, and disappeared into the night, according to Brewer.  Investigators believe the attack and the escape had been rehearsed.

A number of slashes are shown in the side of a white pickup truck.
The damage done to a security truck after it was struck by an axe while its driver was still inside on Feb. 17, 2022. (Coastal GasLink)

An email exchange between RCMP senior command obtained by CBC News through an access to information request details a similar but smaller-scale event two weeks earlier, on Feb. 4, 2022. Police wrote that Coastal GasLink reported that “8 masked and camo’d persons” had occupied the worksite that afternoon “after releasing smoke bombs and fire extinguishers for cover.” The pipeline workers retreated into their trucks and trailers while the assailants outside banged on them.

Before the Mounties arrived, the attackers fled the scene on snowshoes, leaving in the same direction they did on the day of the full-scale assault two weeks later. Brewer called the latter one of the most complex situations he’s ever dealt with. “It was planned, it was practised and carried out in a very methodical manner,” he said.

‘A troubling escalation’

The worksite attack was only the beginning. In the months following, the anarchist website Montreal Counter-information posted several anonymous claims of responsibility for more pipeline-related sabotage and violence. There was vandalism at a Montreal branch of RBC, the bank that is funding the pipeline, and then a break-in at a Calgary storage yard where drilling equipment was damaged.

Another post on the website featured a detailed explanation of how pieces of the pipe already underground had been punctured. Coastal GasLink spokesperson Kiel Giddens says that sabotage claim is “dangerous” and “not true.”

A man wearing a yellow safety jacket and white hard hit poses for a picture outdoors in front of a stack of large pipe pieces.
Coastal GasLink spokesperson Kiel Giddens is shown at the company’s pipeline storage yard in Houston, B.C. (Mia Sheldon/CBC)

One post on the anarchist website stands out from the rest: a claim of responsibility for an arson attack in Smithers, B.C., just up the highway from the worksite.

On Oct. 26, eight vehicles went up in flames in the middle of the night, four of which belonged to the RCMP. The vehicles had the C-IRG markings on them and were parked outside a Smithers hotel, where members of the unit were staying. Police believe the C-IRG was the intended target. “Your mind goes to what else could have happened,” said Smithers Mayor Gladys Atrill. “No one was hurt, thankfully. But that, of course, goes through your mind. [You] don’t want anyone injured. Don’t want anyone killed.”

A white SUV charred by fire is shown in a parking lot.
A view of an RCMP vehicle damaged by arson in Smithers, B.C., on Oct. 26, 2022. (Amanda Follett Hosgood/The Tyee)

Brewer called it “a troubling escalation.” He said investigators have “good images” of the people responsible and are still working to determine if they were involved in the worksite attack earlier last year.

It was troubling for officers with Fisheries and Oceans Canada, too. They’ve been tasked with inspecting and monitoring work on the pipeline. A day after the arson, a Fisheries officer referred to the fire in Smithers in an email, writing to a colleague, “we should avoid monitoring in this area while these types of activities are still occurring.” CBC News obtained the email exchange through an access to information request, and it was first reported by The Narwhal.

Call to anarchists

While Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chief John Risdale has said that local leaders of the anti-pipeline movement didn’t sanction the actions at the Coastal GasLink worksite, a week before the arson attack in Smithers, local protest leader Molly Wickham went on Facebook and called on anarchists to join her cause. 

Wickham has also appeared on the anarchist podcast This Is America, where she emphasized the “allyship between Indigenous warriors and anarchists,” saying, “I think that combining those two groups particularly is a really powerful move against the state.”

A woman with dark hair, wearing a black winter jacket and beaded earrings, is shown outside a small shed adorned with a red, yellow and black flag.
Wet’suwet’en protest leader Molly Wickham, also known as Sleydo’, is shown at the Gidimt’en Checkpoint protest encampment near Houston, B.C. (Mia Sheldon/CBC)

CBC News has uncovered connections between anarchists and some Indigenous warriors who were invited to the pipeline protest. One of them is Skyler Williams, a leader of the 1492 Land Back movement, a conflict involving the people of his Haudenosaunee community of Six Nations.

According to court documents, as recently as two years ago, Williams had been in communication with Alex Hundert, an alleged anarchist who served jail time for planning violence that broke out at the G20 summit in Toronto in 2010. In March of 2021, a judge ordered Hundert to stay away from Williams. It’s unclear whether that order still stands. 

Last year, Williams pleaded guilty to mischief and failing to comply with an undertaking for his part in the land dispute in Caledonia, Ont. He also has a record in B.C., after pleading guilty to criminal contempt of court for breaking the Coastal GasLink injunction. CBC News pulled the court documents that detail every arrest related to the pipeline injunction since 2018 and then cross-referenced those names with other sources. We found roughly 70 per cent of the people taken into custody were not from the area. Some were from other parts of B.C., some from other provinces and two were from the U.S.

One of the people taken into custody was Anton Bueckert, who describes himself as an eco-anarchist. Originally from Ottawa, he now lives in Mexico and writes an anarchist themed newsletter on the Substack platform. Bueckert was arrested in the 2019 RCMP raid in B.C. and charged with assaulting a police officer with a weapon. The charge was stayed last year. He was also arrested in Quebec for chaining himself to an Enbridge pipeline in 2015 and again in Minnesota after clashing with police while trying to disrupt a pro-Trump rally in St. Paul in 2017.

Two police officers wrestle a man wearing black to the ground.
Police officers take down Anton Bueckert following clashes during a ‘March 4 Trump’ rally at the State Capitol in St. Paul, Minn., on March 4, 2017 (David Joles /Star Tribune via The Associated Press)

CBC News reached Bueckert via email. He did not answer our questions about the anarchist movement’s possible involvement with the Wet’suwet’en protest. Instead, he directed us to a January posting he made on his newsletter. “Right-wingers like to accuse anarchists of being outside agitators, and pretend that anarchists are maniupulating [sic] indigenous land defenders, but really what anarchist [sic] have been doing for years is supporting the indigenous factions whose politics are resonant with theirs [sic].”

In a lengthy interview, Molly Wickham defended her decision to seek the support of anarchists, telling CBC News she doesn’t know who committed the worksite attack, but that she doesn’t feel responsible for it.  “Absolutely not. I think that we have a really big, huge fight on our hands as Indigenous people. I think that people identify with the human rights violations that are happening here, the destruction of the territory that is happening here… and I think that … other people see that in our struggle.” 

WATCH | Protest leader says she doesn’t know who was behind the attack:

Wet’suwet’en leader on the Coastal GasLink worksite attack

Click on the following link to access the above video:

‘We will have arrests made on this file’

None of the people featured in this story have been named as suspects in the attacks. CBC News has no information suggesting they took part in the worksite attack or arson in Smithers.  As the cop in charge of the worksite investigation — which had 40 officers dedicated to it at one point — John Brewer said he wants to make sure that when charges are laid, they stick. He says that’s why he won’t say when arrests might be made. But he insists they will be.

In December, B.C.‘s Independent Contractors and Business Association put up a $100,000 reward for information leading to arrests and charges. The organization’s president, Chris Gardner, said he wanted to give the police investigation a boost. “We were a little concerned that things had gone a little quiet,” Gardner told CBC News. Brewer said the reward has been “helpful,” but wouldn’t elaborate.

He did reveal to CBC News that so far, his team has identified more than half a dozen suspects who are being monitored. He said police have DNA evidence, a lot of video of the attackers and that they’ve been able to narrow down which of the protesters would be capable of operating an excavator so efficiently. He also said some protesters have been co-operating with the investigation and pointing fingers.

A woman wearing sunglasses and a black and white plaid jacket is pictured outside, next to a snow-covered river.
Wet’suwet’en band member and Coastal GasLink employee Bonnie George is shown in Telkwa, B.C. (Mia Sheldon/CBC)

Wet’suwet’en band member Bonnie George, who works for Coastal GasLink and supports the project, says the recent violence turned many local protesters away from the movement.  “A lot of our local community members were participating in some of the training they [the protesters] had, and a lot of them came back and shared some of their experiences with family members, because they got scared, because that’s not our way,” said George.

She says the number of protesters living in the camp near the worksite has dropped off since the violence occurred. Even so, security there remains tight — so much so that Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chief John Risdale was recently turned away when he asked to take a look at the worksite.

About the Authors

Rob Brown: Rob is an award-winning veteran reporter who has worked all over Western Canada. He came to CBC Calgary in September 2013.

Anusha Kav: Anusha Kav is a former journalist at CBC News who worked with the Investigative Unit out of Edmonton.

Mia Sheldon: Mia Sheldon is a producer with CBC’s The National.

December 29, 2022


Why Indigenous leaders are speaking out against ‘sovereignty’ efforts in Alberta and Saskatchewan

First Nations signed treaties with the federal government, not provincial ones, and fear separatist premiers will impinge on long-standing agreements.

As Alberta and Saskatchewan pursue quasi-separatist agendas, no one has been blunter about the damage that may cause than First Nations leaders.

But Indigenous people know well what happens when a government comes along and declares its own sovereignty — while taking away the sovereignty of others. So it comes as no surprise that the first court challenge to Premier Danielle Smith’s Alberta Sovereignty within a United Canada Act has been launched by a First Nation, the Onion Lake Cree Nation

Even before Smith introduced the legislation on Nov. 22, dozens of chiefs representing Treaties 6, 7 and 8 gathered at a news conference to condemn it: “It is nothing but a dangerous and damaging plan to undermine democracy and abandon the rule of law,” said Chief Darcy Dixon of the Bearspaw Nation just west of Calgary. 

Smith had been touting her sovereignty agenda for months as she sought the United Conservative Party of Alberta leadership. Yet even after she was elected leader she didn’t consult with any First Nation in Alberta. When this was pointed out to her by Indigenous leaders, she hastily invited them to meet with her. 

The day before the scheduled meeting, however, Smith shamelessly compared the treatment of Alberta by the federal government to Canada’s treatment of Indigenous people under the oppressive Indian Act.

Indigenous people were outraged.

The meeting went ahead, but immediately after Treaty 6 leaders who represent a swath of First Nations in central Alberta released a blistering response: “It was clear from our discussions that Premier Smith does not understand Treaty or our inherent rights nor does she respect them.”

They mocked the invitation that was extended on the day of the throne speech as meaningless, when such a “dangerous” piece of legislation was under discussion.

In Saskatchewan, meanwhile, the Saskatchewan First Act passed its second reading last month. It’s a milder version of Alberta’s sovereignty act, but designed nonetheless to protect the province from “intrusive federal policies.” The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) gathered chiefs from all over the province in mid-December to flag the government’s “continual infringement on First Nations inherent and treaty rights.”

“We have mandates from the chiefs in assembly to move forward legally (and) politically,” said FSIN Chief Bobby Cameron. “And we’re about to the point where we’re going to start blockading.”

First Nations leaders say Indigenous rights and the numbered treaties — most of which predate the creation of the provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan by decades — supersede any provincial law. That principle has been upheld in numerous court rulings. 

Indigenous leaders also maintain that since Indigenous groups signed the treaties with the federal government on behalf of Queen Victoria, their primary relationship is with the federal government. They fear provincial governments will impinge on that relationship to the point that First Nations will lose the rights entrenched in the treaties.

It’s not that the federal government has always been honest with and supportive of First Nations. Land grabs, residential schools, and cruel and repressive restrictions on reserves can all be laid at the feet of various federal governments. 


POLITICSOPINION: Danielle Smith stumbled into a fight with Treaty chiefs. Then, she made it worse Dec. 15, 2022

CONTRIBUTORS OPINION: Alberta’s sovereignty act is a seditious and sobering threat to Canadian democracy Dec. 04, 2022

POLITICS OPINION: Her Sovereignty Act passed, Danielle Smith’s trap for Trudeau, Notley and the rest of Canada is set Dec. 11, 2022

But First Nations that made treaty with the federal government of the time at least have a record of a binding formal agreement that establishes obligations between the two parties.

The First Nations in Alberta and Saskatchewan have no such binding agreement with the provincial governments. And that’s why they fear leaving their sovereignty, land and natural resources at the mercy of separatist premiers.

It’s somewhat ironic that the Onion Lake Cree Nation is the first entity to launch a court challenge to Alberta’s sovereignty act. It straddles the Alberta/Saskatchewan border and was once dubbed by the federal government as a group of “rebel Indians” because of their participation in the North-West Resistance of 1885.

They are still fighting for their rights, and in many ways now speak for the numerous Albertans who also don’t want to live in a separatist state.

February 21, 2023


Wolastoqiyik, Mi’kmaq say they’re allies in land rights despite overlapping title claims

‘Our biggest challenge is going to have the province recognize it,’ says Chief Patricia Bernard

Chief Patricia Bernard said the Mi’kmaq and Wolastoqiyik are still allies despite overlapping claims. (Logan Perley/CBC)

CBC News: As several Indigenous nations in eastern Canada make overlapping claims to their traditional lands, they say the biggest obstacle won’t be dealing with each other, but with the government of New Brunswick.

Last week, Mi’gmawe’l Tplu’taqnn Inc. (MTI), a Mi’kmaw rights collective in New Brunswick, released a map of its territory that included most of the province, and overlapped with territory claimed by the Wolastoqey Nation. Chief Patricia Bernard of Madawaska Maliseet First Nation, part of the Wolastoqey Nation, said the maps show the two groups commonly shared some lands and that hard borders are a colonial concept.

“We are partners. We are allies in this. Our biggest challenge is going to have the province recognize it,” she said.

She said the groups had two meetings already and the discussions will lead to a wampum agreement. “Those are things that we’re going to be working out. It will all be done in a friendly manner and it’s a process to do this,” said Bernard.

Hugh Akagi, chief of the Peskotomukati Nation at Skutik, near St. Andrews, N.B., said he has to take time to review the title claims of the Mi’kmaq and Wolastoqiyik. He added that pursuing title claims in the Canadian court system was like asking for sovereignty from one’s oppressor. “I think the first thing we have to do is remove the oppressor from the conversation and that means his law and his rules,” said Akagi.

Chief Hugh Akagi, who represents the Peskotomuhkati Nation at Skutik, says he’d prefer if governments were left out of discussions about shared lands. (Submitted by Cynthia Howland)

He said he is committed to maintaining good relations with the other Indigenous groups but would rather not have the governments in those discussions.

Aboriginal title is the legal right of Indigenous peoples to their traditional territories. Both the Wolastoqiyik and Mi’kmaq say those rights were not extinguished when they signed the Peace and Friendship treaties in the 1700s.

The province of New Brunswick said by email that the entire province was under claim by different Indigenous groups and it had received notice of MTI’s claim. “The province will address the Mi’gmaq’s position in due course and as part of that process must consider how it implicates the current claim by the Wolastoqey to land that is in the Mi’gmaq map area,” said provincial spokesperson David Kelly.

The Wolastoqey Nation in New Brunswick has laid claim to Aboriginal title for a large portion of New Brunswick. (Wolastoqey Nation in New Brunswick)

Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada said a tripartite framework was signed in 2017 with MTI, the government of Canada and the province of New Brunswick, which set out priority discussions including on Aboriginal title.

It said discussions of title were ongoing with Elsipogtog First Nation and the Peskotomuhkati Nation at Skutik, while the Wolastoqey Nation is pursuing title through the courts. “Consistent with the principle of self-determination, matters concerning overlapping claims or assertions of Aboriginal rights and title by neighbouring nations are best addressed through discussions between the nations,” said Randy Legault-Rankin, a spokesperson for CIRNAC, by email.

Building on Elsipogtog claim

Elsipogtog First Nation filed for Aboriginal title in 2016, laying claim to the Mi’kmaw traditional territory of Siknikt, on behalf of the Mi’kmaw Nation.

Two maps side by side, one highighting a third of the province and the other nearly all of it.
The map on the left shows the Aboriginal title claim made by Elsipogtog in 2016, while the one on the right shows the claim made by the other eight Mi’kmaq communities represented by MTI. (CBC)

In 2019, the community signed a memorandum of understanding with the Government of Canada. Elsipogtog’s lawyer Bruce McIvor said discussions are going well between all parties except for the provincial government. “The province has declined to come to the table so far and participate in meaningful discussion,” said McIvor, a partner at First Peoples Law.

McIvor said his clients and MTI have a shared goal of securing title for the entire Mi’kmaw Nation and that the map “builds on the good work that Elsipogtog has done on this.” “It doesn’t go as far as Elsipogtog did in filing a title claim in 2016 but it’s consistent with the title claim that was filed and it’s good to see MTI taking a more assertive position on these important issues,” said McIvor. 

Natoaganeg Chief George Ginnish says securing title for the Mi’kmaq means securing economic means for the nation. (Vanessa Blanch/CBC)

Eel Ground First Nation Chief George Ginnish said the map was released to push the province to the table. MTI represents his community and seven others in the title discussions.  Ginnish said he hopes the title claims can bring economic stability to the nine Mi’kmaw communities.

“How do we make life good, especially for our children, so that they feel that the world is a good place, that there’s opportunity for them? You know, that’s what we want to do,” said Ginnish. He said all the Indigenous groups will work together on the file but it may take some time to determine land boundaries.


Oscar Baker III: Oscar Baker III is a Black and Mi’kmaw reporter from Elsipogtog First Nation. He is the Atlantic region reporter for CBC Indigenous. He is a proud father and you can follow his work @oggycane4lyfe