THUNDER BAY – Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo has offered congratulations to Treaty One First Nations today following an important federal court decision. The Kapyong ruling upholds the Crown’s legal duty to consult First Nations with outstanding land entitlements regarding the disposal and use of Crown lands.
“This is a great victory for the First Nations of Treaty One as the decision upholds and affirms their Treaty rights,” stated National Chief Atleo. “I support the leadership and citizens of Treaty One for standing firm in defence of their Treaty rights and economic interests. Consultation and accommodation with respect to land ownership and use, and obtaining free, prior and informed consent to these decisions is required under Canadian law and consistent with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.”
At issue in negotiations across Canada between logging companies, mining companies, governments, and First Nations are that required consultation. Disputes such as the battle between Big Trout Lake First Nation and Platenix led to six members of the KI First Nation being jailed for contempt of court as they fought against exploration on their traditional lands.
The issue is one where First Nations when signing the original treaties, honestly believed that the discussions that were being held were what they were agreeing to in the signed document. Many of those promises made orally are, according to many First Nations experts were not included in the treaty documents, but are equally binding.
In January 2008, seven First Nations of Treaty One (Brokenhead, Peguis, Roseau River, Sagkeeng, Long Plain, Sandy Bay and Swan Lake) filed to have the federal court review Ottawa’s 2005 decision to transfer the vacant Kapyong Barracks land to the Canada Lands Company, which was to market it for redevelopment.
The communities are all signatories to Treaty One, an 1871 agreement in which the federal government promised the communities more land than it ever delivered. The government agrees that it owes the communities land, but has told them Kapyong isn’t eligible. The federal court ruled in the First Nations’ favor in 2009, but the federal government appealed the decision.