Who Decides: Control of Public and First Nations Land

5 Feb

Who Decides: Control of Public and
First Nations’ Lands
– Peggy Morton –

Whose Resources? Our Resources!

The Alberta government states that 81 per cent of mineral rights within the province of Alberta are owned by the provincial government, ten per cent are owned by the federal government in trust for the First Nations, and the rest are privately owned. In the case of the oil sands, 97 per cent of the land on which the oil sands is located are considered public lands.

This assertion cannot be accepted. All of Alberta is covered by treaties signed with the First Nations. The treaties were nation-to-nation agreements between the Crown and the First Nations. The indigenous people were not conquered, and they point out that it was the Crown which sent its representatives to their lands to engage in treaty-making. The treaties were not land cessation agreements, but agreements to share the land with the settlers. This was consistent with the well-established treaty-making process of the indigenous peoples. Reserves constitute the small amount of land reserved exclusively for aboriginal people. There are also several unsettled land claims. These involve lands where the Crown did not visit the people to make a treaty, such as the Lubicon lands, or where the process was fraudulent and illegal according to aboriginal law, such as the case of the Papachase. By virtue of the treaties, the First Nations and Métis must be consulted and accommodated about the use of these lands and the exploitation of the resources found within the lands on a nation-to-nation basis.

The Alberta government leases the mineral rights to public lands through a system of land auctions. Royalties are said to be a payment to the owners of the land for exploitation of the resources by private interests. This is intended to convince Canadians that an arrangement has been made which provides real benefit to the owners.

This arrangement does not provide either public or First Nations say-so or control over the decisions made by private interests, the oil and gas monopolies that have been given the right to exploit public land.

These decisions have a profound effect on the social and natural environment, the right of the First Nations to their way of life, whether the Canadian economy develops on the basis of self-reliance and looking after the interests of the people of Alberta and Canada or faces annexation and submission to U.S. dictate and is put in the service of the U.S. war machine.

New arrangements must be brought into being, and only the working class and First Nations and Métis have the interest and capacity to do so. The right to make decisions that affect Canadians, Albertans and First Nations and Métis does not belong to private interests and cannot remain in their hands.

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