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Sask. Indigenous critic says newly published maps show 10% of Crown lands remain

New maps compiled by the Saskatchewan First Nations Natural Resource Centre of Excellence have been published and have been distributed to Saskatchewan’s Indigenous communities. These maps, compiled by the Centre of Excellence and the Onion Lake Cree Nation, show how many parcels of Crown land are up for sale in this fiscal year as well as how many leases are for sale.

The Saskatchewan First Nations and Métis Relations Critic said although these maps are a good start, there needs to be more education about the sale of Crown lands in the province and how neighbouring Indigenous communities are being affected.

“When we had folks coming down (to) the south from the north in January, we had those maps out. And the nations … were very intrigued because they didn’t (know),” said Betty Nippi-Albright.

“Onion Lake has been very instrumental in educating the nationshaving a picture (of) maps is wonderful when government fails to give that information out to the nations. I think it’s wonderful because now you have something that’s in black and white to show people. It’s not just words to say we only have 10 per cent of Crown land left, but when we see something on a picture, it gives the true picture.”

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Nippi-Albright said to date, more than two million acres of land have been sold but she was not sure if the leases are part of that number.

“When you look at the maps of the Crown land that is up for sale and lease land that’s being (sold), that’s a huge chunk of Crown land,” she said.

Click to play video: 'Sask. First Nations leaders call upon province to update consultation policies'

Sask. First Nations leaders call upon province to update consultation policies

In an email response, the Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture said that only one per cent of all Crown land in Saskatchewan has been sold since 2007.

“Between 2007 and 2021, the total amount of Crown land in the province has stayed consistent at approximately 105 million acres,” stated the Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture. “Since the agreement framework has been in place, the provincial and federal governments have committed $687 million for Treaty Land Entitlement settlements in Saskatchewan. Approximately 885,500 acres have been transferred.”

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The province added that prior to lease or sale, they review each parcel of Crown land to determine if there is a Duty to Consult under the Consultation Policy Framework.

“The province seeks information from potentially affected First Nation and Métis communities about their use of the land for hunting, fishing and trapping rights and for traditional activities,” the statement read. “If the land is used for these purposes, and continued access to the land is necessary to ensure that these activities can continue, then the land is not sold. Factors such as heritage value and ecological importance and future resource potential of the land are also considered before any parcel is deemed eligible for sale.”

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However, Nippi-Albright said this statement is not true.

“The (Crown lands) are being used and consultation is not happening,” she said. “Nations don’t have the capacity to conduct their own environmental impact assessments … to these lands.”

Nippi-Albright said the province informs Indigenous communities in Saskatchewan on parcels of land by sending letters, which she said is not meaningful consultation especially when they are given a limited timeframe to respond.

“It’s going to require a lot of coordinating and communicating with our nations to be able to do that,” she said. “Those timeframes that are given are not adequate. They’re not working. The Duty to Consult policy framework (is) not only outdated, but it’s also ineffective.”

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The Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture stated the province is finalizing the First Nation and Métis Consultation Policy Framework review conducted in 2022, which will help inform revisions to the policy expected to be released soon.

Global News reached out to the Saskatchewan First Nations Natural Resource Centre of Excellence for a comment on the newly published maps, but did not hear a response by time of publication.

&© 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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