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‘There’s a battle brewing’: FSIN aims to fight Natural Resources Transfer Agreement

A statement of claim has been created by the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations claiming that the Saskatchewan and federal governments did not properly consult chiefs regarding the 1930 Natural Resources Transfer Agreement.

FSIN Chief Bobby Cameron made the announcement with other chiefs on Tuesday outside the FSIN offices in Saskatoon, and said this was part of their fight to get First Nations what they consider their fair share.

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None of these claims have been tested in court.

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The Natural Resources Transfer Agreement was a way for the federal government to hand over jurisdiction of Crown land and natural resources to Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

Cameron said the statement of claim has been in the works for a long time.

“For several years, several decades, since treaties were signed they have been impacted, they have been infringed on, they have been breached,” Cameron said.

He said their treaties are international law and trump federal and provincial laws.

“This is our biggest treaty battle in the history of our treaty territories, right here and now.”

He spoke about regaining natural resources, saying they were getting back what was rightfully theirs.

“Scott Moe and your government, those are not your rare earth minerals.”

He warned investors to stay away from the province.

“Don’t come here, because there’s a battle brewing.”

Click to play video: 'FSIN says treaties trump NRTA'

FSIN says treaties trump NRTA

He said this battle will take a long time unless the federal and provincial governments reach out and say they can do better.

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Cameron said they’ll be handing Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau a document to sign calling for First Nations to get their fair share.

He said that fair share will be used to invest in housing, on reserve tribal police and to address the alcohol, drugs and violence on reserves.

Cameron added this was a constitutional challenge and the plan is to eventually take this to court.

He said a start for revenue sharing could start at 25 per cent right across the board.

“That’s a starting point.”

FSIN Fourth Vice-Chief Heather Bear said the Natural Resources Transfer Agreement (NRTA) in Canada was imposed upon First Nations people without their consent.

“Everyone benefits from the resources extracted from our territories except for the First Nations,” Bear said.

She said the NRTA is an unlawful document, and the Saskatchewan First Act is a continuation of those doctrines.

The Saskatchewan First Act was meant to defend the province from federal overreach on its natural resources, but First Nations have been critical of the wording in the document.

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“We see this legislation as an immediate threat to our inherent and treaty and constitutional rights.”

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Bear took issue with the provincial government saying that it has exclusive jurisdiction over natural resources in Saskatchewan, saying that was “simply false.”

She said they’ve been calling for resource revenue sharing, adding that nothing has happened.

Several other chiefs spoke at the event, showing their support for the statement of claim.

“All minerals and resources extracted and the control and administration of these minerals and resources are meant and should be administered by us as Indigenous people, instead of us being the last to be considered in legislation, public policy and programs,” Chief Erica Beaudin from Cowesess First Nation said.

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Beaudin said if these changes aren’t made they have no choice but to use the court system to have their voices heard.

Chief Tyson Bear from Flying Dust First Nation said they’ll fight hard for this change, noting it could last for a long time.

“We started it and we’re going to finish it.”

He said if they don’t fight for this change now, it may never happen.

Chief Lori Whitecalf from Sweetgrass First Nation said they have a lot of professionals and educated people in their corner now.

“We weren’t even allowed to hire legal counsel until 1951, so how can you rightfully say we were consulted, we were given legal opinions when the NRTA was signed?” Whitecalf said.

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Prince Albert Grand Council Chief Brian Hardlotte called this an unlawful act and called on federal Justice Minister Arif Virani to look at the NRTA.

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“We’re asking for that revenue sharing, we’re not asking for the whole thing,” Hardlotte said.

Other speakers included Chief George Cote from Cote First Nation, Chief Michael Starr from Star Blanket First Nation, Dene Vice Chief Lawrence McIntyre from Meadow Lake Tribal Council and Chief Kelsey Jacko from Cold Lake, Alta.

Former federal justice minister David Lametti was at the Assembly of First Nations’ Special Chiefs Assembly in Ottawa on April 5 and was asked to rescind the 1930s Natural Resources Transfer Agreement.

“I can’t pronounce right now, but I do commit to looking at that,” was the response given by Lametti, which caused Saskatchewan Moe to take to X, formerly known as Twitter, calling the comment “dangerous and divisive,” and saying the federal government has an agenda to strip provinces of their jurisdiction and autonomy.

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Frank Tough, a professor of native studies, the director of the Metis Archival Project and a historical geographer at the University of Alberta, said in April that the NRTA is particularly important for the Prairie province governments.

He said the agreement transfers the federal Crown interest in lands and resources to the provinces. But he said the second clause protects the existing interest in lands and resources.

He also noted a clause touching on non-Crown interest in land, which he said would pertain to homesteaders at the time.

“I think it could be argued — and this is where I break from conventional wisdom — it could be argued that the treaty is a non-Crown interest in the land. If so, then the treaty, or some parts of the treaties, are protected by the Natural Resources Transfer Agreement. That’s a very different interpretation.”

He said if this argument were won in court it would strengthen the duty to consult, and would be a good basis to argue comprehensively for royalty payments.

Global News has reached out to the Saskatchewan and federal governments for comment.

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