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Manitoba's Election and Land Rights

Politicians everywhere are prioritizing their new and improved understanding with First Nations. For the Trudeau government "no relationship is more important" than setting this right; the Notley government is committed to the UN Declaration (Rights of Indigenous Peoples); and the Wynne government has embraced its 'New Relationship' hoping for a fresh start. The politics of all these players, agendas and issues has now gone mainstream and today it's Manitoba voters who are poised to make the next move.

This is progress when you realize that the policies of the last 10 years have totally backfired when looking back at the Harper Government's legacy that has not delivered in any meaningful way on 'the native file' - proof being the non-stop litigation over  Kapyong Barracks. The AFN National Chief, Perry Bellegarde, recently referred to this as "ten years of a dark cloud". I call it a decade of 'systemic stagnation' wherein really all that resulted was the native legal winning streak, pipeline gridlock and undeveloped resources. The common denominator right across the country is the rise of native empowerment; it's a major business story that remarkably remains massively under reported. This deadlock in itself should motivate Manitoba voters.

So it's logical new political forces and actors are at work to break the impasse. Statesmanship and diplomacy are the first moves. But what really has to happen is that the new political order has to address all these native legal wins (and make the necessary legislative corrections) for any sense of social license to manifest itself. Because it?s natives who have single-handedly brought about this transition.

What do voters need to know in order to make positive changes on the native file? Here's what I told an assembly at Robson Hall on the state of affairs just to the east of the city - referring to a legal ruling that applies to Treaty 3, vis-a-vis the Keewatin Decision. I highlighted the fact that the court had declared a new doctrine when it came to accessing treaty land and resources - requiring 'honourable management' in the taking up of treaty lands by provincial governments.

Here's the actual court directive (read-in Manitoba where Ontario is referenced): 
   "Ontario cannot take up lands so as to deprive the First Nation signatories of a meaningful right to harvest in their traditional territories. Further, honourable management requires that Ontario, as the government with authority to take up in the Keewatin Lands, must consult with First Nations and accommodate their treaty rights whenever they are sufficiently impacted by the taking up." (Keewatin v Ontario)

That's the law on the city's eastern doorstep; its been upheld by the Supreme Court. All that needs to happen now is for voters to send politicians to the Legislature who are on this wavelength. Because nothing's going to happen in this country until native land rights are 'honourably managed'.

There's no Plan B on the native file.

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