Reuters, November 23 – Indigenous First Nations have voiced vehement opposition to two western Canadian states’ popular efforts toward more independence from Ottawa and have threatened to contest any legislation through legal action or rallies.
Conservative-led governments in the oil-producing provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan are requesting that Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s administration give up greater influence over matters like gun regulation and climate policy.
Natural resources that are not renewable are already managed by the provinces, and the federal government has some control over the environment.
Large portions of Canada, a constitutional monarchy with King Charles of England serving as the nominal head of state, are, nevertheless, protected by ancient treaties between the British Crown and First Nations, indigenous tribes with some degree of self-government.
In Alberta, where Danielle Smith was elected premier last month and pledged to bring the Alberta Sovereignty Act, which would empower the provincial government to disregard federal legislation it disagrees with, the authority of the federal government is under attack.
Similar legislation was filed this month by Saskatchewan’s Premier Scott Moe to establish his province’s jurisdiction over its natural resources, including as oil, potash, and uranium.
However, in a concerted display of dissent that resembles indigenous resistance to Quebec’s independence campaign thirty years ago, First Nation leaders are pushing back.
Chief Allan Adam of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation in Alberta stated, “If the province moves through with the Sovereignty Act, I promise there will be nothing but litigation over this for the next 50 years.”
Last week, all of the First Nations chiefs in Alberta issued a unified statement opposing the Sovereignty Act because it erroneously presumes that Alberta has legal claim to the territories of the First Nations.
Treaty 8 First Nations Grand Chief Arthur Noskey said in the statement that the proposed law by Alberta “undermines the authority and obligation of the sovereign nations that came into treaty.”
According to Chief Bobby Cameron of Saskatchewan’s Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations, First Nations only committed to share their land in treaties “to the depth of a plough,” indicating that agreements did not include oil or minerals further underground.
“Our people are ready to defend and safeguard our lands and waterways as we see fit,” he added. “Whether we see this through in court or on the ground.” “We will erect blockades if that is what our grassroots people want to do.”
According to Adam of the Athabasca Chipewyan tribe, the federal government provides funding for First Nations services like health and education, and native people are afraid that the Alberta government would eliminate environmental safeguards for resource exploitation.
According to government spokeswoman Rebecca Polak, representatives from Alberta, including the premier, plan to meet with chiefs and the law would not nullify any current treaty rights.
According to Bronwyn Eyre, minister of justice for Saskatchewan, the province’s legislation does not interfere with treaty rights because it aims to exercise its control over resources and establish a tribunal to determine the economic costs of federal rules.
New federal regulations to reduce emissions from gasoline, power generation, and oil extraction may be among them, she suggested, laying the stage for potential legal challenges from Saskatchewan.
We believe we are in a very strong legal position, Eyre added.
Because of their connection with the Crown rather than the provinces, First Nations that reject the sovereignty legislation would also have a compelling legal case, according to Kathy Brock, a politics professor at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario.
The outcry against the independence of Alberta and Saskatchewan is comparable to the Native Americans’ resistance to Quebec’s unsuccessful bid to leave Canada in a referendum in 1995.
“First Nations people voted in the 90s (percent) against splitting and being pulled out of Canada when we had the referendum in Quebec,” Brock added. This was a major problem.
covers Western Canada’s politics, agriculture, and energy industries, with a particular emphasis on the energy transition. has completed brief reporting assignments in Afghanistan, Pakistan, France, and Brazil. She has also covered the 2016 Alberta wildfires, Hurricane Michael in Florida, Tropical Storm Nate in New Orleans, and the presidential campaigns of two Canadian candidates.