“Those resources were given to provinces without ever asking one Indian if it was okay to do that or what benefits would the First Nations expect to receive by Canada consenting to that arrangement,” said Chief R. Donald Maracle of the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte.
“Canada inherited rights and obligations…from the imperial treaties made with our people…We see that as foundational in our rights… being consulted on any benefit,” said Maracle.
In the 1930s, Ottawa transferred control over land and natural resources to Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. But Grand Chief Brian Hardlotte of the Prince Albert Grand Council told Lametti the agreements impact treaty rights.
Hardlotte expressed concerns with the Saskatchewan First Act, which reaffirms provincial jurisdiction over the development of natural resources.
“It’s to do with Indian natural resources,” he said, alongside a delegation of a dozen chiefs and proxies who addressed Lametti at the Assembly of First Nations Special Chiefs Assembly on April 5.
Alberta also adopted the Alberta Sovereignty within a United Canada Act, which Alberta chiefs contend is a blatant disregard of treaty rights and their access to lands without restrictions.
Lametti commented he would not take an “uncontroversial” course of action.
“The federal Justice Minister says he will look at rescinding the 1930s Natural Resources Transfer Agreements that gave control over natural resources to Saskatchewan, Alberta and Manitoba,” reads a statement by Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe.
He accused Lametti of spewing an “outrageous” and “ill-informed comment” on agreements entrenched in the Canadian constitution.
“On what basis does the federal Justice Minister think he has the authority to unilaterally strip Saskatchewan and the other western provinces of our constitutional authority over natural resources?” he posed on Twitter.
“The Prime Minister needs to immediately tell [Lametti] he has no business even speculating about rescinding western provinces’ constitutional authority to control our natural resources,” continues Moe.
Alberta Premier Danielle Smith contends this would pose an “unprecedented risk to national unity.”
“Alberta condemns this federal threat in the strongest possible terms,” said the Premier’s spokesperson Rebecca Polak in a statement to Rebel News.
Polak confirmed that Smith would contact Premiers Scott Moe and Heather Stefanson to discuss the next steps and call on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to “immediately have his Justice Minister retract and apologize for these comments immediately.”
In December, the Assembly passed an emergency resolution calling for Moe and Smith to “immediately engage in meaningful and respectful dialogue on resource revenue sharing so that First Nations benefit from the resource wealth in their respective traditional territories.”
According to several chiefs, neither government consulted Indigenous peoples from Alberta or Saskatchewan on the respective legislation. Trudeau voiced his concerns over the two bills at the time but said the onus to challenge their lies in the court system.
Nevertheless, Moe and Smith communicated their relentless defence of provincial jurisdiction and autonomy moving forward.