There’s an Aboriginal land grab on the horizon that hasn’t been seen since England said Rupert’s Land was owned by the Hudson Bay Company for about 200 years. That one gave away the northern parts of Quebec and Ontario, all of Manitoba, most of Saskatchewan, southern portions of Alberta and Nunavut with a bit of Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Montana thrown in. Now, Stephen Harper’s land grab is called the First Nation Property Ownership Act. The drafts of this legislation are apparently very advanced.
Despite objections it’s being spin-doctored as the answer to many of the problems facing First Nations Peoples in Canada. Without collateral, banks are less inclined to give out loans to Aboriginals. There is no chance to become rich and well off without giving up communal lands and making them individually owned by the lucky residents living there today.
The next generation can supposedly live off of the proceeds of a brighter economic future. And with the right investments (such as houses and businesses), they will no longer have the problems of poverty, inadequate housing, foster care, poor education, bad health and other discrepancies between Aboriginals and other Canadians.
They say those who do not study history are doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past. In this case, I am reminded of Canada’s infamous White Paper of 1969. It also talks of fee simple (individual ownership of the land), but it does not go as far as Harper’s Act. It talks of having “Indian” control of the land and deciding how the land is managed.
Pam Palmater might not have won the race to become the National Grand Chief but she is far from fading into the background. Palmater says the Act “is for the maximized benefit of the political and corporate power-brokers all over the world”. Research to date shows communities that have divided up their once communal lands are far worse off, she adds. Looking at the results from the United States seem to back her up as non-Native corporations and people own a large chunk of what used to be Aboriginal lands.
Aboriginal people get loans and deals fall through, some deliberately, and the bank forecloses taking the property. Then a person or company will buy the land from the bank. It’s really a way for taking possession of the land without having to deal with all those pesky Aboriginals and their rights. The proposed Act is being drafted and introduced without input, review or approval from Canada’s First Nations.
It’s scary when you realize once the lands are gone, it is forever. Palmater calls this a land war and she is right. Corporate mentality does not like the strong rights, constitutionally protected lands and governmental fiduciary obligations of communal or collective ownership of the land. It affects the profit margin whereas private ownership has lesser costs and money talks.
Aboriginal Peoples in Canada have a real relationship with the land and in the end this is what is threatened. Without the ties to the land Aboriginal ways of life would suffer just as the Canadian identity would suffer if all of Canada was owned by non-Canadians. No one needs to suffer – kill the Act.