Canada Struggles to Resolve Land Conflicts with Indigenous Population
Canada has recently been coming to terms with its long history with the native indigenous peoples. The native peoples of Canada, who refer to themselves as the “First Nations,” have won large amounts of public support in bringing their grievances against the past and current actions of the Canadian State.
At the forefront of the debate is vast portions of land that the indigenous tribes of Canada lay claim to, which include the Parliment Hill of Quebec and 8.9 million acres of land. The Canadian government thought it had solved the issue a year ago, with an agreement to pay the Algonquin tribes of Ontario over 117,000 acres of land and 300 Million Canadian Dollars, but problems continue to persist.
Settling land claims have become a centerpiece of the campaign for the rights of the indigenous people of Canada. The issue is the pure number of tribal groups that exist, all claiming different pieces of land. In some cases these native tribes made treaties with European settlers, but in other cases, such of those of the Algonquins in Quebec, they were simply pushed of the land. Today, the Canadian government is talking to more than 140 indigenous groups who were not given treaties, and is working with another 72 tribes who had established treaties.
Justin Trudeau, the current Prime Minister of Canada, has taken notice of the powerful push for indigenous rights, and has made it a centerpiece of his administration. His government has worked, albeit unsuccessfully, to clear the massive backlog of cases with tribal nations.
Members of Canada’s indigenous tribes have become increasingly frustrated with the government’s pace in settling their claims.
Craig Makinaw, a regional chief of the First Nations, expressed his unhappiness with the situation in an interview with The New York Times. He said, “because there's been so many cases that haven’t been dealt with over the years, there's been such a big backlog, it’s going to take years.”
The unrest of the native tribes of Canada does not come as much of a surprise, after numerous rulings over disputed claims have been settled against them. In one case, indigenous groups reached a deal to protect 26,000 square miles of Yukon wilderness from industrial development, only to have the regional government backtrack and open up oil drilling to the gas giant, Chevron.
Despite these setbacks, Candian tribes have made notable gains in the fight to reclaim their historical possessions. Last year, the Canadian Supreme Court ruled that the Métis people held historical rights to their lands in Ottawa. The Métis, who are a mix of both indigenous and European heritage, were finally provided with a deal that gave them over 3,400 square miles of land.
Another victory came in 2014, when the Canadian parliament agreed to give the Tla’amin tribe 42 million Canadian Dollars and 21,000 acres of land in Vancouver. This agreement was a major success for the indigenous people in Canada as it was one of the largest monetary and financial grants in the nation's history
Despite the positive developments, a lot of work is left to be done, especially in Quebec. A deal between the Canadian government and the Algonquin tribes of Ontario recently fell apart after the Algonquins demanded more land and financial compensation. Members of the tribe feel that they are not being justly compensated for the seizing of their traditional lands hundreds of years ago.
Echoing the sentiment of many indigenous peoples Algonquin Chief Jean Guy Whiteduck declared, “we want to be partners with Canada, and not just stay on the reserve,” when speaking with The New York Times.