Prairie Premiers issue statement over Federal Justice Ministers’ comments

The Premiers of the three prairie provinces issued a statement asking the Prime Minister to address the Federal Minister of Justice and the Attorney General’s comments over natural resources.

David Lametti’s comments came in response last week to concerns the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) raised about treaty land, water, and resource development.

“I can’t pronounce on that right now, but I do commit to looking at that,” Lametti said. “It won’t be uncontroversial, is the only thing that I would say, with a bit of a smile.”
Premier Scott Moe has already called the comments “outrageous” and “ill-informed,” and now Alberta Premier Danielle Smith and Manitoba Premier Heather Stefanson joined Moe in issuing a statement.

“The Prime Minister needs to tell Canadians today that his Justice Minister was not speaking on behalf of the federal government when he said he would look at rescinding the 1930 Natural Resources Transfer Agreements with the prairie provinces and stripping away their constitutional authority and control over natural resources,” the Premiers said.

“These agreements recognized that the prairie provinces have the same rights over resources that all of the other provinces already had,” the statement read. “Those rights have been fundamental to the people and the economic autonomy of Saskatchewan, Alberta and Manitoba for nearly 100 years.”

It was in the 1930s that Canada entered into a series of agreements that transferred federal administration and control over land and natural resources to Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

“The federal government cannot unilaterally change the constitution. They should not even be considering stripping resource rights away from the three prairie provinces,” they added. “The Prime Minister needs to immediately retract these dangerous and divisive comments by his Justice Minister.”

Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada David Lametti issued his response on Twitter earlier on Tuesday.

Lametti said that as the Minister responsible for implementing the United Nations Declaration Act (UNDA) into federal laws and policies.

“Last week, I met with First Nations leaders to discuss its implementation as part of a session of the AFN-SCA that was focused exclusively on the UNDA,” he said. “Amongst the many questions I was asked, the Natural Resources Transfer Act was raised by First Nations Chiefs on a couple of occasions. It is part of my job to listen to those concerns.”

“To be clear, at no point did I commit our government to review areas of provincial jurisdiction, including that over natural resources,” he stated. “The focus of our government’s work is to co-develop an action plan with Indigenous partners that will show the past we take towards aligning federal laws and policies with UNDRI (United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples).”

While Lametti’s comments concern Moe and his fellow prairie Premiers, Indigenous groups like FISN support Lametti’s comments.

“First Nations have long made this claim that the provinces don’t own the natural resources, and the Natural Resources Transfer Agreement is an illegal document. Therefore the statement by David Lametti is fully supported by First Nations,” FSIN Chief Bobby Cameron said. “We are looking forward to exercising our Treaty rights to natural resources in the province.”

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