First Nations oppose Northern AB land sale

Susan Thompson
South Peace News

Four different northern Alberta First Nations are speaking out against a proposed 350,000 acre Crown land sale in the Peace country.

In a letter to Environment and Parks Minister Jason Nixon dated Nov. 12, Mackenzie County Reeve Josh Knelsen proposed the sale along with an extended fire season after the lands are sold to protect the public from the smoke of burning trees as the land is cleared. The plan also proposes an additional land sale in 10-12 years.

A UCP plan to sell off land in the Peace Country caused controversy during the provincial election.

At the time, UCP leader Jason Kenney told the Rural Municipalities of Alberta, “It’s something I’m seriously looking at … to generate some Crown asset sales to help deal with our deficit, but also as a way to grow the economy by turning what is currently unproductive land into productive agricultural land.”

Environmentalists expressed concerns about potential loss of biodiversity, and former NDP Environment Minister Shannon Phillips said any such plan would require extensive consultation with stakeholders including First Nations.

Land sales in McKenzie County under a similar program brought in by former Premier Ed Stelmach totalled almost 120,000 acres.

In a joint news release Nov. 26, the chiefs of Tall Cree First Nation, Little Red River Cree Nation, Beaver First Nation, and Dene Tha First Nation wrote they reject the proposal.

The chiefs say they are concerned their constitutional rights to fish, hunt, trap and gather medicine may be threatened by the plan.

“The destruction of vast tracts of boreal forest, loss of wildlife habitat, and the ensuing runoff pollution of our waterways have a direct negative impact on our way of life, and who we are as peoples,” writes Beaver Nation Chief Trevor Mercredi.

In a separate letter to Nixon sent Nov. 19, Mercredi and the Beaver First Nation council say if the current government does not listen to their concerns, the Nation will have “no choice left but to hold Alberta and Canada accountable through the courts to enforce the promises of Treaty 8.”

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