The Manitoba Government, through the Department of Aboriginal and Northern Affairs, has taken a proactive approach in addressing Aboriginal land claims and government obligations. Key principles in Manitoba's approach have included the timely negotiation of land settlements to ensure certainty of access to Manitoba's land base and the recognition and protection of existing third party interests, such as those from the mining and exploration industry. It is important to note that in negotiations of these agreements the intention is to insure that the impact of the settlements on the industry is minimal.
There are two specific outstanding obligations which can have an impact on the provincial Crown land base Treaty Land Entitlement and the Northern Flood Agreement. The following is an overview of these obligations:
The Government of Canada entered into treaties with Status Indians in Manitoba between 1871 and 1910. One of the provisions of these treaties was that Canada would set aside a certain amount of land as Reserve for the Status Indians, based on their population at the time of the original Reserve surveys. Not all First Nations received the full amount of land entitled at the time of the original Reserve surveys. This land shortfall is the basis for present TLE negotiations.
While the Government of Canada is responsible for treaty obligations, the provincial government also has a role to play in addressing these obligations as a result of the Manitoba Natural Resources Transfer Agreement (MNRTA) of 1930. The MNRTA provided for the transfer of control/administration of federal Crown land to Manitoba, but requires that Manitoba provide Canada with sufficient unoccupied provincial Crown land to fulfil outstanding TLE obligations.
Initially there were 26 First Nations in Manitoba with outstanding TLE claims, seven of which have been settled. As a result, the majority of land selection areas established specifically for TLE selection for the Island Lakes First Nations, have been removed as of May 24, 1997. The remaining 19 First Nations recently finalized negotiations and signed a TLE Framework Agreement on May 29, 1997 with the governments of Canada and Manitoba.
This Framework Agreement provides for a total of 986,000 acres of unoccupied Crown land that will be transferred to Reserve status, the majority of which is located in northern Manitoba. This settlement represents, in total, approximately 3/4 of 1% of the land mass of Manitoba.
A fundamental component of the TLE Framework Agreement is the Land Selection Criteria. These criteria provide guidance as to what land may be selected. In all cases, there has been an attempt to achieve a balance between government obligations and the protection of existing third party interests, while also preserving the ability of the province to promote future development. Existing mining and mineral claims are classified as a Third Party Interest and access to the claims is guaranteed.
Mining and exploration companies should be aware that land selections must be consistent with the land selection criteria as outlined in the framework agreement and will be, for the most part, in the vicinity of existing reserves. All land selection must be approved by the federal and the provincial governments and be made within three to five years of the ratification of the agreement.
It is expected that much of the land selection will consist of unencumbered Crown land within Community Interest Zones (CIZ's). A CIZ consists of an area of 30 kms. from the exterior boundary of the main Reserve of each Entitlement First Nation. Notification of any changes to land disposition (excluding mineral claims and leases) within the CIZ's must be made to the appropriate Entitlement First Nation. CIZ's are not hold areas and do not limit any rights of a mining or exploration company to stake or develop mineral claims or obtain mineral leases. However, exploration permits must be reviewed by the affected EFN. The purpose of this overview is to preclude large amounts of land within the CIZ's from becoming encumbered, and not available for land selection. It should be noted that any land purchases made by an EFN under the TLE process must be made on a "willing buyer and willing seller" basis.
The purpose of the NFA is to provide compensation to northern communities affected by flooding as a result of Manitoba Hydro Projects. The NFA was signed in 1977 by the Government of Canada, the Government of Manitoba, Manitoba Hydro and the Northern Flood Committee Inc. that represents Cross Lake, Nelson House, Norway House, Split Lake and York Factory First Nations.
The first comprehensive settlement was reached with Split Lake in 1992. Agreement was subsequently reached with York Factory and Nelson House in 1996 and with Norway House in 1997. Negotiations with Cross Lake are still progressing.
These agreements release Canada, Manitoba and Manitoba Hydro from NFA claims for compensation from individual First Nations and their members. The First Nations are responsible for dealing with their individual members with respect to these claims.
The agreements provide for monetary and land compensation for outstanding claims. Crown land will be turned over to the First Nations to become reserve land. Resource comanagement areas will be established and resource management boards formed for areas surrounding each reserve. Each board has joint representation from the First Nation and the province, and will advise the provincial government and First Nation on natural resource use and allocation issues within the area.
It is important to recognise that the provincial government maintains control of those provincial Crown lands within the resource management areas. Reserve land, that constitutes a small segment of these areas, is controlled by the First Nation.
It is also important to note, that all hold areas are removed once Comprehensive Implementation Agreements have been signed. Hold areas are areas which were to be identified for each NFA First Nation within which the First Nation could identify land for a use that would contribute to the viability of the community.
Trusts controlled by the individual First Nations will manage and allocate the compensation funds received from the federal government, the province, and Manitoba Hydro.
The location of lands selected, reserve lands, remaining hold areas, and resource comanagement areas are available through Manitoba Science, Technology, Energy and Mines, Mineral Resources Division.