A Few Brief Thoughts on First Nations Land Claims

While I am finding the presence of weapons at protests off-putting, behind the barricades and anger is a just cause—a dispute over stolen property.

There is urgency in many situations—if development is going to occur on land that is subject to dispute waiting for a decades long process to come to an equitable solution would be far too late.

An analogy can be made with long-term leased property and land claims.
If one leases property with certain conditions and the conditions are breached, perhaps by cutting down trees or making structural changes that are forbidden by the lease then the landowner can act to evict the tenant and/or seek other damages. The agreements ceding land to the European invaders had definite conditions. If these agreements are breached, then the original occupants do have a real claim to either the land or acceptable and agreed upon compensation.

There are a wide range of issues remaining to be settled, including land
claimed by more than one first nation, what happens when geographical
markers change and what was meant by terms meant to guarantee
economic self-sufficiency when the nature of economic activity has
changed. Solving them required reflection, listening and a combination of
utmost urgency and utmost patience.

But when housing is to be built on disputed lands or material from a quarry
on one disputed site is being used for construction on land on another disputed site there isn’t time to wait for the current process to come to an end. By then what is being done on the disputed land will not be easily undone. New housing construction, clear cutting of forests, building new dams…all these are happening or about to happen on land whose ownership is not clear. Erecting barricades or blockading railways are occurring due to the urgency of the situation.


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