If I owned property I could sell it. I could lease it. I could sell it with conditions so that if the purchaser didn’t pay or used it in a manner contrary to purposes in the deed or covenant the property would revert to me.First Nations land claims revolve around these concepts. If the land wasn’t sold, it still belongs to them. If agreements around payments or conditions of usage were breached, the land should revert to the previous owners. Any part of Canada that has not been clearly sold and for which proper payment, or other conditions, haven’t been met either still belongs to one or more of the First Nations or the ownership of the land should reverted to the previous owners.
There are currently occupations and places of protest where First Nations land claims have not clearly been extinguished. There are occupations to stop changes in usage while the claims process unfolds. There are protests to indicate that First Nations ownership has never ended. There are blockades to demand that agreements be honoured or, if not, that the land be returned.
If I owned a house in Toronto and someone occupied it without my consent, there are various civil and criminal remedies available for me to regain procession. If the ownership is being disputed, neither party could destroy the property while waiting for the ownership be clarified. If someone purchased the house, with a mortgage, but defaulted on the mortgage they’d likely lose the property which, if I held the mortgage, would result in the property being returned to me. But what could I do if the legal system wasn’t willing to listen to me? I could try to appeal to the broader public—which is the purpose of protests. Or I can attempt to reclaim the property myself—which is the focus of occupations.
In Ontario John Tory, the leader of the provincial Progressive Conservative Party, is calling for a government crack-down on First Nations occupations of disputed land—a clear statement that he is not prepared to address outstanding land claims but rather will support new housing subdivisions, mining and other take-overs of disputed First Nations lands. Conservative opposition to First Nations occupations is not oppositions to occupations—only to who does the occupations. Those that occupy disputed land to develop a uranium mine, for example, would have the support of the government of Ontario. Those that occupy the same land to draw attention to the fact that the land may not have been sold and development should wait until ownership has been finally resolved could face the same reality as the occupiers of Ipperwash did.
With the exception of the provincial Green Party, none of other major parties seeking election are likely to seriously move to resolve land claims in Ontario. However, only the Progressive Conservatives have raised the specter of the use of force to end in the short time the long term reality that much of Canada was not ceded to the invaders and all too often the invaders haven’t even met the conditions of the bill of sale.