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Bands Present Ultimatum To Federal Government

SASKATCHEWAN INDIAN      APRIL 1988      p09  
Chief Irvin Starr; spokesman for the Committee of Chiefs of the Muskowekwan, Ochapowace, Piapot, Starblanket and other Treaty #4 Bands (MOPS) says it has given the Federal Government until June 6 to respond to its request that the government honor the eleven year old 1976/77 Saskatchewan Formula Agreement on land entitlement.

In the announcement, the Committee and the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations (FSIN) expressed their intention of to use the option of litigation if the government fails to respond within the required time.

The 1976/77 Saskatchewan Formula Agreement was signed and publicly announced on August 24, 1977 as an official agreement to fulfill outstanding Treaty land entitlements for bands in Saskatchewan.

The 1976 Agreement states that the treaty land entitlement of a band will be based on 128 acres multiplied by the bands population on December 311976, less the amount of land already received.

The entitlement of the Bands would increase proportionately with the increase in population.

In making the announcement, the Committee stated that 90,000 acres of federal and provincial crown lands have been transferred to reserve status for Bands in other treaty areas. Because such transfers have not been made to the Treaty #4 Bands, the MOPS Committee feels that the government has reneged on the 1976/77 Agreement as it relates to them.

Chief Starr states that there are eight bands in Treaty #4 with outstanding entitlement, and that those Bands have spent $1,301,040 selecting land pursuant to the 76177 Agreement.

Chief Starr also said that other bands have spent an additional $3 million in their land selection over the past eleven years.

When the agreement was first reached, the governments of the day indicated that settlements under the Agreement would be swift, however in eleven years, less than 7 percent of the total has been transferred.

The announcement by the MOPS Committee emphasized that on January 17, 1984 the Honourable John Munroe, Minister of the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs Development (DIAND), advised Saskatchewan the "nature of the Saskatchewan Agreement is such that it is binding on all three parties," and that". . . it is Canada's position that it concluded a binding agreement with Saskatchewan and that, indeed, some implementation of it has already taken place."

Munroe stated that legal counsel had informed him that there were strong arguments in favour of the legal enforceability of the Agreement. Contrary to this, Bill McKnight, the current Minister of Indian Affairs has rejected the 1976/77 Agreement in favor of "the date of first survey equation" policy. This policy bases land entitlement on band populations which were much smaller and thus reduces the size of the claim from approximately 1.3 million acres of land to approximately 170,000 acres.

Until now the province of Saskatchewan has honored its commitment not to sell, lease or otherwise alienate lands under its administration which have been selected by the Bands, but have not been transferred to reserve status.

FSIN Chief Roland Crowe stated that he expects the province to continue to honour that commitment until the issues between Bands and the Federal government are settled at the negotiating table or by the courts.