Area land claim close to settlement

Local MP Robert Nault, also the minister of Indian and Northern Affairs, was in Fort Frances Tuesday to attend the World Health Organization conference, but overhauling the Indian Act was never far from his mind.
Nault had a film crew with him to document discussions [including this interview] on the governance initiative to present to First Nations groups with Phase Two of the proposal.
The Rainy River First Nations land claim is close to being completed and the positive way negotiations are being handled bode well for changes to the Indian Act, he said.
Rainy River First Nation is entitled to recovery of the amount of land taken from it in 1914-1915, an area of 72.38 square miles. They’ve indicated an intention to focus on the selection of land in the more immediate area of Manitou Rapids, however, they have an existing right under Treaty 3 to select land throughout the Rainy River District.
Some Crown land may be selected but the overwhelming majority of land will be bought on the open market on a willing buyer and willing seller basis on the open market over an extended period of time.
“There’s a good working relationship, people are being well-informed about the negotiations,” Nault remarked. “Obviously, I’m very familiar with the negotiations, being the minister involved in it directly.
“This is going to benefit all the communities, both native and non-native, so I’m not surprised that people would recognize this.”
Nault also said this is a testament to the work of the Rainy River First Nations—and people like Jim Leonard.
“Over the years, they have worked very closely with the mayors and the reeves of the other communities and they’ve built up that trust,” he noted.
“That’s part of the reason [they] have [their] annual fish fry,” he smiled. “It’s the community coming together at the gathering place, the mounds. That’s the objective of that event—to have people get to know each other.
“So that’s why you’re seeing a positive attitude by everyone as to the importance of this claim, and this claim is not very far away from being settled.
“Our objective is to finish off that claim as quickly as possible and look forward, not backwards in the rearview mirror all the time,” Nault stressed.
“We’re always looking at mistakes of the past. I think it’s time we looked forward to develop the economy.”
Openness and transparency also are two cornerstones for changes to the Indian Act. Right now, Nault’s department is working on Phase Two.
“The second phase is where you’ll see the legislation and the transparency, accountability structures, and the modern fundamentals that any government takes for granted but, unfortunately, the First Nations have not been supplied with,” Nault said.
“Then people will have opportunity to make up their own minds,” he stressed. “That will really frame the next part of the debate.”
Indian Affairs has just brought forth a First Nations Land Management Act for debate—a premise that is long overdue, said Nault.
“Can you imagine in 2002, a First Nation trying to build an economy without having land-use planning tools at their disposal?” he asked.
“The Indian Act does not allow modern land-use planning in a community so . . . how do you create business? How do you create industrial parks?”
The planning then would allow for negotiations with private-sector partners to develop business with First Nations.
“[They’ll know] what the rules of engagement are as far as the land is concerned. And that’s a major issue for business,” Nault explained.
There also is a proposed Fiscal Relationship Act.
“[It is] intended to put together some tools for First Nations to go out and get bonded, to borrow money like any other government at the same rate, and at the same time, have the opportunity to collect other source revenues,” Nault said.
“The legislation is intended to be enabling. It’s not cookie-cutter, it’s not the same for every community,” he stressed.

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