Treaty 8 grand chief slams Jason Kenney’s land sale plan

Jason Kenney can expect one heck of a court battle if he’s elected in 2019 and forges ahead with his plan to sell off 100,000 acres of Crown land in Northern Alberta, says Treaty 8 Grand Chief Arthur Noskey.

Noskey was one of a group of Treaty 8 chiefs to travel to Edmonton Thursday to voice their concerns about Kenney’s proposal, which the UCP leader first floated at the Rural Municipalities of Alberta conference last month.

It echoes a similar program under former Premier Ed Stelmach, in which 120,000 acres of Crown land were auctioned off to the highest bidder and turned into farming land.

Noskey said the news was something of a bombshell, considering his community wasn’t approached about the plan — no email, no phone call, nothing, he said.

“It gets to a point where we’re insulted,” he said.

“On one hand, I just came from the assembly and all parties in there are saying that they recognize treaty and constitutionally protected rights, but when it comes to the ground level they’re not … consulting on that.”

Kenney undermining Treaty: Noskey

Kenney said he heard of no concerns from Aboriginal communities under the Stelmach plan, but Noskey said that’s because nobody heard about it until after it was done.

“Is that a way for government to deal with First Nations? Under the table?” Noskey said.

For Noskey, the plan boils down to understanding Treaty rights.

“I wonder if Jason Kenney’s intent … is to undermine Treaty by dealing on things that affect Treaty without consulting First Nations,” he wrote in a statement he prepared for Indigenous Relations Minister Richard Feehan.

Kenney said Thursday he would listen to First Nations and other stakeholders, but added “Mackenzie County Council has unanimously requested we look at an extension of the land auction from 10 years ago.”

“This is not land in a reserve or Treaty area – it’s Crown land, and it’s land that belongs to Albertans which is not being put to economic use right now,” Kenney said.

“The whole province was built on converting Crown land into productive economic use, and the notion that all of Northern Alberta should suddenly be turned into a park runs contrary to our entire history as a people.”

Outstanding land claim settlement

To that, Noskey pointed out there is a current outstanding land claim settlement with the Beaver First Nation that includes land in Peace Country.

“That goes to show how uninformed Jason Kenney and his United Conservative Party is when it comes to the current processes and issues at the table,” he wrote.

Feehan said he was “appalled” at Kenney’s understanding of Treaty.

“Whenever we do anything on Crown land … you have to do the consultation with the appropriate First Nation in that area. That’s just standard policy federally, provincially across the country,” Feehan said.

Mackenzie County reeve Josh Knelsen has said the program 10 years ago was an economic and employment boon for the region, but environmentalists point out Crown lands are critical to biodiversity.

egraney@postmedia.com

twitter.com/EmmaLGraney

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