Occupied Lands Inventory

Every First Nation in Canada should understand how much unoccupied Crown land is left within its traditional territory. Every project proponent should understand the impact of their project footprint on the amount of unoccupied Crown land available for First Nations to exercise treaty rights.

Making Consultation More Meaningful…

All public lands in Canada are owned by either the Provincial or Federal Crown.

In the provinces, the Provincial Crown manages public land, and decides who can cut trees, who can build pipelines or transmission lines, who can drill for oil or gas and when and where people can enjoy recreational activities. Every time a Provincial Crown considers an approval for a well pad, for a right of way for a pipeline or even for a new wildlife area, the government has to think about how that approval will negatively impact treaty and Aboriginal rights.

Did you know the majority of the provinces are covered by historic treaties? The boundaries of these treaties fit together like puzzle pieces. For example, there is not one square inch of Alberta that is not covered a treaty agreement that outlines existing treaty rights for those First Nations who signed them.

The text of each historic treaty varies slightly, but each outlines promises that First Nation signatories are able to continue their way of life into the future, including the ability to hunt, trap and fish on lands that were not “taken up” by the Crown within the boundaries of the treaty. The Natural Resources Transfer Agreement expanded the geographic scope of treaty rights in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba to all unoccupied Crown land, and to “other lands to which [First Nations] have a right of access”. First Nations obtain a right of access by obtaining permission from the occupant or owner to enter on and use the land.

This means that, for the exercise of treaty and Aboriginal rights, there are only two types of land to worry about; unoccupied Crown land and...land that ‘belongs’ to someone else. Land that belongs to someone else includes all privately owned land and any public land for which a Provincial or Federal Crown has conveyed an interest.

For example, every time the Government of Alberta gives out a Public Lands Act disposition, creates a road under the Public Highways Development Act, or creates a new park under the Provincial Parks Act, land that was once unoccupied becomes occupied. Occupied Crown land, just like privately owned land, is land where treaty rights can no longer be exercised without permission. When the exercise of a right depends on the permission of another, it is no longer a right.

Call us — Calliou Group can help meaningfully inform consultation.