The Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations remains steadfast that new legislation recognizing Métis governments in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Ontario, also known as Bill C-53, does not include land or harvesting rights.
“It does not include harvesting rights, it doesn’t include land rights and I think there are some misconceptions that speak to those rights, especially in a place like Ontario, and I want to be absolutely clear this legislation does not in any way extend land or harvesting rights,” Gary Anandasangaree told Nation to Nation in a year-end interview. “It is very limited to governance.”
Several First Nations in Ontario disagree with Anandasangaree and believe Bill C-53 could be used by the Metis Nation of Ontario, an organization they do not see as legitimate, to expand its rights into traditional First Nations territories.
Bill C-53 is currently in the committee stage in Parliament and has yet to pass a third reading.
The Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister also said despite a new report from the parliamentary budget officer that says Ottawa could be on the hook for as much as $76 billion in liabilities if it went to court over unsettled land claims, the government has tried to be less litigious with First Nations where possible.
“The reason why we are in still in court in some cases is because it involves situations where provinces are either partially responsible or sometimes fully responsible,” he said.
Anandasangaree pointed to the recent $10 billion proposed settlement between the Trudeau and Ontario governments and Robinson-Huron Treaty signatories as an example of an agreement that was reached out of court.
Minister of Indigenous Services Patty Hajdu says new proposed legislation will guarantee First Nations access to safe drinking water for generations to come.
“Primarily what it does is it protects first of all the water that feeds First Nations, it gives tools to First Nations for ongoing access to fresh water and the tools they need to keep that water clean but it also re-establishes or establishes the inherent right to First Nations to clean water,” she said.
The First Nations Clean Water Act was introduced in Parliament earlier this month with support from several First Nations.
However, not everyone is on board including the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations which says the bill was drafted by Ottawa without enough consultation and does not include funding for maintenance agreements or enough protection for source water.
The government has struggled to meet its water commitments to First Nations since failing to meet a promise by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to eliminate all long-term drinking water advisories in these communities by March 2021.
Hajdu was unable to give a timeline as to when the remaining 29 long-term advisories on First Nations would be eliminated.
Nunavut NDP MP Lori Idlout says $4 billion to meet the housing needs of Indigenous people living away from their home communities is a good start but not nearly enough.
“We made it clear from the beginning that it wasn’t enough,” she said. “We had actually asked for more and we ended up settling for $4 billion over seven years in the eleventh hour. So, knowing that it could make a dent is why we agreed to it.”
The money targeted to Indigenous people living in urban, rural and northern communities was announced in this year’s budget.
Idlout said with the Indigenous homelessness problem only getting worse in urban centres such as Ottawa, Toronto and Vancouver it is important to get this money moving as quickly as possible.
The federal government recently announced the creation of an Indigenous housing centre.
The centre will be Indigenous-run and oversee the distribution of this funding.