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Onion Lake Chief Henry concerned over Sask government consultation process

Both Onion Lake Cree Nation and Fishing Lake First Nation leadership are voicing concern over the Saskatchewan government’s Duty to Consult consultation process.

The contention is that the Duty to Consult policy needs to be refashioned rather than the present process whereby the government determines whether a project requires input from Indigenous communities.

The government started its consultation in September with a cut off date of Oct. 21., as it sought input on the First Nation and Métis Consultation Policy Framework. However, Indigenous leaders have expressed the concern that the process is rushed and places an emphasis on emails and online submissions rather than actually connecting with communities who are affected by the various projects.

“We are here to remind the Government of Saskatchewan that our Treaties were entered into before the Province was even created. Our Treaties are the laws of the land,” said Chief Henry Lewis of Onion Lake Cree Nation. “The Treaty must be at the centre of any laws, regulations and policies that impact our peoples and Nations. Our Treaties are international and therefore we expect the Government to come meet with us on any policies that affect our Treaties.”

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Some of the hot button matters revolve around the sale of lands which Indigenous communities hunt and fish or where ancestors are buried. The Onion Lake duty to consult coordinator says 60 parcels of land around their community were sold last year and over 100 more are facing the auctioneer.

The government has indicated that it aware of Indigenous concerns over its duty to consult. Back in April, government relations Don McMorris was quoted as saying,”We know that there are issues around duty to consult. We hear it from First Nations, we’ve heard it from Métis organizations, we hear it from industry as well.”

He suggested at that time a policy that would better serve the needs of all stakeholders.

Opposition Critic for First Nations and Métis Relations Betty Nippi-Albright speaking Tuesday in Regina says,”If the people you are supposed to be consulting with are universally telling you that your consultations are disrespectful and inadequate, you aren’t going to end up with a meaningful policy. This is a practice we’ve seen over and over from this Sask. Party government. The policy is already set in stone and ‘consultation’ is just a box to be checked.”

Nippi-Albright adds that the government is tweaking an outdated policy to allow them to continue the status quo.

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