Wednesday, July 08, 2009

 

Land rights being lost to First Nations. The Nisga'a pave the way, as the Tsawwassens did. The Nisga'a Landholding Transition Act.

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The respected Eastern newsmen
misunderstand this Western issue. Or ... maybe that "pave the way" comment was intended as a tongue-in-cheek pun? Because no, this is not a joyful matter of First Nations stepping into commercial bliss. Giving up their protected lands is simply another tragic step in Gordo's real estate dreams for "development".

The same cruel process was used to give the Tsawwassen First Nation the right to sell their protected land for the Deltaport expansion. [ See also BCRail port lands, most cruel hoax posted here on Dec. 10, 2006.]

Today's report on the Nisga'a is particularly rich with weasel words making any transfer of First Nations land rights sound wonderful. But it's also evasive and deceptive.

No effort to protect B.C. land is safe from developers' attacks, not the Agricultural Land Reserve, not the Land Conservancy. That's what commercial bliss is all about. We know that. So nobody should celebrate such a concept among the First Nations landholders, except the developers and perhaps the unwitting Eastern newsmen who were undoubtedly assisted in this report by Gordo's powerful Public Affairs Bureau. - BC Mary.

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PROPERTY RIGHTS: THE NISGA'A PAVE THE WAY

Joseph Quesnel
The Globe and Mail - July 8, 2009


Engaging in commercial activity doesn't make someone less indigenous [Cute. Evasive. The straw man ploy. - BC Mary]


A historic conversation is occurring on a section of “Indian country” [huh?] in northwestern British Columbia. First nations people of the Nisga'a territory are evaluating legislation that may soon allow individual Nisga'a to own private land they can transfer to whomever they wish, Nisga'a or non-Nisga'a.

The Nisga'a Landholding Transition Act provides individual Nisga'a landowners with rights to hold land in fully transferable “fee simple.” Residential properties will be registered and protected in the Nisga'a Land Title Office. What is remarkable is this proposal calls for real property rights, meaning land that can be transferred to whomever one chooses. After all, if the owner cannot transfer the land to anyone, the right is not meaningful.

The Nisga'a government recently held information meetings to gather feedback on these proposals and because, usually, most on-reserve first nations do not own their own land. Under the federal Indian Act, title to reserve lands is held by the Crown but held in trust by Indian band councils.

On reserves, title is provided to individuals through certificates of possession distributed through the band council. But these certificates are only transferable to other band members and exist at the whim of political leaders.

This would be different as Nisga'a are not under the Indian Act. Almost a decade ago, they passed a modern treaty that exempted them from the Indian Act and placed ownership of Nisga'a land with Nisga'a Village governments.

Now, this same government proposes to allow individuals to claim residential plots of their own land. [Awww. Isn't that sweet?] Granted, it is a small step, as the individual plots can be no more than 0.2 hectares (about half an acre). But this will allow for wealth creation and economic development on Nisga'a territory.

Wealth creation and poverty reduction are intimately connected to the institution of private property. Nobel-winning Peruvian economist Hernando de Soto, in his landmark The Mystery of Capital: Why Capitalism Triumphs in the West and Fails Everywhere Else, explained how poor people in developing countries were literally sitting on their ticket out of poverty. They possessed real estate, chattel and businesses. But governments did not provide them with formal ownership rights over these assets. Without formal ownership, poor people could not place their own land as collateral for business loans.

To grant individual property rights to Nisga'a residents will allow Nisga'a to leverage this land to secure credit and start businesses. Fee simple ownership will allow a Nisga'a landowner to leverage their own land for a mortgage or another loan from a bank or other financial institution. They will also be able to lease the land to anyone and build equity in their homes.

These are rights Canadians take for granted, so the landmark nature of this debate escapes much of society. What is historic is the possibility that indigenous peoples could overcome the traditional naysayers within their own communities; private property and even commercial activity are still taboo in parts of first nations societies.

The dragon to be slain is the notion that engaging in commercial activity will somehow make someone less indigenous. This idea is silly. It presumes indigenous people have never engaged in commercial activity when most of their history is based on sophisticated trade networks.

Besides, it is erroneous to assume that business robs one of indigenous identity. Other minority groups in Canada, such as Jewish and Japanese communities, retain vibrant cultures and are fully integrated into the market economy. As indigenous writer Calvin Helin said, “there is no culture to be had in poverty.”

Another dragon to be fought is the idea that private property or individual accumulation is not for aboriginal Canadians.

“It is good for others, but not for us,” contend some leaders. For instance, scholars such as Gerald Taiaiake Alfred rail against development on indigenous lands and argue that capitalism is “colonialist” while they offer no alternative to first nations poverty. This idea presumes indigenous culture cannot change or that identity must be connected to communal ownership. But it ignores the successes of off-reserve Indians or New Zealand's Maori, who have no reserves and still maintain strong cultural identity.

The debate in the Nisga'a territory is one that ought to occur on first nations territories everywhere. It occurs on Nisga'a land because they have signed a treaty that grants property to their indigenous governments, not the Crown. Thus, they can grant that land to individuals as they choose.

Indigenous Canadians need a way to bring Indian Act bands and other indigenous communities into a system where land can be easily transferred to individual first nations. The First Nation Land Management Act, enacted in 1999, allows first nations to develop land codes over their own land but has limits on land transfer and is onerous to adopt.

The federal government must develop a more robust means to transfer land to first nations. Then a real revolution for all indigenous people can occur.

Joseph Quesnel is a policy analyst with the Frontier Centre for Public Policy.
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[Google "Frontier Centre for Public Policy" and you find it headquartered in Winnipeg, focused on Manitoba and Saskatchewan issues. I wonder how much they actually know about Gordon Campbell and his B.C. regime. - BC Mary.]

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Comments:
"legislation that may soon allow individual Nisga'a to own private land they can transfer to whomever they wish,"

whomever they wish = Gordo and his developer friends

The lucky first nation's who get to deal will probably get more than $26 worth of beads, the price paid for Manhattan Island according to legend, but the same idea. Gordo knows that, just like in Tsawwassen/Deltaport, he and his cohorts don't have to buy off the whole band either, just enough to spring the desired parcels loose.

First Nations had an entirely different notion of "property" and "title" before the greedy materialistic Europeans arrived and with the crisises facing us all today we could all learn from some alternative views on such issues. In our society property rights generally trump human rights and that is one of the greatest injustices crying out to be addressed.

It is this attitude that lets the Shock Doctrine manipulators even think things like water can and should be "commodities." At the rate we are destroying the environment and commoditizing everything it won't be long before it is normal to insert a Toonie (or more) in a machine for a breath of clean air.

Nothing is safe with these bandits in control. Recently they floated the idea of destination "hotel-lodges" in the Valhalla Wilderness - naturally that didn't fly locally, but ultimately locals have no say thanks to Bill 30 and these guys' greed knows no bounds and they never give up and keep coming back.

The Vahallas were designated wilderness in the late seventies (after years of fighting to save them from what most likely would have been tax-payer subsidized clearcutting - the timber isn't that high in value with enormous access costs). What kind of wilderness includes lodges accessible by rich people by helicopter?
 
You have to wonder if Mr. Quesnel has talked to Professor de Soto lately. I happen to have seen a debate between de Soto, Naomi Klein and Joseph Stiglitz and the good professor didn't come off all that well.

It takes more than somebody's name on a title deed to effect real change.

As for the wonders of capitalism and the lure of private property as a means of creating wealth...ummm methinks there are several hundred thousand former home owners kind of sloshing around the US economy these days who might have a thing or two to tell him about that little pipe dream.

The Frontier Institute may well have a thing or two to learn about the role of resource based corporations in 'leveraging' Indian land without fee simple title.

You think having the deeds registered at Land Titles is going to make all that much difference?

I'd be more interested to see exactly how the funds already advanced to the Nisga'a under the treaty have been used and how they've 'grown' since the signing of the deal.

No doubt the CEO is VERY interested in 'leveraging' - I'd just be very careful to see where he's applying the pressure and who he's using as a fulcrum.

In fact, I'd suggest interested readers might turn from the Frontier Institute to THE NATION and search out Naomi Klein's article entitled "Disowned by the Ownership Society"

I think maybe First Nations Leaders ought to do the same...
 
Thanks Koot, G.

Here's the URL for "Disowned by the Ownership Society".

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oops, HERE is the URL:

http://www.thenation.com/doc/20080218/klein

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Thanks Mary. I should have posted the link but I was in a hurry.

It's kind of nice to have a soft ball from the Frontier Centre to kick around from time to time.

Klutzes
 
I wonder if/when the First Nations will see they're being used as a pawn in a nasty game. I hope it's BEFORE...not after.
 
The link provided will not take me to the article.
 
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Anon 3:31,

I was having difficulty with that link ... thanks for reminding me. I'll fix it in about 10 minutes.

Right now I have a beautiful link showing a very long BC Rail train fully loaded and carefully navigating "in full Dynamic Braking all the way down" through the steep terrain around Lilloet. I'll leave a copy of the URL here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CfsvDQnk7hY&feature=channel

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P.S., 3:31 ... you've probably already found the post, either by using the archives in the left column (click on December 2006 and then scroll down, down, down until you come to that title) ...

or use the search box at the top left of this page and type in the title, it will give you December 2006, then scroll down.

I've improved the hyperlink which turns out to do pretty much the same thing: December 2006 and then scroll way, way down until you come to that particular post on December 10.

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