Land claims overview
The Government of Canada, Alberta and First Nations are working together to address several different types of land-related disputes through negotiations.
The resolution of land claims is primarily a federal responsibility. The Government of Canada reserved land and mineral rights for First Nations as a result of treaties signed in the 1800s.
Alberta has a large role in relation to treaty land entitlement claims because of its obligations to the federal government under the Natural Resources Transfer Agreement (NRTA).
While land claims are a federal responsibility, Alberta has a constitutional obligation under the NRTA (Constitution Act, 1930) to transfer back to Canada unoccupied Crown lands necessary to allow Canada to settle claims with First Nations.
The settlement of land claims provides enhanced certainty for the parties involved and for industry with respect to resource development.
Types of land claims
Arise when the federal government has breached obligations under the Indian Act involving administration of Indigenous funds or disposition of Indigenous land.
- specific claims generally do not involve Alberta and are between Canada and the claimant First Nation
Treaty land entitlement claims
Arise when a First Nation did not receive all of the land to which it was entitled under the terms of the treaty.
Arise when First Nations people continue to use or occupy traditional lands where the Indigenous title has not been extinguished either through treaty or legislation.
- this is not an issue in Alberta since the entire province is covered by treaties
Lubicon Lake Band
A longstanding land claim dating back to 1899 has been addressed with a negotiated settlement that was approved with final agreements signed by the parties on October 24, 2018.
Because of their remote location, the members of the Lubicon Lake Band were missed by treaty commissioners and were never allocated a reserve or all the benefits of signing.
The settlement includes more than 246 square kilometres (95 square miles) of land and $18 million in financial compensation from Alberta and $95 million from Canada.
Community infrastructure will include housing, all-season roads, telephone and internet cabling, water and wastewater services, solid waste management, public works and administration building and yard, a school and a multi-purpose community building all provided by the federal government.
Bigstone Cree Nation
In 2010, Canada, Alberta and the Bigstone Cree Nation (including the communities of Peerless Lake, Trout Lake, Chipewyan Lake and Calling Lake) finalized the largest treaty land entitlement claim in Alberta.
The Bigstone Cree Nation was an original signatory to Treaty 8 in 1899. In 1981 Bigstone asserted a claim citing that insufficient land was provided based on surveys of 1913 and 1937.
The parties reached a final agreement in 2010. New reserves totalling 140,000 acres will be set aside for Bigstone (including Chipewyan Lake and Calling Lake) and for a new First Nation composed of the Peerless Lake and Trout Lake communities.
Alberta provided $28 million and 2 new elementary schools in Peerless Lake and Trout Lake.
Canada provided $220 million, in addition to a commitment to construct a new high school and health centre for the new Peerless Trout First Nation.
This agreement helps better position Bigstone and the new Peerless Trout First Nation to create new business opportunities, build a skilled workforce, and partner with resource developers for greater economic development.