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Office of Native Claims for Canada?

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June 11, 2007

Last week in the New York Times there was a very small world brief titled: Office for Native Claims Urged. In 1995 a Ojibwa Native Canadian, Dudley George, was killed by a police sniper while at a land claim protest. Twelve years after George’s death the inquiry report recommended the government establish a land claims agency to resolve the thousands of land claims in Canada.

My question- did it really take an inquiry to alert the Canadian government to the many problems surrounding land claim disputes? For the past few years Greenpeace and dozens of other environmental and native organizations have been waving the flag about poor land management practices. The Canadian Government is aware that the Boreal Forest is vital to the climate and wildlife. The Canadian Government is aware that areas are being logged before land disputes are settled. The Canadian Government is aware that less than 10% of the Boreal Forest is protected . Just last month 1,500 scientists signed a letter asking the Canadian Government to act.

This is no longer a question of awareness it is a question of action. Why has the Canadian Government failed to protect this resource vital to the entire planet? Because it is far too profitable to hand over the land to American companies interested in mining and logging. As we know from the Kleercut campaign companies like West Fraser are sent in to clearcut so that Kimberly-Clark’s appetite for cheap pulp is met. We can all buy virgin Kleenex at the store because the land in Canada is up for grabs to American companies.

Will the Canadian Government create an office to resolve native claims disputes? No. It’s already decided and the land is up for grabs to the highest bidder. Just as we’ve seen recently with climate policy, the Canadian Government seems comfortable following the Bush Administration in a race to the bottom. We may still be in the lead when it comes to bad environmental policy but the Canadian Government is right on our tail.

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