When borders are fluid…

I knew a guy who claimed that within his lifetime, held four ditinct citizenships.  At different times,  he was an Austrian, Czechoslovak, Slovak and Hungerian – he even held Hungarian citizenships at two separate times!

Yet, he never moved!

Simply, his house happened to be on a bit of land that was held by different countries at different times,  all while he lived in it…

This is the reality of human existence.

As nations come into and out of existence, as they jostle with each other for territory, this sort of thing is inevitable.

Now, imagine that all these countries which had a prior ownership claim went to, say, the EU and demanded that this land be returned to them, due to the fact they held it in the past and, even if another country usurped it, they had never really given up their claim to it:  it would be a mess!

In fact , it would be exactly the same sort of mess as the multiple land claims being made by various native groups over land in Ontario and Quebec – including over the bit of land know as the Parliament Hill.

Just like in Europe, the various nations in North America occupied different areas at different times – as their fortunes waxed and vaned, so did their territory.  Just like in Europe, at different times, the same land would be claimed by different groups.  And, just like in Europe, territorial wars took place…

This just goes to show that this is a function of the human condition!

However, in Canada, the various Native groups can each make a separate claim on the same piece of land – a claim which the courts consider in isolation from competing Native claims over the same land.  And, just as they each had a valid claim on the land at different times, each claim can be supported by some evidence.

Yet, since each claim is examined separately, the court cannot take the competing claims into accout.  In effect, this causes the Canadian taxpayers to buy the land (settle the claims) over and over and over…  No sooner is one claim settled than another one crops up.

To call this a highly flawed system is a serious understatement.

How to solve this in a way that is fair and equitable to the Native groups with land claims as well as to the Canadaians who hold legal title to the land and have invested their life savings into a home on this land?

How to solve this in a way that is fair to different Native groups making conflicting claims, when their claims would be considered at different times and under differing political conditions?

We do have the Assembly of First Nations – resolving land claims is one of their major ‘raison d’etres’:

The Assembly of First Nations (AFN) is the national representative organization of the First Nations in Canada. There are over 630 First Nation’s communities in Canada. The AFN Secretariat, is designed to present the views of the various First Nations through their leaders in areas such as: Aboriginal and Treaty Rights, Economic Development, Education, Languages and Literacy, Health, Housing, Social Development, Justice, Taxation, Land Claims, Environment, and a whole array of issues that are of common concern which arise from time to time.

The solution I propose would not be easy, but it would be simple and fair:

  1. All First Nations land claims – currently pending, whether under negotiation or court action, or ones as yet undeclared – would be registered with the AFN.  (The AFN would need to make a call for land claim registration, with a firm ‘register-by-date’.)
  2. In cases of multiple claims over the same land by various Aboriginal groups, the AFN would engage all claimants in constructive negotiations, with full adherence to Native traditions and methods of dispute resolution.
  3. Once the AFN had resolved conflicting land claims with respect to each other, they would then present all the claims together (though only one claim per one tract of land – or with all the various claims to one tract of land by various parties grouped together for, perhaps, a ‘weighted’ ruling), with all the supporting documentation, to either the Supreme Court of Canada or some special land-claim-resolution judicial court that the AFN, Federal and Provincial/Territorial governments would agree on specifically for this purpose.  This Court can then rule on each land claim following a thorough an complete review all of the harmonized land claims and apply uniform criteria when it considers them, ensuring that equal standards are applied in all the cases.

I suspect that this is the only way we could even come close to resolving this issue fairly.

Short of this type of action, I do not see any way to avoid protracted legal quagmire – in perpetuity!