The Manitoba Framework Agreement (MFA)

The Manitoba Treaty Land Entitlement Framework Agreement (MFA) was signed on May 29, 1997 between Canada, Manitoba, and the Treaty Land Entitlement Committee (TLEC). Under this historic agreement, up to 445,417 hectares (1,100,626 acres) of land will be provided to the Entitlement First Nations (EFNs) represented by the TLEC. Manitoba will provide up to 399,008 hectares (985,949 acres) of Crown land. Canada will contribute $76 million.

Of the $76 million provided by Canada to the settlement, some $24.5 million in the form of a Land Acquisition Payment to six specific First Nations will allow for the purchase of up to an additional 46,409 hectares (114,677 acres) of privately held land on the open market. This “land acquisition payment” acknowledges that for some Entitlement First Nations there will be insufficient Crown Land available in their Treaty area or traditional territory from which to select suitable land to be set apart as reserve, and provides these First Nations the means to purchase land on a “willing seller and willing buyer basis.”

The settlement monies provided by Canada also support implementation costs of the Entitlement First Nations and the Treaty Land Entitlement Committee ($8.6 million), the discharge of third party interests ($8.9 million), the Community Approval Process ($1.0 million), the negotiating costs of the Treaty Land Entitlement Committee ($6.3 million), and a Federal Payment to each Entitlement First Nation (a total of $26.8 million).

Initially, TLEC represented 19 Entitlement First Nations (Barren Lands, Buffalo Point, Brokenhead Ojibway, Fox Lake, God’s Lake, God’s River, Mathias Colomb Cree, Nisichawayasihk Cree, Oxford House, Norway House Cree, Northlands, Opaskwayak Cree, Rolling River, Sapotaweyak Cree, Sayisi Dene, Shamattawa, War Lake, Wuskwi Sipihk and York Factory ); however, with the creation of the Marcel Colomb First Nation formerly part of the Mathias Colomb Cree Nation on March 30, 1999, and the O-Pipon-Na-Piwin Cree Nation formerly part of the Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation on November 25, 2005, there are now 21 Entitlement First Nations included within the Treaty Land Entitlement Committee.

Through this Agreement, Canada and Manitoba have agreed to fulfill the acknowledged outstanding Treaty land entitlement obligations for these 21 First Nations, satisfying the per capita land provisions of Treaties signed by Canada and the First Nations between 1871 and 1910.

The Agreement consists of a Preamble and eight Parts, the provisions of which identify the amount of land for each EFN, the principles for land selection and acquisition, implementation processes and roles and responsibilities of the parties, amongst other matters. The eight Parts of the Agreement are:

I) Definitions and Interpretation

II) Land

III) Third Party Interests

IV) Financial Provisions

V) Release and Indemnity

VI) Implementation

VII) General Provisions

VIII) Schedules

Upon signing the MFA, it was necessary for the Chief and Council of each Entitlement First Nation to take the Manitoba Framework Agreement back to the community and ask the membership to either accept or reject the Agreement through a referendum. The Framework Agreement is incorporated as an integral, common element of the individual Treaty Entitlement and Trust Agreements for each First Nation.

Article 29 of the MFA sets out the process through which each of the Entitlement First Nations is to ratify its own Treaty Entitlement and Trust Agreements. Upon approval by the eligible voting members of each community, those two Agreements may be executed, and the process of implementation of the Agreement to fulfill the per capita provisions of the relevant Treaty begun.

The entire agreement to be voted on consists of the MFA, the Treaty Entitlement and a Trust Agreement for each First Nation.

To date votes have been successfully completed by 16 First Nations (actually 18 including the newly created Marcel Colomb First Nation and O-Pipon-Na-Piwin Cree Nation) of the 21 First Nations participating in the MFA. Three First Nations (Sayisi Dene, Shamattawa, and Fox Lake) passed the required Council Resolutions to commence a community approval process, but have since postponed the voting dates indefinitely. In addition, one of the 18 First Nations (York Factory) has ratified the MFA through a referendum vote but has not yet executed its Treaty Entitlement Agreement.

A selected number of provisions are briefly discussed below to assist with general understanding of the MFA.

Part II of the MFA is entitled “Land”. This part sets out the principles for land selection and acquisition. The principles provide guidelines which selections and acquisitions must adhere to, and when land is selected or acquired in accordance with the principles, it shall be eligible to be set apart. This part of the MFA also describes the land selection and acquisition process, the transfer of land and interests from Manitoba to Canada, and the setting apart of land as reserve by Canada.

An Entitlement First Nation may select land from its Treaty area or traditional territory within Manitoba. Crown land from outside an Entitlement First Nation’s Treaty area or traditional territory, but within the province may be selected where, on a case by case basis, the Entitlement First Nation can establish a reasonable social or economic development objective and Manitoba concurs. Land may also be acquired for reserve from outside the province, if the traditional territory of the Entitlement First Nation extends into Ontario, Saskatchewan, or the Northwest Territories (Nunavut); but only with any required concurrent arrangements with the other provinces involved. Crown land selections are to be identified within 3 years of the ratification of an Entitlement First Nation’s Treaty Entitlement Agreement. Land acquisitions are to be secured within 15 years of the date of ratification. In both cases, two additional one-year periods may be provided if an Entitlement First Nation is not able to select/acquire all of its land within these time periods. Further time beyond the selection/acquisition periods (and their extensions) is allowed to review the proposals and set the selected/acquired lands apart as reserve.

The MFA also acknowledges and provides that Canada will adhere to the requirements set out in the Additions to Reserve Policy, current at the time of execution (May, 1997) unless otherwise agreed to by the parties to the Agreement. The Framework Agreement specifically provides in 8.02 (1) that “land which an Entitlement First Nation has selected or acquired which Canada and Manitoba confirm is eligible to be set apart as reserve in accordance with the principles shall be deemed to be land selected or acquired by the Entitlement First Nation pursuant to a ‘treaty or land claims agreement’ within the meaning of the Additions to Reserve Policy.” However, the MFA states the provisions of the MFA take precedence over the ATRP.

Part III of the MFA entitled “Third Party Interests” addresses the requirement to resolve third party interests, the methods by which this can be accomplished and details relating to mines and mineral interests, water interests, roads/highways/airport interests and taxes.

Part IV contains the Financial Provisions.

Part V of the MFA entitled “Release and Indemnity” sets out the form of a general release in favor of Canada which each Entitlement First Nation grants upon execution of its Treaty Entitlement and Trust Agreements. In the release the Entitlement First Nation agrees that its rights to land under the per capita provisions of its relevant Treaty have been fulfilled to the extent provided and subject to the reservations claimed. Manitoba also receives a limited release from Canada concerning liabilities and demands relating to the obligations of Manitoba arising out of paragraph 11 of the Manitoba Natural Resources Transfer Act. Manitoba is specifically released from those obligations to provide to Canada unoccupied Crown land to enable Canada to fulfill its obligations, under the per capita land provisions, to an Entitlement First Nation which executes a Treaty Entitlement Agreement. Other matters having TLE implications such as disparity in the per capita provisions of the various treaties, oral promises made at the time of treaty, and the availability of additional lands to accommodate population growth are not included in the release.

Part VI of the MFA is entitled “Implementation”, and this part describes the responsibilities, best efforts and undertakings of the parties. In addition, the establishment, roles, and responsibilities of the Implementation Monitoring Committee (IMC) and Senior Advisory Committee (SAC) are set out, along with procedures for dispute resolution. For more detailed information on the IMC, SAC, and dispute resolution please see “IMC Practice and Procedures” found under PROCEDURES in the main menu.