The Manitoba Treaty Land Entitlement Framework Agreement recognized the claim of the Brokenhead Ojibway Nation (a First Nation community north of Winnipeg) on a total area of 14,481 hectares. The First Nation told us that it had a large number of economic development projects that it intended to follow once the selected countries had been converted into reserves. For example, it provides for the development of commercial space on a selection of land along a country road along a provincial highway. This reorganization has been under renovation for more than five years. We expected that the Department would have developed and implemented a consistent approach to ensure that its soil selection files are properly organized and contain documents necessary to facilitate conversion. 4.16 Since the 2005 review, additional land acquisition contracts have been signed: four new agreements in Saskatchewan and one in Manitoba. We examined how the Department implemented the recommendations of the 2005 Audit Chapter. In line with the 2005 approach, the review focused on the Manitoba and Saskatchewan regions, with approximately 90 per cent of contract land authorization transactions taking place in these two regions, according to the department. We looked at the work completed at headquarters and regional offices in Saskatchewan and Manitoba. 4.36 In this follow-up audit, we found that in Saskatchewan, approximately 62 per cent of the selected hectares were processed, up from 58 per cent in 2005. Since 2005, the department has converted more than 89,000 hectares into reserves in Saskatchewan.
Of the 25 First Nations that were part of the original land arrangement agreement, 22 received their minimum reserve acres. Three other First Nations, which are covered by more recently signed agreements, have also reached their minimum reserves. The ministry has identified more than 700 land selections that have yet to be converted, or 451,000 hectares of reserve land. Unlike Manitoba, the average stock size of land selection in Saskatchewan remains about the same as that which has been processed to date, about 600 hectares. 4.56 While we recognize the considerable progress made over the past three years in converting land into reserves, we also note that the Department has not adequately addressed several fundamental weaknesses in its compliance processes with contractual land rights obligations. Although contractual agreements on land rights are constitutionally protected, the ministry has not implemented several of our 2005 recommendations to improve their implementation. 4.31 In the Department`s Saskatchewan region, officials regularly share information with First Nations about the status of their land selection. They also meet with them regularly to discuss the challenges and next steps in the conversion process.
The Department also showed that it had made efforts to meet with many First Nations in Manitoba to discuss the status of their land selection. 4.14 In 2005, we reviewed the management of their tasks under contractual land rights agreements. We found a number of defects that affected the implementation of the ministry`s commitments, including: 4.35 To convert 150,000 hectares per year (as required as part of the 2006 commitment), the department will have to process a much higher number of selections. At the end of our review, more than 430 selections – nearly 650,000 hectares of reserve land – were converted to Manitoba.