12 Oct Treaty Land Entitlement Agreements
4.41 Environmental assessments and land-based studies. In 2005, we recommended that the Department take steps to improve the coordination of environmental assessments and land-based surveys. In this audit, the Court found that the Department has changed its environmental assessment requirements, which is consistent with the intent of our 2005 recommendation. The period for which environmental assessments remain valid has been increased from two years to five years. This helps the department coordinate valid environmental assessments and land-based studies simultaneously. 4.33 The increase in land transformation in Manitoba is due to the August 2006 commitment by the former Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development to transform 150,000 hectares of land in that province into reserve each year for a period of four years. In the first year of this commitment, more than 159,000 acres were converted, more land than between 1997 and our audit in 2005. In the second year, the department converted only 43,000 hectares in Manitoba, less than one-third of its commitment for that year. Nevertheless, by the end of the second year, the percentage of Acres selected by First Nations that had been converted to reserve in Manitoba had increased from 12 per cent in 2005 to 34 per cent (Figure 4.3). Since the 2006 commitment, 14 of the 20 First Nations that have ratified their agreements and made land choices have converted at least one land selection and some selections. 4.44 In contrast, the Department has actively assisted First Nations in Saskatchewan in resolving third-party interests. For example, in one of the files we reviewed, we found that the Department had spent additional resources to resolve the interests of third parties for a selection of land that was a priority for a First Nation.
4.53 The nSN department found that the information contained in the land obligation contract was minimal in the Department`s 2005/2006 performance report. Instead, it focused on the supplementation process to the reserve, which includes contractual land rights and other provisions for converting land to reserve status. This report contains only general information about the department`s efforts to reduce processing times and its efforts to improve the process as a whole. We also reviewed the Department`s 2006/2007 performance report and found that the only information on contractual functional claims was a reference to the 2006 commitment in Manitoba. 4.34 The size of land selection in Manitoba has contributed to the Department`s success in transforming a large number of hectares. . . .