Backgrounder - Manitoba Northern Flood Agreement: Implementation

Five First Nations in northern Manitoba were adversely affected in the early 1970's by flooding arising from hydro-electric projects on the Nelson and Churchill Rivers and by the Lake Winnipeg Regulation Project. To compensate for this the Manitoba Northern Flood Agreement (NFA) and an accompanying Economic Development Agreement (EDA) were signed in 1977. Parties to the agreement included Canada, the Province of Manitoba, Manitoba Hydro and the Northern Flood Committee Inc. (NFC), an Aboriginal corporation acting on behalf of the five affected First Nations (Cross Lake First Nation, Nelson House - now Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation, Split Lake - now Tataskweyak Cree Nation, York Factory First Nation and Norway House Cree Nation).

In view of the fact that the full effects of the project were not known at the time of negotiation, provisions were made for remedial and compensatory activities. The principal obligations in the agreement are:

  • to exchange lands at a minimum ratio of four acres for each affected acre, with defined easements in favour of Manitoba;
  • to provide provisions for land use by bands on areas of designated Crown land;
  • to provide potable water for the five communities;
  • to fulfill specific remedial and compensatory responsibilities respecting water regime management, affected shorelines, navigation, cemeteries and objects of cultural significance, community infrastructure and remedial works;
  • to establish a community liaison committee;
  • to establish an Employment Task Force; and
  • to ensure trap line and fishing programs.

In addition to these compensatory articles, the NFA included provisions identified as policy matters respecting wildlife, resource management, community planning, environmental impact, and First Nations employment. As well it contained provisions for an arbitration process.

The EDA provided $3.2 million in 1977 (equally shared between Canada and Manitoba) as general funding to the Neyanun Development Corporation which is First Nation controlled. A further $1.875 million was earmarked for Cross Lake First Nation to be provided by Manitoba Hydro to the Neyanun Development Corporation under Article 17 of the NFA. Article 17 is a policy article respecting environmental impacts that incorporates the recommendations of the Lake Winnipeg, Churchill and Nelson Rivers Study Board, and specifically requires monitoring of the adverse environmental effects of the project by the three Crown parties.

The NFA proved difficult to implement. In 1982 all parties filed a large number of claims before the Arbitrator in the face of an initial limitation period for such claims. While much was done during the 1980s, the period was also marked by disagreement over the extent and nature of obligations and various attempts were made to find solutions.

In 1986 the Northern Flood Committee Inc. proposed that a comprehensive implementation agreement be developed and four party global negotiations followed. In 1990, those all-party negotiations produced a Proposed Basis of Settlement (PBS). This set out proposed implementation terms including increased amounts of land and money and a variety of new institutional arrangements, most of them under First Nation control. Over the next few years, Tataskweyak Cree Nation, York Factory Cree Nation, Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation, and Norway House Cree Nation signed Comprehensive Implementation Agreements (CIAs), which in the case of Norway House is known as a Master Implementation Agreement (MIA). These agreements were signed with Canada, Manitoba and Manitoba Hydro and clarified the obligations of each party as well as provided substantial economic development funds to communities, along with significantly more land than the original NFA.

The four NFA Implementation agreements effectively place decision making authority and the resources to effect change, directly in the hands of the respective First Nations. The positive results achieved via this approach are being felt directly at the community level with the establishment of ongoing arrangements for implementation of various NFA obligations involving: four-party environmental monitoring committees, future hydro development activities, resource management and provision of fee simple lands, which the First Nations chose for their economic development potential. Implementation is proceeding smoothly under the respective agreements as all parties roles are clearly defined.

The capital available to the First Nations from the respective agreements has been invested in community trust arrangements (facilitated by federal and provincial legislation enacted for all four First Nations). This may also be used for economic development through cooperative ventures such as eco-tourism, mining exploration, forestry, housing and others. Approximately 58% of the settlement funds is maintained in various trusts for the benefit of current and future First Nation members. The funds are to be used to implement the NFA and facilitate the social, cultural and economic development of the First Nation. The trust is administered by members appointed as trustees, as well as a corporate trustee selected by Chief and Council. Together, they are responsible for approving trust projects and related expenditures along with administering the trust.

Resource Co-management Boards have also been established as part of the agreements to represent the Province of Manitoba and the First Natiosn in matters of NFA resource management. The role of these boards is to advise on resource use and allocation issues and make recommendations on policy and programs in this particular area. The Boards are also responsible for developing integrated land use and resource management plans in the resource management areas.

In 1997, Cross Lake First Nation opted not to continue with negotiations toward a CIA and requested that Canada, Manitoba and Manitoba Hydro implement the NFA directly, in accordance with its "spirit and intent". This new process was launched in May 1998 with a Working Group which then evolved into an "Agenda" process. Recently, Canada has put forward a change in approach from the "Agenda" process to an "obligations based, proposal driven" implementation approach. For further information concerning NFA implementation efforts for Cross Lake First Nation, consult our Backgrounder entitled Manitoba Northern Flood Agreement Implementation - Cross Lake First Nation.

One NFA obligation which was not dealt with in the CIAs and is not part of the implementation discussions with Cross Lake First Nation, but rather has proceeded separately under the original terms of the NFA, concerns potable water under Article 6 of that Agreement. While Canada has fulfilled its own Article 6 obligations, this Article is the subject of an ongoing arbitration under the NFA between Canada and Manitoba Hydro, known as Claim 138, in which the five NFA First Nations have an interest.

For more information on NFA-related matters check out the INAC website.