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Opaskwayak Cree Nation - Environmental Protection and Law Regime

PINTER & Associates Ltd. has had the pleasure of working with and assisting Opaskwayak Cree Nation along side Jerch Law Corporation with development of the OCN Environmental Management and Protection System and Environmental Law Regime for the past 6 years. 

On June 21st, 2016 Opaskwayak Cree Nation held a proclamation and signing ceremony for their first set of Environmental Laws developed under the First Nations Land Management Act and Framework Agreement.  Opaskwayak Cree Nation (OCN) was one of the original 14 signatories to the Framework Agreement for First Nation Land Management on February 12th, 1996.  On June 20th, 2002 OCN ratified its land code and became operational on August 1st, 2002.

The video below showcases OCN's efforts to date and highlights the Proclalmation Ceremony that took place 21 June 2016.

Environmental Law Regime

OCN environmental laws represent a novel approach to First Nation environmental law development in Canada through the union of traditional Cree principles and concepts with provincially and nationally recognized technical environmental standards.

Uski-Pa-Mi-Chek-a-Win (OCN’s Environment Law) was developed by building Cree principles directly into the Laws, through the incorporation Cree terms and concepts of natural Law into the definitions and Law provisions.  In addition to Uski-Pa-Mi-Chek-a-Win, the OCN Enforcement Law was also enacted to address non-compliance under OCN environmental Law.  The Enforcement Law provides OCN with significant judicial sovereignty under the Framework Agreement and references Canadian Federal legislation to allow OCN to impose the highest potential penalties possible.  Provisions for traditional sentencing are also included in the Enforcement Law and reflect the values and culture of the community.  The OCN Solid Waste Disposal Law was also enacted and represents the start of future environmental law development.

Background

OCN has progressed through the FNLM Regime for the past 20 years with various accomplishments and milestones; including development of their own Land Code and Matrimonial/Real Property Law.  Environmental Management Agreements (EMAs) Steps 1 and 2 were developed in 2009 and 2012 respectively and serve as the foundation for the current management program that OCN has created.

Over the past 5 years OCN has completed significant elder and community consultation and has worked toward developing their own Environmental Management and Protection System (EMPS).  The EMPS encompasses the administration, management, education, monitoring, compliance and enforcement of OCN environmental Laws and management of OCN lands under the FNLM Regime.   The EMPS serves as the operational component of OCN’s environmental regime and provides for the overall management of OCN’s lands and environment under their environmental laws.  Together the Laws and EMPS enable OCN to best protect and preserve their lands, natural resources and people.

One of the principle purposes of the FNLM Regime is to provide member Nations with the ability to take control of and to manage their own lands and resources.  FNLM Regime First Nations are able to eliminate/reduce known environmental impacts on Reserve lands, develop environmental protection and Law Regimes and create an enticing economic development climate on Reserve lands. 

The environmental laws that OCN have developed are novel approaches to environmental law within Canada and are rooted in OCN’s culture and historical way of life.  The intent is to harmonize OCN Law with Acts of Parliament and relevant provincial legislation pertaining to environmental standards in accordance with the First Nations Land Management Act of Canada.

OCN joins other operational Nations in taking control of their lands and resources while exercising and reinforcing OCNs sovereignty through enactment of their environmental protection and assessment Law regime.

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