Thursday, October 21, 2010

Hello everyone:

So sorry for the long absence! I have been quite busy with all kinds of projects at my day job. I just attended a conference on property rights for First Nations hosted by the First Nation Tax Commission. Very impressive to hear Manny Jules again! Also heard from renowned economist Hernando de Soto. Who knew how much one could explain the economy so well with only an apple and a passport! I will explain in another post :)
Anyways, some interesting discussions. It appears that six First Nations would opt into the First Nation Ownership Act if it were available right now. I suspect more would opt in if the bill was put into force.
Also, encountered a left-wing journalist with the Dominion newspaper who tried to take Hernando de Soto to task for his views. This journalist tried to convince me that fee simple rights do not deliver better results than collective rights. Hmmm.. I think she is one of these people who forgot how thoroughly discredited collectivized property and agriculture has become.
One problem was I think the First Nations supporting private property are being ostracized and more marginalized than anything. Right after the conference, the Indigenous Bar Association held its annual conference. Co-sponsored by the FN Tax Commission, the conference did not have any speakers supporting fee simple. You would have thought they would have someone from FN Tax Commission or the Nisga'a (who were at Tax Commission conference) defend their proposals and experience. The Bar Association highlighted speakers critical of individual fee simple rights.
Interesting was an AFN speaker at IBA conference who seemed to defend the rights of all FNs to choose their own land tenure system, but emphasized many times the desire for First Nations to maintain some form of collective control. Also, extremely interesting was speaker from Metis settlements of Alberta. Metis have land-based government and hold all their land in collective fee simple. Very interesting, but they are realizing the limits of collective tenure.. Most developments happen off the settlements..
Also of interest was economic study showing that First Nations Land Management is producing economic benefits to those communities that opt in. Better transaction times, better economic outcomes.. Who would have thunk? Cut out the middle man (The Crown in this case) reduces transaction costs.
Anyways, I think the final remedy will be to patiently watch First Nations opt into this regime and see how it goes. The worst thing to happen would be the AFN or some other body to try to actively oppose this move. I think they won't as it would be disrespectful to First Nations to exercise their free choice in opting in.
AFN speaker brought up excellent points about need for individual healing and its effect on buulding self-government. So much hurt and pain among individual First Nations. Damaged people produce damaged, ineffective government. That must be dealt with before communities press ahead.
This is one of the first times an AFN speaker has resonated so much with me, although I think she was trying her best not to come out and directly oppose the First Nations Property Ownership initiative, when I could sense she was trepidatious about it. I think that is fair. This is a new thing and there are legitimate concerns, but as Manny Jules stressed, First Nations need to trust their people. Otherwise, nothing will ever be done ultimately.

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