Natural Resources Transfer Agreements

Agreements were negotiated between the federal and provincial governments transferring control over land and natural resources to the provinces; prior jurisdiction had previously been held by the federal government. Reserve and Crown lands were not included in the transfer. However, some of the lands used by Indigenous peoples to hunt/trap/fish now fell under provincial jurisdiction and were subjected to conservation regulations.


Taylor, John Leonard. Canadian Indian Policy during the Inter-war Years, 1918-1939. Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, 1984. 103-104.


Government of Canada. Statutes of Canada. Memorandum of Agreement, Saskatchewan Natural Resources: 20-21 George V, 16th Parliament, 4th Session, Chapt. 41. 322-326. - Transfer of public lands from the Federal government to the Province. All rights of fishery shall be administered by the Province. All lands included in reserves will continue to be administered by the Crown. In order to secure of the Indians of the province a continued supply of game and fish, Canada agrees that the provincial laws apply from time to time to the Indians, but that the Indians should have the right to trap, fish and hunt for food at all seasons of the year on all unoccupied Crown lands.


RG10, C- 8093, Vol. 6731, File 420-1; Title: MacInnes to Colonel Starnes, 21 March, 1931.

Regarding the enforcement of the Provincial Game Laws in the Provinces of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta. As noted from the Crime Reports, a number of Indians have been prosecuted for killing moose, deer and other game animals. In this connection may I draw your attention to the clause on this subject which was contained in each of the Capital Agreements for the Natural Resources as follows: "In order to secure to the Indians of the province the continuance of the supply of game and fish for their support and subsistence, Canada agrees that the laws respecting game in force in the province from time to time shall apply to the Indians within the boundaries thereof, provided, however, that the said Indians shall have the right, which the province hereby assures to them, of hunting, trapping and fishing game and fish for food at all seasons of the year on all unoccupied Crown lands and on any lands to which the said Indians may have a right to access."

The application of game laws to Indigenous peoples has posed issues since the transfer, as they have the right to hunt/fish/trap on all reserve and Crown lands. However, the provincial government continues to subject Indigenous peoples to game laws that infringe on hunting, trapping, and fishing rights outlined in federal negotiations. In the western provinces, another issue is that insufficient lands were set aside through treaties for hunting and trapping which makes hunting on designated lands more difficult as game continually moves. Primary source documents reveal that several Indigenous hunters were fined or prosecuted for killing moose or other big game following the new transfer agreements. Often, the hunters were unaware of regulations, or were hunting as an act of resistance, believing that they retained the right to hunt in large quantities on certain tracts of land. The transfer caused widespread confusion and there was a lack of consultation with Indigenous peoples in the province; exclusion meant that new terms were not communicated effectively, and that their specific needs/rights regarding game and access to land were not considered. Overall, this represents a failure on behalf of both the federal and provincial governments that effected food security and accessibility. Additionally, records suggest that Indigenous hunters who were fined and criminalized for breaking regulations were treated more harshly than white hunters for similar discrepancies.
Rural or Urban
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Memorandum of Agreement, Saskatchewan Natural Resources: 20-21 George V, 16th Parliament, 4th Sessio