Rural issues dominated the government relations meetings held by CCNA Board directors in Ottawa recently.

Meetings were held on Nov. 25 with federal agriculture minister Lyle Vanclief and Andy Mitchell, the Secretary of State for Rural Development, as well as the agriculture critics for the PC and Reform parties.

During these meetings, CCNA directors raised concerns over agricultural and rural economic issues which impact directly and indirectly on community newspapers.

Native Land Claims

The board’s sessions on Friday, Nov. 26 opened with a presentation by the Indian Claims Commission. Speaking about the commission’s activities was co-chair James Prentice.

With a growing number of native land claims being filed across the country, the board felt it would be prudent to meet with the Indian Land Claims Commission in order to better understand the issue.

Prentice, who has sat on the commission since 1992, explained its mandate. “We deal with ‘specific’ claims,” he said, noting that these are different from “comprehensive” claims. Specific land claims are grounded in law, whereas comprehensive land claims are those in which no treaty was signed.

Prentice estimated there are currently some 900 native land claims in Canada being settled at a rate of about eight per year. One of the more notable land claims CCNA directors discussed with Prentice is the Nisga’a treaty in British Columbia.

The Nisga’a treaty is just the beginning for BC, Prentice predicted, noting the many aboriginal claims that have yet to be resolved in that province. “BC is going to require a massive alignment and political consideration of who owns what,” he said. “It’s going to be very difficult.”

Native land claims have a direct bearing on the local communities, Prentice said, including an economic impact. The bottom line, he added, is that the claims must be resolved now despite the difficulties involved.

“These claims must be resolved,” said Prentice. “They have to be adjudicated or else they’re going to get more and more expensive.” It is in the best interest of all Canadians to have a “self-enlightened” view of this process, he concluded.

Postal Issues

Also addressing the CCNA Board on Nov. 27 were representatives of Canada Post.

Dale Bemben, representing Canada Post’s Publications Mail, and Josee Bergeron, the newly-appointed director of Unaddressed Admail and Publications Mail, spoke about their respective programs as they impact community newspapers.

Following these sessions, the CCNA Board convened for its regular business meeting, wrapping up on Saturday, Nov. 27. A full report on the board meeting and Canada Post information session will be provided to CCNA members in the next regular issue of The Publisher.

For more information on the board and government relations meetings, contact Serge Lavoie at 416-482-1090, ext. 26.