The Office of the Treaty Commissioner (OTC) was first created in 1989 to assist in resolving issues surrounding Treaty Land Entitlement. In 1996, the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations and the government of Canada entered into a five-year agreement that expanded the Commissioner’s role to provide a forum for treaty discussions. The OTC is an independent body that facilitates a bilateral process to discuss treaty and jurisdictional issues between Saskatchewan First Nations and the government of Canada, with the government of Saskatchewan present as an observer. Exploratory tables in various areas of jurisdiction such as education, health, and justice discover areas of common understanding and agreement that exist amongst the parties. The discussion process is based upon the assumption that the Numbered Treaties signed mainly in the 1870s form the basis of the relationships between First Nation, federal, and provincial governments, and that such treaties provide an effective framework for dealing with present and future issues. Such a relationship entails respect by all levels of government for the right of First Nations to self-governance. Judge David Arnot, a member of the Provincial Court of Saskatchewan, was appointed by the government of Canada to be Treaty Commissioner on January 1, 1997. One of the Commissioner’s primary activities is to educate the general public about mainstream society’s role and obligations with respect to treaties, something that is being accomplished by means of school educational materials, publications, and a Speaker’s Bureau.

Blair Stonechild