Smith’s Landing calls Sovereignty Act ‘an assault on our treaty’

François Paulette, a Denesuline Elder and member of the Smith’s Landing Treaty 8 First Nation, leads a Celebrate the Water ceremony in June 2018. Sarah Pruys/Cabin Radio

The Smith’s Landing First Nation has called on Alberta to repeal the newly passed Sovereignty Act, saying the legislation infringes treaty rights and undermines reconciliation.

Premier Danielle Smith says the Sovereignty Act, her signature legislation on assuming leadership of the United Conservative Party earlier this year, “allows Alberta to fight harmful federal laws.”

Critics say the act’s purpose – to halt the enforcement of federal laws deemed by Alberta to be against the province’s interests – is unconstitutional and an overreach.

The Smith’s Landing First Nation is headquartered in Fort Smith, NWT, but its reserves extend throughout a region of northern Alberta now dominated by the Wood Buffalo National Park.



The First Nation will host next year’s Dene National Assembly, Dene leaders confirmed last week.

“The Sovereignty Act is an assault on our treaty and blatantly ignores our sovereignty,” Chief Thaidene Paulette of the Smith’s Landing First Nation stated in a Friday news release.

“The act will allow the province to override federal jurisdiction, just as it continues to override First Nation jurisdiction and ignore the treaty partnership with the federal Crown.”

Smith’s Landing has written to Smith, Friday’s news release stated, “calling on the provincial government to immediately repeal the Sovereignty Act not only because it infringes treaty rights, but also because it undermines reconciliation, the implementation of the articles of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and the calls to action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.”



The Alberta premier’s office has been approached for comment.

Next year’s Dene National Assembly will be hosted by Smith’s Landing in part to celebrate the Paulette Case, led by the First Nation’s own Francois Paulette 50 years ago, in which Dene chiefs successfully convinced a judge that Dene people had not intended to give up their rights and title in signing Treaty 8 and Treaty 11.

Chief Thaidene Paulette, son of Francois, stated: “Just as former Chief Francois Paulette fought to protect Aboriginal title and treaty rights in 1973, the present-day leadership of Smith’s Landing First Nation stands with the 48 Treaty First Nations in Alberta across Treaties 6, 7, and 8, to protect the treaties.

“While Smith’s Landing First Nation is hopeful that Premier Smith will respond appropriately and repeal the Act, the Nation is prepared to take all necessary steps to defend their sovereignty and uphold the spirit and intent of Treaty 8, as recognized by the Northwest Territories Supreme Court in Re Paulette.”