at 17:37 on April 23, 2007, EST.
OTTAWA (CP) - Anger over decades of federal stalling on native land claims is set to erupt in flashpoints across Canada, says former Ontario premier David Peterson.
After mediating several cases, he warns of "a new militancy" among First Nations who've felt ignored for too long. Ottawa must move faster on legitimate claims before growing frustration turns deadly, he said in an interview.
"There's a lot of potentially explosive situations out there."
Peterson says more confrontations are on the way.
"There is hardly a rail line, a road, a pipeline, a hydro line that doesn't somewhere go across disputed property.
"But one of the great frustrations for the aboriginal community is no one has sat down and seriously engaged in discussion about this."
A stack of dusty studies, including a recent Senate report, has slammed the slow pace of settlements.
Native leaders complain that Ottawa acts as both judge and jury - when it acts at all.
Indian Affairs Minister Jim Prentice himself says the system is broken. The number of backlogged claims has soared to about 800 from 250 since 1993.
Prentice said he will soon ask cabinet to approve an action plan. The question is whether he can sway the Conservative government to make potentially costly changes.
The price of not acting may be much higher, observers say.
A new generation of native activists - increasingly youthful, restless and often unemployed - has lost patience, says Peter Russell, a constitutional expert at University of Toronto.
"We're going to have more and more of these flashpoint events. It's an urgent, urgent matter.
"It divides us all. It's very costly and it's unnecessary.
"We have to scream: Government, move! Please!"
Growing tensions flared over the weekend as a splinter group of Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte paralyzed freight and passenger rail traffic with a blockade on a busy Toronto-Montreal line near Deseronto, Ont.
Protest leader Shawn Brant blamed the slow pace of talks around use by developers of a quarry on disputed land. He also said the protest that ended early Saturday is just one in a planned campaign of economic disruption.
On Monday, affiliated demonstrators dumped what they called "toxic waste" from that site on the steps of the Ontario legislature in Toronto.
People inconvenienced by the weekend chaos were understandably angry, Russell says.
"But we're the culprits as much as the First Nations people. We, and our governments, have not been willing to get a process in place that's fair and expeditious. Until we do so, we're going to have more of this - and it'll be miserable."
It's not unusual for legitimate claims to be stalled for decades, as small armies of lawyers and negotiators get rich with little incentive to speed things up, Peterson said.
"I've seen trivial things take 10 years to do. There are professional negotiators who go on forever doing this because there's a lot of people making a lot of money off it."
Peterson has intervened in many cases, including a series of ugly scuffles between native demonstrators and town residents last year over a housing development in Caledonia, Ont.
"It was the worst mass riot going on. People were confronting each other. And the worry was that somebody would be shot."
Good negotiators who understand the sometimes "intense frustration" of dealing with native consensus methods are crucial, he says.
Tensions will only grow between native and non-native communities until Ottawa "rolls up its sleeves" and revamps its policies.
Police who respond to the often super-charged Catch-22 of a native blockade must weigh law enforcement against the potential for all-out mayhem.
Some critics say police and the courts must crack down.
"We know these situations have to be dealt with very carefully," says Sgt. Kristine Rae of the Ontario Provincial Police. "And it has to be done in association with all of the involved parties.
"The main goal for each and every one that does occur is a peaceful resolution."
Power rests with Ottawa to settle the land claims that fuel most incidents, she said.
"'If things are sped up and it helps prevent the demonstrations, I think that's only a good thing for not just the police, but all the communities as well as demonstrators."
Native flashpoints simmering as backlog of stalled land claims grows
This is pure KKKanda propaganda, and sounds if they are going to steamroll their process through irregardless of the wishes of First Nations.Calling broad based social movements militant when the truth is that are led by Elder women & men, just gives them justification to use all of the states resources to repress these communities standing up for their ancestral rights for their grand children's, grandchildren.