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Last Updated: Tuesday, 12 June 2007, 22:38 GMT 23:38 UK
Canada PM in land claims pledge

Stephen Harper - file photo June 2007
Mr Harper said it was time for a new approach to land claims
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has announced plans to overhaul the system for land claims launched by the country's aboriginal groups.

There are currently 800 unresolved claims by native groups across the country for land and resources.

Mr Harper said he wants to cut the average time taken to resolve claims from 13 years to three years.

Legislation will be tabled after discussions between federal government officials and native leaders.

"This announcement today represents hope for First Nations people," said Phil Fontaine, chief of the Assembly of First Nations, an umbrella group representing Canada's aboriginal people.

A recent official inquiry into the 1995 death of a native protester urged officials to deal with land claims more fairly and swiftly.

There have been warnings from native groups that Canada is heading towards a summer of protest as frustrations over unresolved land claims increases.

There are some 1.3 million people in Canada with aboriginal ancestry out of a total population of 33 million, according to the 2001 census.

Many live on impoverished reserves where unemployment, suicide and drug and alcohol abuse levels are much higher than the national average.

Some native leaders have promised a day of action for 29 June to raise awareness of the conditions their people are living in.

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