B.C. First Nations could be awarded millions for Canada’s 65-year-old mistake

Liz Logan, former chief of the Treaty 8 Nations, which includes Doig River First Nations in Fort St. John, B.C., Monday, Dec.9, 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Dene Moore

FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – Two British Columbia First Nations could be compensated millions for a mistake the Canadian government made 65 years ago.

The Specific Claims Tribunal has ruled that Canada breached its fiduciary duty to the Doig River and Blueberry River First Nations during a botched land purchase in 1950.

At the time, veterans returning from the Second World War needed land and housing, and the nations agreed to give up their reserve in northeastern B.C. for that purpose.

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The federal government bought a replacement reserve for the bands, without realizing it had not secured the rights to the oil and gas supply beneath the surface of the current reserve.

Justice Larry Whalen says Canada failed to adequately investigate the title it was acquiring on behalf of the First Nations, and did nothing to fix its mistake when it discovered it two years later.

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The maximum amount the tribunal can award is any such dispute is $150 million, but another hearing will be held to determine whether the nations are entitled to compensation.

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