A Saskatchewan Cree Nation and the federal government have reached a settlement in a long-standing claim.
Peepeekisis Cree Nation, on Treaty 4 land near Balcarres, Sask., filed the File Hills Colony Specific Claim against the government in 1986.
It alleged Canada breached its fiduciary obligations when the government of the day implemented the File Hills Farm Colony Scheme in 1898.
On Tuesday, Peepeekisis Cree Nation Chief Francis Dieter and Carolyn Bennett, minister of Crown-Indigenous relations, said a negotiated settlement to the claim was reached.
Dieter said it comes after decades of denials and opposition by the government and the judicial system.
“Moving forward this settlement agreement will allow our community to close this unfortunate chapter in our shared history, heal and prosper for our future generations,” Dieter said in a statement.
“We cannot change the past, but the resolution of this Specific Claim provides us with the opportunity to move forward together within Peepeekisis Cree Nation and with Canada.”
Bennett said the effects of the scheme are still felt to this day by the community.
“The ‘Colony Scheme’ forever altered the social and cultural fabric of the Peepeekisis Cree Nation, through the prohibition of powwows, dances, and other forms of ceremony, as well as, forced marriages between original members and transferred industrial school graduates,” she said in a statement.
“Everyone in Canada needs to know the truth of what happened.”
Under the terms of the settlement, Peepeekisis Cree Nation will receive $150 million in compensation.
There is also an option for Peepeekisis to acquire up to 18,720 acres of land to be added to the reserve.
Peepeekisis Cree Nation Chief Beverly Bellegarde said she is relieved a settlement was reached.
“Our community has suffered harms but we are a strong people and the settlement agreement will allow the Nation to make significant community investments for both today and tomorrow and improve the lives of all community members,” she said.
“It is important that Canadians know this history and the truths of the File Hills Colony Specific Claim.”
Under the scheme, industrial school graduates settled onto the Peepeekisis Cree Nation’s reserve without the informed and willing consent of the nation.
It also included providing parcels of prime agricultural reserve lands without the nation’s consent.
The claim was filed by the Peepeekisis Cree Nation in federal court in 1986 and in 2017, it submitted the claim to the Specific Claims Tribunal.
Bennet said reaching the settlement is essential for the government to rebuild its relationship with Peepeekisis.
“We are committed to working in partnership with Peepeekisis Cree Nation on their priorities for their community, now and in the future,” she said.
“Today is an important step towards healing and reconciliation.”
Peepeekisis Cree Nation finalized the settlement agreement with the Canadian government in December 2020, leading to Tuesday’s announcement.