Five First Nations reach historic $800 million, 44,266 hectares settlement with B.C., federal government

Click to play video: 'Agreement reached with five of Treaty 8 First Nations'
Agreement reached with five of Treaty 8 First Nations
A major development when it comes to treaty agreements in the province. Five B.C. First Nations have reached a deal with provincial and federal governments on treaty land entitlement claims. Travis Prasad has more. – Apr 15, 2023

Five First Nations in B.C. have reached a historic settlement with both the provincial and federal governments of $800 million and 44,266 hectares of land.

The settlements resolve long-standing claims that the First Nations did not receive all the lands owed to them under Treaty 8, which they signed in 1899, government officials said.

The monetary sum of $800 million was stated by Canada’s Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations Marc Miller in the question period.

“This was withheld for proactive reasons,” Miller said. “There is extreme reticence in communities about the effect of a cash influx and the stigma that occurs with the perceived windfall this could be.”

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“This is not a windfall, this is not free money. It is a bill that has gone unpaid for more than 100 years by the government of Canada. If there is any stigma and prejudice to be levelled on anyone it should be on the government of Canada and not on our treaty partners, whose obligations we’ve disrespected for 100 years.”

The settlements were announced Saturday by Judy Desjarlais, Chief of Blueberry River First Nations; Trevor Makadahay, Chief of Doig River First Nation; Darlene Hunter, Chief of Halfway River First Nation; Justin Napoleon, Chief of Saulteau First Nations; and Roland Willson, Chief of West Moberly First Nations, along with federal and provincial officials.

“This is a monumental day for the Blueberry River First Nations community, our Elders and the ancestors who came before us. This settlement is part of an ongoing process of recognition and healing from Blueberry’s long and difficult history of displacement and marginalization within our traditional territory,” said Chief Judy Desjarlais.

According to the province, for more than 100 years, these First Nations were deprived of the use and benefit of these lands in B.C., which was owed to them under Treaty 8.

“Honouring Treaty 8 is a critical part of B.C.’s work to advance reconciliation in the Peace River area and reconnect these Nations with their land,” B.C. Premier David Eby said. “By settling the Treaty Land Entitlement claims, we’re righting a historic injustice and restoring what was promised under Treaty. This is an important step that will provide greater predictability and economic opportunities for everyone in the region.”

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Under the settlement agreements, Canada will provide the First Nations compensation for these losses and costs relating to the claims, provincial staff said.

The resolution of these Treaty Land Entitlement claims is the result of the dedicated effort by the Chiefs, Councils, communities and negotiators since 2004, according to the province.

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