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B.C. First Nation, Canadian government agree to $75 million settlement

Canadian government ‘righting past wrongs’ by reaching settlement with Leq’á:mel on specific claim

After years of negotiation, Leq’á:mel First Nation and the Canadian government announced a $75 million settlement on the Klatwaas Colonial Reserve Reduction Specific Claim last week (Nov. 10).

Canada is providing the funding to Leq’á:mel First Nation as recompense for allotting lands and reducing them without compensation.

“This settlement agreement marks another step toward rebuilding Canada’s relationship and addressing the historical grievances to Leq’á:mel First Nation,” a Crown-Indigenous Relations ministry news release reads.

Before confederation, the Colony of British Columbia set aside approximately 2,000 acres to create the Klatwaas Reserve in 1864. However, the colony unilaterally reduced the reserve without compensation in 1868.

Leq’á:mel Chief Alice Thompson says the settlement is a significant moment for both the First Nation and all parties working to advance reconciliation in Canada.

“It is meaningful to be able to celebrate this milestone as a Nation. The Leq’á:mel Council is committed to ensuring that all our members benefit from this settlement and that the funds are utilized to forge a brighter future for our community for generations to come,” Thompson said.

Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Gary Anandasangaree joined Thompson at Leq’á:mel First Nation in Deroche for a signing ceremony on Tuesday (Nov. 14).

“It’s about righting past wrongs. And we know that compensation of any kind will never bring back the loss but looking at the young people, we know that we could create a better future for them and their future generations,” Anandasangaree said during a speech.

Anandasangaree says the settlement will support the community’s well-being going forward but there’s more to do.

“For hundreds of years, Canada has benefitted off lands that were unlawfully taken from Indigenous Peoples – these debts are long overdue, and it’s time that Canada repays them. The resolution of this claim is an important step in Canada’s relationship with the Leq’á:mel First Nation,” Anandasangaree said.

Leq’á:mel originally filed the Klatwaas claim in July 2017 and it was accepted for negotiation in June 2020. Negotiations began in August 2020 and the settlement agreement was ratified by the membership of the Leq’á:mel three years later on Aug. 31, 2023. The Chief and Council of the First Nation executed the settlement agreement on Sept. 20 and Anandasangaree did the same on behalf of Canada on Nov. 8.

“The Klatwass Specific Claim Settlement is the result of our ancestors’ knowledge and determination that fueled our Leq’a:mel leadership’s determination to achieve the 1915 compensation promise for loss of lands by Governor Douglas. Our Leq’a:mel ancestors will rest better because of the reconciling of a past wrong. My hands are raised up to my Leq’a:mel leadership and the current Government of Canada who together have achieved this historic moment in our time,” Leq’á:mel First Nation elder Susan McKamey said.

Thompson says the settlement marks a significant moment in Leq’á:mel’s history and sets the path for future negotiations for larger claims.

“We look forward to our next steps and we are committed as leadership to ensure that all of our members benefit from this settlement,” Thompson said.

Leq’á:mel has recently approved a strategic plan and community plan developed through community engagement that will help guide the use of the funds. The First Nation will also develop a members’ benefit program, in addition to improvements to infrastructure, development and social growth.

Leq’á:mel Coun. Darrel McKamey says the First Nation is negotiating eight other specific claims at the moment, in addition to larger colonial claims.

“Reconciliation is a lot more than just claim settlement and money and what have you, right? The big thing here is being partners and developing a relationship that’s meaningful. So we’ll continue to work towards that true partnership, reconciliation and settle the claims of our lost use of lands,” McKamey said.

According to the news release, the significant socioeconomic gaps between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in Canada are the direct result of decades of colonial policies, which often led to the denial and dispossession of land.

“Ownership of land in Canada is closely linked to ownership of resources and economic benefit; for hundreds of years, settlers in Canada have benefited from the land to the detriment of Indigenous Peoples, who have suffered, both culturally and economically,” the news release reads.

“Honouring Canada’s legal obligations and properly compensating Indigenous Peoples for what was unjustly taken and withheld is fundamental to advancing reconciliation in Canada and rebuilding trust with Indigenous communities.”

Since the Specific Claims program began in 1973 to September 2023, 675 claims, totalling $13.3 billion in compensation, have been settled through negotiations.

Dillon White

About the Author: Dillon White

I joined the Mission Record in November of 2022 after moving to B.C. from Nova Scotia earlier in the year.
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