Canada has agreed to pay $800 million to five First Nations to settle a land claims dispute in British Columbia, acknowledging that it failed to honour a treaty signed over a century ago.
The Blueberry River First Nations, the Doig River First Nation, the Halfway River First Nation, the Saulteau First Nations and the West Moberly First Nations signed Treaty 8 in 1899, which promised them access to their traditional hunting grounds and the ability to generate income from the land. A protracted refusal by the province and the federal government to make good on the agreement led to a two-decade battle for compensation.
“This is a monumental day for the Blueberry River First Nations community, our Elders and the ancestors who came before us,” said Blueberry River Chief Judy Desjarlais. “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.”
Trevor Makadahay, Chief of Doig River First Nation, stated that his membership is happy to have the Treaty Land Entitlement (TLE) settled and a substantial investment in their local community.
Halfway River First Nation Chief Darlene Hunter commented, “Halfway’s ancestors adhered to Treaty No. 8 in 1914 but never received the full land entitlement promised to them under the Treaty.”
She added, “Halfway filed a specific claim in November 1995 for those lands and started negotiations in December 2002. Now, 99 years later, Halfway has finally resolved this outstanding Treaty promise with Canada and BC. This settlement will benefit not only the current generation of Halfway members, but also the generations to come.”
Chief Justin Napoleon of Saulteau First Nations said, “Now we can take another step forward together and show that honouring the Treaty will help make BC a more fair and more prosperous place for everyone.”
West Moberly First Nations Chief Roland Willson said, “It feels good to finally be moving into the next stage – now the work begins. We look forward to working collaboratively with both governments as long as the sun shines, the grass grows and the rivers flow.”
Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations Marc Miller highlighted the importance of this settlement in the ongoing process of reconciliation, saying, “A truth that cannot be ignored is that, for far too long, promises, trust, and relationships with Indigenous Peoples were broken because Canada did not live up to its obligations as a Treaty partner. Now, we must work together to address that legacy, and to renew our relationships to last generations.”