‘A bill that’s gone unpaid’: 5 B.C. First Nations receive cash, land settlements from province, feds

Five First Nations in B.C. will receive “overdue” cash and land settlement payments from the federal and provincial governments, respectively.

Announced on Saturday (April 15), five of the Treaty 8 countries – Saulteau, Halfway River, Doig River, Blueberry River and West Moberly – received $800 million from the Canadian government and over 109,000 acres from the BC government.

The announcement included British Columbia Premier David Eby, British Columbia Minister of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation Murray Rankin, federal Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations Mark Miller, and Aboriginal chiefs of the Article 8 Treaty: from Somalia Justin Napoleon of Torre, Judy Dejales of Blueberry River, Darlene Hunter of Blueberry River Midway River and County. Dean Dokkie from West Moberly with former chief executive George Desjarlais.

Cash settlements are an “unpaid bill” by the federal government, Miller said.

He added that for more than 100 years, the government had “failed in its obligations as a treaty holder” and had failed Aboriginal people in Treaty No. 8.

“You have been pushing for this resolution on your claims for far too long,” Miller told attendees at his announcement in Vancouver.

The province is not in charge of cash settlements, but land. Rankin said the amount of land allocated to Aboriginal people is slightly more than the cities of Vancouver and Surrey combined.

“It’s about righting an injustice,” Rankin noted.

In January, four of the Treaty 8 First Nations — the Fort Nelson, Soto, Harvey River and Doig River First Nations — reached a land management consensus with the province.

Details of the consensus document include a recovery fund that provides more than $600 million in recovery funding over a decade. That figure includes a $200 million recovery fund announced as part of the agreement with Blueberry River First Nation.

That same month, the province and the Blueberry River First Nation announced they had reached a land management agreement based on the 2021 B.C. Supreme Court ruling. It found BC had violated the country’s Article 8 treaty rights due to the cumulative impact of decades of industrial development.

The ruling also inspired the so-called consensus document.

Litigation began in 2015 after the provincial government decided not to appeal the decision, which barred the province from approving more projects. It also directs parties to negotiate collaborative approaches to land management and natural resource development to protect Aboriginal peoples’ treaty rights.

Treaty 8 was first completed in 1899 and included eight First Nations: Blueberry River, Doig River, Fort Nelson, Halfway River, Lake McLeod, Prophets River, Saltey and West Moberly.

–WThe ith file from Wolf Depner

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