Legal action over Blood Tribe ‘cows and ploughs’ settlement

·3 min read

Grassroots members Eugene Fox, Roger Prairie Chicken, and Lori Scout from the Blood Tribe need to make amendments to a lawsuit against their Chief and Council over the alleged improper handling of settlement money.

Following a Judicial Review July 21, the proceedings lack legal capacity to the claim.

The settlement is from a treaty case involving a clause in Treaty 7, “Cows and Ploughs”, where individual rights holders were owed $150 million. The federal government failed in a promise to provide cattle and agricultural equipment to band members in exchange for land, as part of the Blackfoot Treaty of 1877.

In 1997 the Blood Tribe filed a Statement of Claim with the Federal Court of Canada but it was only in 2018 that Canada admitted to a breach of treaty. Following this settlement, the Blood Tribe voted to ratify the money with $3,000 going towards registered band members and $25 million being put towards the Long-Term Investment Fund, with remaining money spent on infrastructure initiatives and legal fees.

However, in the initial lawsuit against the Chief and Council (Chief Roy Fox), the three members claim tribe members did not receive proper consultation, few details of the specifics of the payment and the spending, and were not allowed to make an informed decision due to a lack of transparency about where the money would be going.

The lawsuit disputes who holds claim over the $150 million settlement and trust funds. Fox and Prairie Chicken say the $3,000 payout to 14,000 members leaves a sum of $108 million in control of the Council, but members of the Blood Tribe should have a say in how that money is spent.

“The proposed $3,000 per capita distribution is nothing in exchange for releasing Canada from the solemn obligation to provide ‘Cows and Ploughs’ under Treaty 7,” said Prairie Chicken who advocates for the members of the Blood Tribe, calling out the Council on giving “no meaningful consultation on the extinguishment of the Treaty 7 rights.”

On July 21, Kathleen Ring, a prothonotary Federal Court judge, made a decision regarding the Council’s legal claim that the three members lacked the legal capacity necessary and that they were representing all of the members of the tribe.

“I cannot conclude at this stage of the proceedings, having regard to the evolving state of the jurisprudence of the material before the Court, including the wording of the ‘cows and ploughs’ clause in Treaty 7, that it is plain and obvious that the treaty right to cows and ploughs is purely a communal claim that plainly has no individual aspect.”

Ring’s decision means the theory of the law states this is a group decision and no one person or persons can have a say over the claim.

The three members will have until the Aug. 5 to file an amended Notice of Application removing all references to it being a representative proceeding, with the remaining portions of the lawsuit proceeding.

Fox says this issue is very important to the Blood Tribe members, while claiming one of the reasons they had issue with how the money was being spent was that certain Council members may have a conflict of interest.

Blood Tribe Chief and Council said in an official statement “That information and consultation with the tribe had been done prior to the vote on how the money would be distributed. All members (were) given an opportunity to request a copy of the Settlement Agreement and Trust Agreement and a plain language version of those copies in information packages.”

Ryan Clarke, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Lethbridge Herald

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