OTTAWA — Muscowpetung Saulteaux Nation in Saskatchewan has settled a specific claim with the federal government over nearly 20,000 acres of land.
The Nation of 1,600 north of Regina and the federal government announced this week the settlement of a claim for Canada's "breach of statutory and fiduciary duties" relating to nearly 18,352 acres of reserve lands in 1909.
The specific claim was settled 33 years after the Nation submitted its case to Canada.
The settlement agreement provides total compensation of $150 million and includes the potential to add the lost acres back to the reserve.
“Now we have an opportunity to bring prosperity to our people and homelands, we invest in ourselves so the future generations will grow up proud to be from Muscowpetung," said Muscowpetung Saulteaux Nation Chief Melissa Tavita.
Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Gary Anandasangaree said the settlement agreement marks the start of a new relationship with the nation.
"We recognize our responsibility to acknowledge the past and address the wrongs we have committed. Reconciliation and a better future — these are our goals for everyone in Canada.”
Muscowpetung Saulteaux Nation's membership voted 99.8 per cent in favour of the settlement, with 64 per cent of eligible voters participating.
From April 2022 to April of this year, 56 specific claims were settled for $3.5 billion, the federal government says. Sixty-four claims were filed with the minister, and Canada offered to negotiate 58.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government has put an emphasis on advancing reconciliation, including the settling of specific claims and honouring Canada's moral and legal obligations with First Nations.
Still, some advocacy groups point to problems, including lengthy waits to settle claims and a lack of money to support the process.
The Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs penned an open letter to former minister of Crown-Indigenous relations Marc Miller in July saying 98 First Nations had been denied specific claims funding for the coming fiscal year.
Canada provides this funding to First Nations to help level the playing field with the resources Canada has as its disposal.
"Many of these First Nations are in the middle of researching and developing their claims and this work must now be put on hold indefinitely" unless funding is provided, the letter reads.
It also calls on the federal government to increase its $12-million budget for specific claims funding.
Crown-Indigenous Relations told The Canadian Press the department would not be able to provide comment in time for publication.
The federal government's specific claims information page notes officials are working with the Assembly of First Nations and other interested parties to "improve the specific claims process."
Since 1973, the federal government has resolved 665 specific claims with First Nations.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 22, 2023.
Alessia Passafiume, The Canadian Press