NWT Mé​tis Nation has spent $30M and counting negotiating its land claim

The NWT Mé​tis Nation has borrowed about $30 million over the past 20 years in order to negotiate a land claim with the federal and territorial governments. It blames a flawed process for the high cost and long delay.

The money will be repaid to Ottawa once the land claim is settled.

The NWT Mé​tis Nation expects to receive about $71 million from the federal government in the settlement.

Ken Hudson, president of the Fort Smith Mé​tis Council — an NWT Mé​tis Nation member — says Ottawa's approach to negotiations limited meetings to two or three times a month. He said that slowed progress.

"How can you accomplish something working only 25 days out of the year?" Hudson asked.

"That design was a federal design of how to settle claims," he said. "I think it's made that way so the government could still continue on taking from the land, with all the resources, and not sharing them with Aboriginal groups."

While skeptical of the intentions of previous governments, Hudson is hopeful a new approach is on the horizon.

On Friday, the NWT Mé​tis Nation received a report on the state of negotiations from a special representative for the minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs. The report is not a public document, but Hudson shared the highlights.

"The report suggests 18 to 24 months to complete the claim… if you change the way you are doing business," Hudson said. "The report suggests that we have got to sit down with both governments and create a different path to achieve these goals."

Hudson said Ottawa appears more open to that change than the territorial government.

He said the NWT Mé​tis Nation suggested taking on the role of writing the self-governance chapters in their claim, but territorial negotiators spoke against the idea.

"They must just like this slow grinding process, I guess," Hudson said.

The NWT Mé​tis Nation will discuss the findings of the report with the N.W.T. premier and minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs in Ottawa on April 5.