Canadian govt ordered to pay First Nations people $3.3mn to settle 131yo claims

Canadian govt ordered to pay First Nations people $3.3mn to settle 131yo claims
The Canadian government has been ordered to pay 4.5 million Canadian dollars (US$3.3 million) to indigenous peoples for failing to pay treaty money following an uprising in 1885.

The North-West Rebellion was a failed insurrection in Saskatchewan against the government of Canada. It largely involved the Métis people, who are of mixed First Nation and European descent, as well as some First Nation groups.

In the wake of the uprising, the government mislabelled many people “rebel Indians” and withheld treaty payments as punishment. Even men, women and children who couldn’t possibly have played any part in the rebellion were punished.

Ron Maurice, a lawyer for the Beardy’s and Okemasis First Nation, told the Globe and Mail that “there was no due process or legal authority to do any of that.”

The government was legally obligated to pay each man, woman and child 5 Canadian dollars a year. The total amount of withheld money came to $4,250 Canadian dollars over three years.

“It’s a relatively small amount of money, but it literally meant life and death for these people at that time,” Maurice said. “To say that people were starving and destitute is not an overstatement at all.”

“We have waited 130 years for this outstanding treaty rights claim to be honored and settled,” said Chief Rick Gamble of the Beardy’s and Okemasis First Nation. “This is a great day for the people of Beardy’s and Okemasis, and a great victory for treaty rights in Saskatchewan!”

The decision follows a ruling by Canada’s Specific Claims Tribunal, which resolves legal disputes between First Nations and the federal government, that the government breached its lawful obligation to members of the First Nation by failing to pay treaty annuities.

There are plans for the 4.5 million Canadian dollars to be put into a communal trust and used for housing and scholarships. The government has 30 days to appeal the decision.