George Gordon First Nation Treaty Land Entitlement Settlement
The Governments of Canada and Saskatchewan recently settled a Treaty Land Entitlement (TLE) claim with the George Gordon First Nation. TLE claims compensate First Nations that did not receive all the land to which they were entitled under historic treaties.
What is the history of this claim?
The basis for this claim is rooted in a treaty - Treaty Four - entered in to by Canada and the George Gordon First Nation in 1874. According to the Treaty, the First Nation was to receive one square mile (2.59 square kilometers) of land for each family of five. However, Canada did not provide enough land based on the First Nation's population.
Canada accepted the claim for negotiation in March 2004. Canada, Saskatchewan and the George Gordon First Nation began negotiating shortly thereafter. The parties agreed that the terms of the 1992 Saskatchewan TLE Framework Agreement would form the basis for the settlement agreement.
What does the settlement include?
This settlement provides the First Nation with approximately $26.7 million in compensation. Of this total, the federal government is providing approximately $18.7 million in compensation, plus approximately $700,000 for negotiation, ratification and land acquisition costs, while the Province of Saskatchewan is responsible for approximately $8 million in compensation.
In addition, the George Gordon First Nation will have the opportunity to purchase up to 115,712 acres (46,826 hectares) of land, and may apply to have it set apart as a reserve. It is important to remember that private property is not expropriated to settle land claims and access to private property is protected. If land changes hands as a result of the settlement, it will only take place on a willing-buyer/willing-seller basis.
If the First Nation asks Canada to give purchased land reserve status, consultation must take place with affected municipalities to address issues of mutual concern. Canada and Saskatchewan will provide tax loss compensation to rural municipalities and school divisions in rural municipalities where taxable land is set apart as reserve under the settlement.
What are the benefits of the settlement?
The Government of Canada and the George Gordon First Nation have permanently settled this issue creating certainty for all Canadians. A negotiation process such as this, based on cooperation and respect, promotes stronger relationships between First Nations and the federal and provincial governments.
In addition, compensation usually generates long-term socio-economic benefits for both First Nations and neighbouring communities. Moreover, projects normally rely on local and regional expertise, which lead to economic spin-offs for surrounding communities.
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