FORT WILLIAM FIRST NATION – One of the outstanding issues between First Nations and the federal Government are in the area of land claims. Today, negotiators for Canada, Ontario, and the Fort William First Nation, near Thunder Bay Ontario, have reached a major milestone in talks to resolve a specific claim in Northwestern Ontario.
Fort William First Nation Land Claim
Canada and Ontario have made an offer to settle the Fort William First Nation Boundary Claim. The proposed settlement includes approximately $154 million in total financial compensation and the transfer of provincial Crown lands on two islands located in Lake Superior, Flatland Island and Pie Island, to Canada to be set apart as reserve for the Fort William First Nation.
The Chief and Council of the First Nation have agreed to take this settlement offer to community members for a vote. A follow up Community Consultation meeting will be held to discuss this offer on Saturday November 20th at the FWFN Community Centre.
“Today, we are taking a decisive step forward towards the resolution of a longstanding claim,” said the Honourable John Duncan, Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians. “It is clear that working in partnership we can find common solutions that will deliver real results for the Fort William First Nation, create economic initiatives for Northwestern Ontario and balance the interests of all Canadians.”
“I am excited that we are entering the final stages of this landmark agreement,” said Chris Bentley, Minister of Aboriginal Affairs for Ontario. “This settlement will provide immediate benefits for the Fort William community and open up economic development opportunities by creating investment certainty and jobs in the Thunder Bay region, which is a key component of our Open Ontario Plan.”
Fort William First Nation Chief Peter Collins said: “like all negotiations, there have been ups and downs, but we have worked tirelessly towards a resolution that will benefit present-day members and future generations, which our forefathers expected when they signed the Treaty in 1850.” Chief Collins added: “The Settlement will also provide the resources that our First Nation needs to create businesses, employment and other opportunities for the long-term which will benefit our members and the entire Thunder Bay area.”
“The progress made in these negotiations demonstrates Canada’s strong commitment to resolve outstanding claims,” said Mr. Greg Rickford, Member of Parliament for Kenora. “This settlement represents significant opportunities for the Fort William First Nation and will provide economic development opportunities in Thunder Bay.”
The same framework that is in place for negotiating agreements elsewhere in Canada applies to the settlement of the First William First Nation’s Boundary Claim. Private land is not taken away from anyone to settle any claims, nor is anyone asked to sell their land unwillingly.
The parties have also completed the work on the legal text of a Settlement Agreement. Fort William First Nation members will have an opportunity to vote on the offer as well as on the First Nation’s plans to use and manage their settlement funds. This vote will take place on January 22, 2011. If the outcome of the vote is positive, the Agreement must be approved by Ontario and Canada before it can be finalized.
Canada and Fort William First Nation have also reached an important milestone towards the resolution of the First Nation’s Neebing Surrender Specific Claim, which involves financial compensation only. Negotiators for Canada and the First Nation have recently completed a draft Settlement Agreement that includes approximately $22 million. The Chief and Council have agreed to take this settlement proposal to First Nation members for a vote. This vote will take place on December 4, 2010.
The Fort William First Nation has approximately 1,880 members and is located adjacent to Thunder Bay in Northwestern Ontario.