Both the federal and provincial governments will be providing $157 million to Big Grassy First Nation and Ojibways of Onigaming First Nation after the conclusion of negotiations to reach a settlement agreement for historic flooding claims.
The settlement agreements were signed on Wednesday by community leaders and provincial and federal representatives.
“It is a bittersweet day for our families. It is hard to understand why this claim took so long to negotiate and faced so many unnecessary delays to achieve compensation. During our State of Emergency in recent years, we have lost many community members and Elders who passed away and who will never see this day of justice," Ojibways of Onigaming First Nation Chief Jeffrey Copenace said in a news release.
"So, we honour their spirits today. We honour the many Ancestors we’ve lost, who faced disease, death and loss of the Anishinaabe way of life because of this cruel, intentionally deliberate flooding of our Anishinaabe homelands. We are hopeful that these investments will pave a healthier path forward for our future generations so that we can ultimately lift our current State of Emergency for Suicides and Mental Wellness once and for all.”
The First Nation’s claim dates back to 1887 when Canada and Ontario authorized the construction of the Rollerway and Norman dams, which led to the flooding of the Assabaska Band’s reserve land.
“It is only appropriate that we give honour and recognition to the members of our First Nation, including our ancestors who have suffered the effects of the illegal flooding of our original homelands by those in positions of Government. We are happy that we have concluded these long-standing negotiations by reaching a fair and just final settlement with all parties involved. As always, we look to the future in rebuilding a positive relationship,” Big Grassy First Nation Chief Lynn Indian said.
As part of the agreement, Canada will provide $119 million, and Ontario will provide the remaining $38 million.
“The resolution of this claim signifies an important step in Canada’s relationship with the people of Big Grassy and Ojibways of Onigaming First Nations. This negotiated settlement was made possible through the leadership of the Big Grassy and Ojibways of Onigaming First Nations and their dedication to the resolution of this longstanding claim. We look forward to continuing to rebuild trust with the Big Grassy and Ojibways of Onigaming First Nations and working together towards a more positive future,” said Marc Miller, the federal minister of Crown-Indigenous relations
Big Grassy First Nation and Ojibways of Onigaming First Nation will also each have the option to acquire up to 1,932 acres of their traditional land on “a willing buyer/willing seller basis,” according to the release.
“This settlement with Big Grassy and Ojibways of Onigaming First Nations is the result of respectful and meaningful negotiation. It demonstrates Ontario’s commitment to honouring our legal obligations and rectifying historical wrongs so that we can move forward together on the path toward reconciliation,” said Greg Rickford, Ontario’s minister of Indigenous affairs.