The Honourable Bernard Valcourt, Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, and Chief Joe Miskokomon of the Chippewas of the Thames First Nation joined community members at a special ceremony held today to mark the conclusion of an outstanding specific land claim. The Big Bear Creek settlement resolves a land dispute tied to events that took place nearly 200 years ago.
"This historic settlement is a major step forward on a path of renewal and reconciliation," said Minister Valcourt. "Through negotiation, we have together found a win-win solution that not only delivers on past commitments but also opens up new economic opportunities for the First Nation and surrounding communities."
"This agreement closes a long and painful chapter for our Nation, but through perseverance and hard work we managed to negotiate the best possible agreement for our children's future," says Chief Miskokomon. "Chippewas of the Thames now has an opportunity to use this settlement to move forward past historical injustices and implement our solid economic and education strategies to revitalise our Nation and create a life of pride and prosperity for our people."
The settlement was achieved through complex negotiations under Canada's Specific Claims Policy. The First Nation approved the agreement in a vote on March 23, 2013 which also included the approval of the First Nation's plans to manage its settlement funds. The Minister then approved the settlement agreement on November 25, 2013.
Under the settlement, Canada is providing the First Nation with nearly $120 million in compensation for past damages resulting from the claim. The agreement provides the First Nation with the option to buy up to 5,120 acres of land on a willing seller, willing buyer basis, and could apply to have the lands designated as reserve land under Canada's Additions to Reserve Policy.
The Big Bear Creek claim settlement stems from the sale of Chippewa reserve lands near Florence, Ontario by the British Government of Upper Canada in the 1830's. The reserve near Big Bear Creek was to be surveyed and set aside for the Chippewa Nation's exclusive use, according to terms negotiated by Chippewas Chiefs in the Longwoods Treaty talks between 1818 and 1822.
The Government of Canada is delivering on its commitment to resolve outstanding specific claims for the benefit of all Canadians. Settling these past grievances through negotiations is key to achieving reconciliation and rebuilding relationships with First Nation people in Canada. Since 2007, Canada has settled more than 100 specific claims representing more than $2 billion through negotiated agreements.
Community profile: Chippewas of the Thames First Nation
This release is also available on the Internet at www.aandc.gc.ca.