Government of British Columbia

Government of British Columbia

November 18, 2006 14:15 ET

Government of British Columbia: Proposed Settlement Resolves Victoria Land Claim

VICTORIA, BRITISH COLUMBIA--(CCNMatthews - Nov. 18, 2006) -

For Immediate Release

2006ARR0022-001394

Nov. 18, 2006

Ministry of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation

Indian and Northern Affairs Canada

The Honourable Jim Prentice, Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Metis and Non-Status Indians, the Honourable Michael de Jong, Minister of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation, Chief Andy Thomas of the Esquimalt Nation, and Chief Robert Sam of the Songhees Nation gathered today to initial a proposed settlement that would resolve a reserve-based claim relating to a parcel of land in downtown Victoria.

"This proposed settlement underlines a commitment by Canada's New Government to resolve claims through negotiation rather than litigation. Once ratified, the settlement will enable all parties to focus their resources on pursuing goals that will further the development and success of these communities. This is a cause for celebration, and another step forward in strengthening positive relationships," said Minister Prentice.

The proposed settlement relates to a lawsuit filed in 2001 which alleged that Canada and British Columbia breached certain duties owed to the First Nations. The claim alleges that the land was originally set aside as an Indian reserve in 1854 by Governor James Douglas, who then took it back for the legislature site without obtaining a surrender of the reserve.

Once ratified by the First Nations, the settlement would release Canada and British Columbia from all Esquimalt and Songhees First Nations' claims to that parcel of land, which includes the grounds of the B.C. legislature.

"Today we are witnessing how governments and First Nations can work together to successfully reach negotiated agreements that will provide certainty," said Michael de Jong, Minister of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation. "We are building a new relationship with First Nations built on the principles of mutual respect, recognition and reconciliation of Aboriginal rights and title, which is a benefit for all British Columbians."

"Today I am humbled by my grandfathers, whose strength and wisdom has protected and preserved these lands for the past 150 years. They have left us a precious gift, which will become the medicine for our children and our future generations," said Chief Andy Thomas Esquimalt Nation.

Chief Robert Sam from the Songhees Nation added, "The strength and wisdom of our past leaders have served to get us to where we are today. The vision and commitment of our people today will help us achieve our goals for tomorrow. The membership will make the final decision on this very important proposed settlement offer."

The proposed agreement requires ratification by the Songhees and Esquimalt First Nations and the Government of Canada. Once ratified, the settlement will provide for a full and final resolution of this litigation without any admissions of fact or liability. Canada and B.C. will pay a financial settlement of $31.5 million to be shared equally between the Songhees and the Esquimalt First Nations. In addition, a Replacement Lands Committee will be established as part of a process to identify Replacement Lands to be purchased out of the settlement funds.

This proposed settlement agreement was concluded outside the context of the British Columbia Treaty Commission process, which is designed to conclude treaties that will clarify the rights and title of Aboriginal groups.

For more information on government services or to subscribe to the Province's news feeds using RSS, visit the Province's website at www.gov.bc.ca.

BACKGROUNDER

2006ARR0022-001394

Nov. 18, 2006

Ministry of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation

Indian and Northern Affairs Canada

THOMAS LITIGATION: PROPOSED SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT

On Aug. 24, 2001, Chief Andrew Thomas and the Councillors of Esquimalt and Chief Garry Albany and the Councillors of Songhees filed litigation against Canada and British Columbia. The litigation alleged, among other issues, that Canada and British Columbia had breached certain duties owed to the two First Nations with respect to a parcel of land defined as the "James Bay Reserve." The claim alleged that the land was originally set aside as an Indian reserve in 1854 by Governor James Douglas, who then took it back for the legislature site without obtaining a surrender of the reserve.

As part of the litigation, the two First Nations sought:

- a declaration that the First Nations have existing Douglas treaty rights to the James Bay Reserve;

- damages for breaches of Douglas treaty rights;

- damages for breaches of fiduciary duty; and

- damages for trespass.

The proposed settlement agreement still requires ratification by the membership of the Esquimalt and Songhees First Nations and the Government of Canada. Once ratified, the proposed settlement agreement will provide for a full and final settlement of this litigation without any admissions of fact or liability. It will release Canada and British Columbia from all Esquimalt and Songhees First Nations' claims to that parcel of land, which includes the grounds of the British Columbia legislature.

This proposed settlement agreement was concluded outside of the British Columbia treaty process, which is designed to conclude treaties with Aboriginal groups in British Columbia.

HIGHLIGHTS OF THE PROPOSED SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT

Compensation

As part of the proposed settlement agreement, Canada and B.C. have agreed to pay a financial settlement of $31.5 million to the Esquimalt and Songhees First Nations, to be shared equally. The settlement agreement provides that a portion of the settlement monies totalling $8.5 million ($4.25 million for each First Nation) can be used to purchase lands totalling not more than 10 acres in size.

The Settlement Funds are not "Indian Moneys" within the meaning of the Indian Act, but rather the monies will be managed through a Trust Agreement established for each First Nation.

Replacement Lands Process

Within 60 days of the effective date of the agreement following its ratification, the parties will establish a Replacement Lands Committee, and identify representatives, as part of a process to identify Replacement Lands.

The Replacement Lands Committee will assist the First Nations in identifying lands that are suitable for residential or economic development purposes (either as reserve lands or as non-reserve fee simple lands). Canada will assist in identifying surplus federal real property for potential acquisition by the First Nations within existing policies. British Columbia will also assist in identifying surplus provincial Crown lands for potential acquisition by a First Nation within existing policies.

If suitable lands are identified, the Settlement Agreement provides that up to $4.25 million of the settlement monies can be used by each First Nation to purchase the lands. The Agreement also allows the First Nation to seek reserve status for the lands purchased, subject to certain conditions, including a limit on the size of the combined parcels being not more than 10 acres total and any addition to reserve must satisfy Canada's Additions to Reserve Policy.

FINAL SETTLEMENT OF ACTION

Following ratification of the agreement by the two First Nations, and as a result of the compensation, the Replacement Lands process, and other terms of the agreement, the First Nations will surrender all rights and interests in the lands related to the action.

Nothing in the agreement affects the ability of the two First Nations or any of their members to be eligible to apply for, or to continue to have access to, funding for programs and services offered by Canada or British Columbia on the same basis as other bands or Indians.

For more information on government services or to subscribe to the Province's news feeds using RSS, visit the Province's website at www.gov.bc.ca.

Contact Information

  • Ministry of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation
    Deborah Bowman
    Communications Director
    (250) 213-3489
    or
    Office of the Honourable Jim Prentice
    Deirdra McCracken
    Press Secretary
    (819) 997-0002
    or
    Esquimalt Nation
    Joan Brown
    Band Manager
    (250) 381-7861
    or
    Songhees Nation
    Chief Robert Sam
    (250) 386-1043
    Website: www.gov.bc.ca