Indian Claims Commission

Indian Claims Commission

June 07, 2007 11:00 ET

ICC: Panel Recommends Paul First Nation's Claim Not Be Accepted for Negotiation

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - June 7, 2007) - In a report released today, a panel of the Indian Claims Commission (ICC) found that the Crown did not breach its lawful obligation in the surrender and sale of one of the reserves of the Paul First Nation, thus concluding the ICC's inquiry into the Paul First Nation Kapasiwin Townsite claim.

The inquiry panel, composed of Commissioners Daniel J. Bellegarde (Chair), Alan C. Holman and Sheila G. Purdy, found that the surrender of Indian Reserve (IR) 133B was properly taken under the Indian Act, that there was no breach of the Crown's fiduciary obligation to the Band in the surrender or the subsequent management of the sales of the land between 1906 and 1912, and no evidence that the Crown acted against the best interests of the Paul First Nation.

The Paul Band had two reserves, IR 133A and the much smaller IR 133B, on the shores of White Whale Lake (now known as Wabamun Lake), a short distance from Edmonton, Alberta. In September 1906, members of the Paul Band voted to surrender IR 133B, used primarily as a fishing station, with the hope of attracting a summer resort community serviced by a railway. The railway company later chose not to build a station on the surrendered land, known later as the Kapasiwin Townsite. The land was subdivided into lots, some of which the Department of Indian Affairs sold at public auctions, but the resort development never materialized.

The chair of the panel, Commissioner Daniel J. Bellegarde, remarked: "The historical record shows that the Paul Band initiated discussions with the Crown on the advisability of a surrender. Under the laws of the day, the land likely would have been expropriated for railway purposes, and both the Crown and the Band understood that the highest benefit could be attained if the Band surrendered the land for sale. Although the parties did not achieve the results that they had hoped for, this does not necessarily mean that the Crown breached its duty to the Band. We find that the Crown acted as a prudent, reasonable fiduciary."

The panel also found that the Department of Indian Affairs had carried out all the steps it normally took in similar situations and did what it could to encourage the railway to build a station on the surrendered land. The fact that the station was not built did not mean a breach of the Crown's duty; the location of the railway station was not a decision the department could make.

The Paul First Nation submitted a claim to the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development on June 1996, alleging mismanagement of the sales of the surrendered lands. This claim was accepted for negotiation in July 1998; however, negotiations broke down, and the First Nation asked the ICC to hold an inquiry into compensation criteria. The Commission agreed to conduct such an inquiry in October 2001.

In June 2000, the First Nation submitted another claim regarding the same lands, challenging the validity of the 1906 surrender. The Minister of Indian Affairs rejected that claim in July 2003. At the request of the First Nation, the ICC agreed to incorporate the surrender claim into the compensation criteria inquiry. The surrender claim became the focus of the parties' arguments and the inquiry.

The ICC was established in 1991. Its mandate is: to inquire, at the request of a First Nation, into specific claims that have been rejected by the federal government, or accepted claims where the First Nation disputes the compensation criteria being considered; and to provide mediation services on consent of the parties at any stage of the claims process.

A copy of this release and of the inquiry report can be found on the Indian Claims Commission website at www.indianclaims.ca

BACKGROUNDER

The Paul Band lives on the shores of White Whale Lake (Wabamun Lake), a short drive west of Edmonton. In 1877, the ancestors of the Band adhered to Treaty 6 through an adhesion signed by their Chief at the time, Alexis. Two reserves were surveyed for the Band at White Whale Lake: Indian Reserves (IR) 133A and 133B. The latter was a small area that was set aside as a fishing station for the Band.

In late 1905, it appeared that the approaching Canadian Northern Railway (CNR) rail line might be built through IR 133B. In 1906, some band members expressed interest in surrendering their reserve land north of the prospective rail line, which included IR 133B. The idea of developing a summer resort town at IR 133B had also started to look promising, given the fine sand beaches and the coming railway. In August 1906, the Department of Indian Affairs approached the Band about a possible surrender of IR 133B and found that there was some interest if a railway townsite or resort community was established.

On September 11, 1906, the Paul Band voted to surrender IR 133B. The surrender document contained ten names, nine of whom likely voted in favour, with one opposed. At the time of the surrender, both the Paul Band and the government believed a railway station would be built on the surrendered land, and that the future town or resort would lead to economic development for the Band.

Unfortunately, the CNR abandoned its plans to build a track through the surrendered land and instead built a line to the north. The Grand Trunk Pacific Railway did run a line through the former reserve but only built a summer platform, not a fully functioning station. A number of cottage lots were sold near the lake on the former reserve land, and the village became Wabamun Beach, later known as Kapasiwin. In 1936 the government returned to the Band all the unsold land in the former IR 133B, most of which was on the eastern side.

In the course of the inquiry, the Commission panel held a community session to hear the testimony of First Nation Elders, and also took the oral and written legal submissions of the First Nation and the government into consideration.

The panel found that the surrender of IR 133B was valid in that it was carried out in accordance with the requirements of the Indian Act of the day. The panel also concluded that the government did not breach its fiduciary obligation in regards to the 1906 surrender. The Paul Band was well informed about the potential of the IR 133B land, for use either as a resort community or railway townsite. The railway company led everyone to believe that it would build a station on the surrendered land, and in these circumstances, the department took reasonable steps try to encourage the railway to do so. Ultimately, however, the decision rested with the company, not the Crown. The panel also concluded that when the government was managing the sales of the surrendered land between 1906 and 1912, it acted as a prudent fiduciary and in what it reasonably concluded were the best interests of the Band.

Contact Information

  • Indian Claims Commission
    Manon Garrett
    Communications Officer
    613-947-3939