Missanabie Cree First Nation gets reserve status

The Missanabie Cree First Nation has reached a $150 million settlement with the government of Canada related to land the First Nation was entitled to under the terms of a treaty signed more than 110 years ago.

In addition to financial terms, the First Nation will be able to add up to 3,200 acres to their territory.

"It marks a new beginning for the Missanabie Cree First Nation, creating new opportunities for the First Nation to invest in community and economic development for the future benefit of its community," a news release Tuesday said.

The announcement was made by Chief Jason Gauthier and Carolyn Bennett, minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations, describing the settlement as "a major step forward on the path of reconciliation and renewal by concluding a negotiated settlement to address a past wrong that dates back over 110 years."

The claim relates to the reserve land the Missanabie Cree First Nation was promised under Treaty No. 9 and should have received more than a century ago.

"When the First Nation adhered to the treaty in 1906, they were promised reserve land for their people, but did not receive a reserve land base until 2018," the release said. "The settlement Canada and the First Nation have now concluded honours this outstanding treaty obligation and helps right this past wrong."

"I acknowledge all the hard work from past and present chiefs and councils to make this happen -- it is a testament to a lot of hard work and perseverance," Gauthier said in the release. "Maurice Law and Ron Maurice have been such a significant part of making this happen. Our elders, youth and ancestors also played an important role in achieving a settlement. Thank you to all involved."

Bennett said the agreement was an example of what can be achieved through partnership and dialogue.

"This settlement honours an outstanding treaty obligation to the Missanabie Cree First Nation, helping to right past wrongs and creating new opportunities for the community," she said. "Together, we are taking a historic step along the road to reconciliation to renew our nation-to-nation relationship and build a better future based on a true spirit of respect and partnership."

Sault MP Terry Sheehan congratulated the parties involved, adding it was the result of "decades" of work.

"This is an important step towards a renewed relationship based on the recognition of rights, truth and reconciliation and a renewed partnership," Sheehan said. "Most importantly, it creates new opportunities future generations of the community will be able to explore. I look forward to continuing to work together with Chief Gauthier, Council and all members of the community."

First Nation members approved the settlement in a community vote, with 99 per cent of those who voted voting in favour. The settlement was signed by the First Nation on Aug. 13, 2019, and by Canada on April 24, 2020.

Under the settlement announced Tuesday, the First Nation can buy up to 3,200 acres of land on the open market and start the reserve creation process.

A number of steps must be completed before land is designated as reserve land, the release said, including consultation with other Indigenous groups and municipalities.