AFN National Chief Acknowledges Major Land Claims Settlement Offer in Ontario - Citizen Engagement Crucial in Final Step

OTTAWA, May 27, 2011 /CNW/ - Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo today acknowledged the potential for a major land claims settlement, noting engagement by citizens of the First Nation communities involved will be crucial as they prepare to make a decision on accepting what could be one of the largest specific land claim settlements in Ontario.

"This proposed settlement offer from the Government of Canada marks an important step in resolving this long-standing claim and is a positive example of First Nations and government working together to find a way forward," said AFN National Chief Atleo.  "The First Nation leaders and citizens must now make the final decision, which is key to the success of any outcome.  These kinds of settlements have the potential to strengthen First Nation communities and economies in ways that benefit First Nations and all of Canada."

This week, the Government of Canada tabled a settlement offer for the Coldwater-Narrows specific land claim between Lake Simcoe and Lake Huron, Ontario.  The Chippewas of Rama, the Chippewas of Georgina Island, the Beausoleil FIrst Nation and the Chippewas of Nawash, who have been involved in negotiations with the federal government since 2006 (Chippewas of Nawash since 2008), will now bring the offer to their members for ratification.

"Although this progress is significant, at the same time it indicates the need to continue our efforts to addressing the many outstanding specific claims over $150 million that are currently not dealt with in the Specific Claims Tribunal Act passed in 2008," said National Chief Atleo, who was instrumental in the development of that legislation.  "We know we can make progress. We have an approach that works.  We must see movement on the implementation of the Specific Claims Tribunal for claims under $150 million and to work together to develop legislation to deal with claims over $150 million."

The proposed settlement includes a land component and financial compensation of $307 million, determined by research done during negotiations.  The research took into account a number of factors, such as location and age of the claim and helped quantify losses and assessed the impact the loss of the Cold-Water-Narrows reserve had on the First Nation communities.  The four First Nation communities have reached their own agreement on how the compensation will be divided among their communities.

The Coldwater-Narrows claim was originally submitted by the Chippewa Tri-Council (CTC) in November of 1991. The CTC is composed of three First Nations: the Chippewas of Rama, the Chippewas of Georgina Island and the Beausoleil First Nation. The Government of Canada accepted the claim for negotiations under its Specific Claims Policy in July of 2002. Canada and the First Nations announced the start of negotiations at a joint press conference held in Coldwater, Ontario on August 9, 2002.  Following historical research undertaken in 2006, it was determined that the Chippewas of Nawash also have an interest in the settlement of the Coldwater-Narrows claim. The Chippewas of Nawash joined the negotiations in 2008.

The Assembly of First Nations is the national organization representing First Nations citizens in Canada.  Follow AFN and National Chief Atleo on Twitter @AFN_Updates, @AFN_Comms and @NCAtleo.

SOURCE ASSEMBLY OF FIRST NATIONS

For further information:

Don Kelly, AFN A/Communications Director 613-241-6789 ext. 334 or cell: 613-292-2787 or dkelly@afn.ca

Jenna Young, AFN Communications Officer 613-241-6789, ext 401 or cell: 613-314-8157 or jyoung@afn.ca

Alain Garon, AFN Bilingual Communications Officer (613) 241-6789, ext 382 or agaron@afn.ca

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