By Jake Cardinal, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
(ANNews) – Ottawa is reportedly postponing paying a $150-million Treaty Entitlement Cattle Specific Claim to the Blood Tribe, Alberta’s largest First Nations.
The “cows and ploughs” settlement comes from the federal government’s failed promise to provide cattle and agricultural equipment to band members in exchange for approximately 130,000 km2 of land as part of the Blackfoot Treaty of 1877.
“Because Canada did not provide the cattle as promised, the Blood Tribe suffered economic damages,” said the claim from the Blood Tribe. “These damages were significant and included the inability to establish an alternative economy once the Buffalo were gone. This resulted in the loss of income that could have been generated from the original herd as well as its growth over time.”
In 1997, the Blood Tribe filed a Statement of Claim with the Federal Court of Canada, but it wasn’t until 2018 that Canada admitted a breach of treaty.
Then in September of this year the Blood Tribe finally voted on whether or not to ratify the proposed Federal settlement — with the First Nation accepting 1,734 to 453.
The First Nation said that registered band members would receive $3,000 each, $25 million would be put towards a Long Term Investment Fund, and the remaining millions would be spent on infrastructure initiatives and legal fees.
However, following the ratification of the settlement, three Blood Tribe members launched a lawsuit that alleged the Chief and Council did not properly consult band members and failed to detail the specifics of the payment distribution.
The lawsuit states that the Blood Tribe did not allow band members to make an informed decision due to the lack of transparency as to where the money would be going.
The trio also believe that members should be compensated more.
On November 9, in response to the lawsuit, Blood Tribe Chief and Council released a statement reminding their members that until the lawsuit is resolved, no money will be distributed.
“As a result [of the lawsuit], Canada has not yet executed the Settlement Agreement and is considering whether to withhold the final signing of the Agreement pending the resolution of the court challenge. Until the Settlement Agreement is signed by the Minister no compensation will be forwarded to the Blood Tribe.”
However despite the postponement, the Blood Tribe said, “If the Applicants are successful in holding up the signing of the Settlement Agreement by the Minister, then every day that the Blood Tribe does not receive the compensation is another day that no interest can be earned on the amount that is owed to the Blood Tribe.”
“It is estimated that the interest per day will be in the thousands of dollars, even with a low interest rate on investments. This would be the annual interest that would be payable to Blood Tribe members as a yearly per capita distribution payment.”
It is unsure of when the lawsuit will be resolved or when band members will be compensated.