Birch Island citizens give nod to award of $103 million for boundary settlement

WHITEFISH RIVER FIRST NATION—It has been a long road since representatives of the band first entered a claim in 2003 alleging that the boundary of their reserve as surveyed in 1851 under the terms of the Robinson Huron Treaty of 1850 did not reflect the historical agreement reached between the Crown and the band, but this weekend, members of the Whitefish River First Nation voted by an overwhelming 97 percent margin to accept a federal government offer to settle a boundary claim.

The original survey had failed to include additional lands as described in the Huron Robinson Treaty settlement agreement.

Canada accepted the claim for negotiation in July 2008 and modified the basis of acceptance in January 2010 under the terms of the federal Specific Claims policy. Following that acceptance, the band and the federal government entered into negotiations that led to the offer being put forward to the band membership in a referendum this past weekend.

The federal government has offered a settlement of $103 million, which will enable Whitefish River First Nation to add nearly 65,000 acres to its territory.

The claim is anticipated to be finalized sometime following the appointment of a new federal minister of Crown Indigenous Relations to cabinet. Chief Shining Turtle was not available as of press time Monday for comment.

There were 1,122 electors eligible to vote in the ratification. Of those 635 voted and 616 electors cast their ballot in favour of the ballot question. There were 15 votes cast against and four ballots were rejected for meeting the requirements of the Indian Referendum Regulations and 20 ballots were set aside due to the same regulations.