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Garden River says no to 100 per cent treaty settlement payouts

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Garden River First Nation members will not be receiving a full payout of past treaty payments under the $10 billion Robinson Huron Treaty settlement.

The chief of the community east of Sault Ste. Marie said the leadership’s “fiduciary duty” to the community and future generations was partly behind the decision.

Chief Karen Bell said while members of Garden River First Nation will not be receiving a full payout, they will still receive a “good portion” of the settlement.

“Individual members of Garden River First Nation definitely will get money,” said Bell.

“We haven’t determined what percentage we’re going to be doing yet. But that will be a discussion that we have at the leadership table in the near future, and we are going to be doing a lot consultation with our members on and off the First Nation.”

In all, 21 First Nations communities who are part of the treaty will share in the settlement. The award compensates First Nations who signed the 1850 Robinson Huron Treaty in which First Nations agreed to allow resource extraction on their territory in exchange for a share of the revenue generated.

But the federal and provincial governments failed to follow the treaty and did not increase the revenue shared with First Nations, as had been agreed to in the treaty. The last increase came in 1875.

The $10 billion settlement was the result of a years-long court battle.

Can't please everyone

While the decision by chief and council prompted a strong reaction on social media, Bell said that was not unexpected.

“We have to make decisions and some of these decisions are not going to be liked or applauded by everybody,” she said.

“But, we got to think about the 3,500 people we’re making decisions for, not the 30 or 40 people that are on social media that are making comments.”

Bell said the settlement agreement covers the First Nation collectively, not individual members, and she said a 100 per cent individual payout would violate that aspect of the agreement.

“Which means we would be in litigation now with the law firm that did all the 17 years of work on this, along with the litigation committee, along with the federal and provincial governments that signed on the dotted line to hand over this money,” said Bell.

She said leadership must also take into account a trust fund for members under the age of 18, legal costs, a “war chest” for future litigation and money for language and culture preservation.

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