Following 17 years of negotiations over its land base, Fort William First Nation has received an offer of nearly $100 million from the federal government. It may also receive title to more than 1,000 acres of land.
The compensation, said by the First Nation community to be among the largest in Canadian history, is meant to make up for the expropriation of reserve land 111 years ago for construction of the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway.
The offer of financial compensation in the amount of $98,933,310 includes a contribution towards legal, negotiation and ratification costs, as well as land acquisition, environmental assessment and survey costs, FWFN said in a news release Thursday.
In 1905, pursuant to the Railway Act, Canada appropriated approximately 1,600 acres of land from FWFN for a terminus for the railway, the band said.
This land acquisition was considered the largest railway land expropriation in Canada.
"FWFN has always expressed this claim to be most significant claim on file due to its impact directly on the community itself," said Ian Bannon, director of lands and properties with FWFN.
The community of Fort William First Nation was located on the banks of the Kaministiqua River and was forced to relocate due to the railway expropriation.
Every home, farm, the church even graveyards were uprooted and relocated, the statement said.
"About half of our members moved to Squaw Bay and the other half to the Mountain Village," said Chief Peter Collins.
"This claim is one of the most significant for FWFN due to the devastating history that took place . . . the actions by Canada and the GTP Railway forever changed our community landscape and the lives of our people," said Collins.
"These negotiations with the Government of Canada have been taking place for over the course of two decades and finally with the hard work of those involved in the negotiation process and a government that wants to resolve the issues of the First Nation people, we can now move forward on with the next stage of the file, which will include the Addition to Reserve of available lands in this area," said Collins.
"In accordance with the terms of this settlement of up 1132.67 acres of land, the Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada may recommend to Governor in Council that the requested lands be set apart as reserve," the statement said.
The next steps involve a FWFN membership meeting, which is scheduled for April 4, followed by a ratification vote.