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Big Bear Creek

Harper Government and the Chippewas of the Thames First Nation Conclude Historic Specific Claim Settlement

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LONDON, ONTARIO (December 9, 2013) – The Honourable Bernard Valcourt, Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, and Chief Joe Miskokomon of the Chippewas of the Thames First Nation mark the conclusion of an outstanding specific land claim. The Big Bear Creek settlement resolves a land dispute tied to events that took place nearly 200 years ago. “This historic settlement is a major step forward on a path of renewal and reconciliation,” said Minister Valcourt.

The Big Bear Creek Land Claim

Claim settlements honour lawful obligations owed to First Nations, resolving longstanding disputes about land in a way that is fair for everyone. Settlements right past wrongs while protecting the interests of private land owners.

In return for this compensation, the Chippewas of the Thames First Nation will provide Canada with a surrender and release of their claim to ensure certainty and finality. Settlements must bring closure for all concerned.

Settlements also open up investment and business opportunities that can bring economic benefits and build new partnerships for First Nations and neighbouring communities. Canada has put in place practical measures to ensure progress is being made in negotiations.

Canada agreed to negotiate the Big Bear Creek claim after a comprehensive historical and legal review. The goal of the settlement of this claim is to compensate the Chippewas of the Thames First Nation for the loss of 5,120 acres of Reserve land that were set aside under the Longwoods Treaty of 1820. This land was sold by the Crown in the 1830s without the consent of the Chippewas of the Thames, and the First Nation has never received replacement lands or adequate compensation.

Canada and the Chippewas of the Thames First Nation have reached a final settlement on an outstanding claim that includes nearly $120 million in financial compensation to bring closure to these longstanding issues once and for all.

The Big Bear Creek claim was submitted by the Chippewas of the Thames First Nation in August 1999. The Government of Canada accepted the claim for negotiations under its Specific Claims Policy in August 2008.

In March 2012, Canada presented a settlement offer to Chippewas of the Thames First Nation. The negotiated settlement agreement was approved by First Nation members in a vote on March 23, 2013. The First Nation’s membership also approved the First Nation’s plans for managing its settlement funds. The Minister approved the settlement agreement on November 25, 2013.

The settlement includes only financial compensation. However, the First Nation can purchase lands on the open market and apply to have them added to the reserve, pursuant to Canada’s Additions to Reserve (ATR) Policy.

Research was done during the negotiations to help quantify losses and assess the impact that the loss of the Big Bear Creek Reserve had on the First Nation. Factors such as the location of the claim land and the age of the claim had a significant impact on the proposed compensation amount. The Chippewas of the Thames First Nation reached its own agreement as to how the compensation will be managed by the community.