Thursday, September 21, 2023

Metlakatla First Nation outlines scope of recent Claims Tribunal settlement of 150 million dollars with Federal Government

Melakatla First Nation Chief Harold Leighton brings an
end to his time as the leader for the community with a significant
settlement negotiation wrapped up with the Federal Government
(image from MFN archive)

A process that was put in motion in 2013 to address the surrender of Metlakatla land in 1906 at the time of the arrival of the Grand Trunk Railway recently has cone to a close,  and with the end of negotiations the Metlakatla First Nation has found success from the Specific Claims Tribunal.

In an information release today from their Communications office, the Metlakatla First Nation has released the background towards those successful negotiations, the process for the First Nation one which was steered to conclusion by Chief Councillor Harold Leighton who is stepping down from office later this month.

From their notes Metlakatla observes:

On December 22, 2022, the Specific Claims Tribunal made a pivotal declaration concerning the validity of the claim. They concluded that Canada had indeed breached its fiduciary duty to the Metlakatla First Nation by not obtaining fair market value for the surrendered reserve lands and by selling additional land that Metlakatla had not originally surrendered. 

Following extensive negotiations, Canada officially extended an offer on June 23, 2023, proposing a settlement of $150 million to address the historical grievances related to this Specific Claim. 

This offer was formally accepted by the Metlakatla Governing Council earlier this month.

Additional details outline the work that led to the success as part of the negotiation process and how the First Nation will use the money received.

"On September 5, 2023, the Metlakatla Governing Council accepted the $150 million offer on behalf of the Metlakatla First Nation, with the funds to be received in the coming months. 

These funds will be partially distributed to members through a membership distribution, with funds for minors being held in a trust until they reach the age of 19 years. 

The balance of the funds will be retained in a financial institution for the benefit of Metlakatla members in the future under the direction of the Metlakatla Governing Council over time. 

Annual financial statements will be posted for Metlakatla members to review and funds will be used within the Financial Administration Law authority.

This Specific Claim was filed under the leadership of Chief Harold Leighton with direction of his Council and major input from the Metlakatla Treaty team. 

The Treaty Team comprises of Chief Harold Leighton, Alrita Leask, Joycelynn Mitchell, and the late Sandra Carlick. 

Recent additions include Wendy Cook and Kiesha Pahl. Steve Lehnert provides lands expertise on behalf of Metlakatla and Barbara Petzelt is Metlakatla’s Treaty Coordinator. 

The 1906 breach of Fiduciary Duty was discovered approximately 25 years ago when Metlakatla began documenting its claim on behalf of the members."

News of the Settlement to the Claims tribunal was shared with community members earlier this month.

The successful end to the negotiations marks another chapter in a remarkable career for the First Nations Leader on the North Coast, as we noted earlier this summer, Chief Leighton has been recognized by the province, receiving the Order of British Columbia.

While he is stepping away from the position of Chief, he plans to remain active an other areas of leadership in the Metlakatla First Nation.

The full information release and additional background material to the historic negotiations can be reviewed here.

More notes on themes from Metlakatla can be explored here.

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