RMG file photo. / EVAN MATTHEWS

By Rachel Fraser

Negotiations are ongoing between Simpcw First Nation and the Government of Canada over reserve lands at Tete Jaune Cache, the site of a small settlement of Simpcw relocated by Canada in 1916 to the Chu Chua reserve near Barriere.

“Simpcw is currently working on a specific claim for Tete Jaune Cache, where there were reserve lands promised to be set aside for them, which never happened.” said Simpcw First Nation Cultural Liaison and former chief Shelley Loring in an email to the Goat.

Suzanna Su, spokesperson for Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada, confirmed that the federal government is working with Simpcw First Nation to resolve the “Loss of Reserve Land at Tete Jaune Cache” specific claim, related to Canada’s failure to set aside these lands as reserves in the early 1900s.

“These negotiations are ongoing, but more work remains to be done before the claim can be resolved.” she said.

She says this includes negotiating a settlement agreement, a vote by First Nation members as well as federal approval.

She directed us to Simpcw First Nation for further information, but attempts to reach the First nation by phone and email have not been returned by presstime.

Simpcw First Nation originally filed the Specific Claim in 2008, but Canada did not accept the claim for negotiation at that time. In 2016, then-chief Nathan Matthew told the Goat they were continuing to compile more evidence to support their claim and would either re-apply or go to court. According to the government’s Reporting Centre for Specific Claims, Canada returned with an offer to negotiate in 2020.

According to the Government of Canada Specific Claims website, the purpose of the Specific Claims process is to address past wrongs, with regards to historic treaties or agreements, such as a failure to provide the full amount of promised reserve land. 

A First Nation can bring forward evidence of this failure under the process, and if it meets a minimum standard in laying out its claim and providing supporting documentation, it will be filed with the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs. The ministry has three years to review and research the claim and determine whether it will be accepted for negotiation or whether it will be rejected.

If it is rejected, or a response not received within the 3 years, the First Nation can take it to the Special Claims Tribunal.

Specific claims are meant to be settled with financial compensation, providing capital that can then be used to purchase lands “fee simple” from a willing seller. However, where reserve land was illegally taken from a First Nation or was not provided as required, the government’s special claims policy states “the settlement may include provisions to create reserve land in accordance with Canada’s Additions to Reserve (ATR) and Reserve Creation Policy.” 

In 2016, the Goat reported Chief Matthew said land was originally set aside and sketched for a reserve in 1905.

Under this policy, and reiterated by both Su and the government website, Canada does not take land from third parties to settle claims.

Simpcw First Nation also applied for an “Addition to Reserve” for two parcels of land in Tete Jaune Cache, as originally reported by the Goat in 2019.

Unrelated to the specific claim, these parcels were to compensate for the Province assuming control of Dunn Lake Road on the Chu Chua reserve, plus an easement to either side, which the Province is required to offset with Crown lands, ensuring no net loss of land to the First Nation.

Su said this application is still being considered by Indigenous Services Canada under the Addition to Reserve process and the parcels have not yet been added to the reserve.