Feds ordered to pay Beardy's & Okemasis First Nation $4.5M over Riel Rebellion

By Chris Vandenbreekel/CKOM News Staff
December 27, 2016 - 3:27pm

A 17-year-long legal battle has ended for Beardy's and Okemasis First Nation. 

The federal government will pay Beardy's & Okemasis $4.5 million in compensation stemming from the 1885 Riel Resistance, it was announce today, Dec. 27. 

The order comes from the Specific Claims tribunal after a ruling stating the First Nation's treaty rights were violated following the rebellion. 

Beardy's & Okemasis Chief Rick Gamble said it's a "great day" for band members. "It's a victory for treaty rights," he said.

Following Louis Riel's unsuccessful 19th century rebellion, the government labeled 28 First Nations across the prairies, including Beady's and Okemasis, as "rebel indians." Annuities guaranteed through signed treaties were suspended between 1885 and 1888 for all members, including women and children who weren't part of the resistance.

Chief Gamble said many negotiations with other First Nations over the rebellion are now possible, with the federal government losing every time. 

Legal Counsel Ron Maurice said now that they've established a mathematical formula to bring lost revenues to current value, the claim process will likely be smoother for other First Nation's seeking settlement.

"Those other claims are identical," he said. "I would hope it could be done very quickly, literally within weeks."

Maurice also said Beardy's and Okemasis' settlement is just the beginning of what could be numerous settlements over various issues stemming from the Riel Resistance, such as the unconstitutional "pass system" for Indigenous members leaving reserves. 

However, the Specific Claims Tribunal is only mandated to award compensation for "quantifiable" losses. Punitive damages related to post-rebellion government policies have to be addressed in separate courts.

Beardy's and Okemasis First Nation plans to deposit the $4.5 million into a trust account that can be accessed to improve infrastructure, housing and services on the reserve.

Thirteen other First Nations in Saskatchewan had their payments suspended as part of the 28 between 1885 to 1888.


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