The City of Williams Lake clarified Thursday no land will change hands as a result of a Feb. 28 Specific Claims Tribunal decision finding that the Williams Lake Indian Band was wrongfully dispossessed of its village lands in the late 19th century.
“I want to make it clear that the Williams Lake Indian Band’s claim and forthcoming compensation are part of the Specific Claims Tribunal process, which does not involve the city or its taxpayers,” Mayor Kerry Cook said in a press release. “Compensation will be awarded by the federal government, and no lands will be removed from the city.”
In the claim “village lands” include what is today part of the city of Williams Lake.
They include Williams Creek, Scout Island, the Stampede Grounds, the downtown core of the City of Williams Lake, and a plateau north of the downtown core.
“This is an injustice that has gone uncorrected for 150 years, and the Williams Lake Indian Band has been pursuing its claim for 20 years,” Cook said. “As we learned during the St. Joseph’s Mission Commemoration Project, acknowledging past wrongs is the first step in moving forward together, and this decision provides certainty and opportunity.”
The Specific Claims Tribunal is an independent body established by the federal government in 2007 to provide resolution for First Nations’ historic grievances.
Final and binding decisions from the Tribunal permit government and First Nations to achieve closure on claims and reduce the time and expenses associated with litigation.
As reported in the Tribune Wednesday, the Tribunal has the power to award monetary compensation only. It cannot order that lands be returned.
The federal government has until March 31 to decide whether to file a judicial review against decision.
If the decision is accepted, however, the amount of money owing to the Williams Lake Indian Band will be dealt with in the next phase of the Tribunal’s proceedings.
Claims cannot exceed $150 million. To date 31 decisions have been determined by the tribunal.
With files from the city of Williams Lake