“That was the sentiment at the time — get the Indians out of Halifax.”
- Millbrook Chief Bob Gloade
A proposed agreement totaling $49 million has been reached to settle a 100-year-old Halifax land claim between the federal government and Millbrook and Sipekne’katik First Nations bands.
The negotiated settlement, if approved by the members of each band, will see Millbrook receiving compensation of $19,331,413 and Sipekne’katik, formerly known as Indian Brook, receiving $27,818,375.
“I’m extremely pleased with the offer,” Millbrook Chief Bob Gloade told the SaltWire Network.
The proposed agreement, which has been in the works for decades, is to settle a land claim related to the loss in 1919 — following the Halifax Explosion — of three parcels of land totaling 512 hectares, known as the Ingrams River, Sambro and Ship Harbour reserves.
“Basically, they were kicked out of HRM,” Gloade said of the First Nations families displaced following the explosion. “That was the sentiment at the time — get the Indians out of Halifax.”
Gloade said that after much negotiation, reviewing of documents by lawyers and both band councils, he feels the current offer is the best that could be achieved. It also essentially mirrors an original offer rejected by Stephen Harper’s Conservative Government. The offer put forth by the Harper team, he said, was “significantly less in terms of valuation” and was also delivered with a “take-it-or-leave-it” ultimatum.
“It was substantially less.”
The current offer, if accepted, will see each man, woman and child on both reserves receive $3,000 in cash. The use of the remaining funds would be determined by each council, including for the purpose of purchasing additional lands.
By comparison, the final offer put forth by the Harper government, Gloade said, would have seen each band member receiving $300.
The tentative agreement includes a provision that will allow both the Millbrook and Sipekne’katik bands to purchase lands, equivalent to the number of hectares lost in 1919, that could then be added to each reserve’s land base.
In Millbrook’s case, that would amount to 210 hectares of land and for the Sipekne’katik band, it would amount to 302 hectares.
“It could be anywhere within the province of Nova Scotia,” Gloade said.
The current offer is the best that could be hoped for and has the blessing of the chiefs and council of each reserve, he said.
Sipekne’katik Chief Michael Sack could not be immediately reached for comment on Friday.
“The settlement represents the product of a great deal of hard work by many people over the course of 20 years,” Gloade said in a newsletter distributed Friday to band members.
“The settlement will allow the First Nations to replace (512 hectares) of land that they lost in 1919, and to have that replacement land added to their respective reserve land base under the Government of Canada’s Addition to Reserve Policy.”
Members of each band are to vote Nov. 21 on the proposed settlement.
If agreement is reached, the First Nation bands will be required to release Canada from any further claims related “to the invalid surrender” of the reserves in 1919.
“The decision to recommend this proposal to our memberships has been a difficult decision to make, and it has involved a great deal of difficult deliberation by each of the Councils,” Gloade said in the newsletter.”
But he said the respective chiefs and councils have decided “that this settlement provides a package of land and compensation that we can recommend to our communities.”
Although alternatives to the proposal have been considered, he said, it was determined the best course of action was to work towards a negotiated settlement as opposed to taking legal action.
“However, we do know that a court action would be lengthy, costly and there would be no guarantee that a better result, or even the same result, could be achieved,” Gloade wrote.
In a telephone interview he said that the “biggest” remaining challenge, in order for the proposed settlement to be finalized, is that it must be accepted by both communities “or it is dead in the water. We start all over.”
In order to be ratified, the proposed settlement requires a vote of 50 per cent, plus one, of eligible voters from both Millbrook and Sipekne’katik.
Millbrook’s overall membership stands at approximately 1,900 people while Sipekne’katik’s population is about 2,400. That calculates to just over 600 eligible voters (those 18 or over) in Millbrook and approximately 1,000 in Sipekne’katik.