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Alberta's Enoch band sues for millions

It's a battle over the land and its resources. The fight has taken place on the land, in the courts and in the media. When government and native groups signed treaty agreements over a century ago, neither side imagined the repercussions. Canada's native people say treaties have been ignored and their rights — from logging trees to fishing eels — have been limited. In the 1980s, frustration grew and failed negotiations turned into roadblocks and deadly confrontation.

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The atrocities have been too many, and without compensation, claims Alberta's Enoch band in 1990. Oil rigs pierce treaty land. Highway 60 was built on their reserve. In 1908, the federal government used "trickery and forgery" to get the Enoch to sign over 2,520 hectares of land. In 1990, Chief Jerome Morin announces a series of lawsuits against the federal government. Morin and his band mean serious business: They are suing for $450 million, plus interest.

As seen in this CBC Television clip, Morin says his band "will no longer tolerate being treated in a paternalistic, benevolent and self-serving manner." 
• In 2002, an opinion piece in the aboriginal publication The First Perspective condemned the use of lawyers to fight for treaty rights. Bruce Spence suggested the cost of legal bills outweighed the reward. He wrote: "We could avoid little technicalities, like going through a dozen appearances and paying $75,000 only to find out that a First Nation is not a legal entity and therefore cannot be sued, but a 'band of Indians' can be."

• Spence also argued money used to negotiate treaties could be better spent on youth and family programs.
• In 2002, Indian Affairs Minister Robert Nault was involved in 200 cases dealing with band council or treaty issues. He also promoted out-of-court settlements with his plan called the First Nations Governance Act.

• In 2002, The Globe and Mail reported that a one-year delay in treaty negotiations due to the B.C. treaty referendum cost aboriginal groups $40 million. A spokesperson for the First Nations summit said high-price negotiators still had to be paid.
• In 2001, aside from treaty privileges and tax exemptions, Ottawa gave native groups $7.6 billion annually.
Medium: Television
Program: Newsday
Broadcast Date: May 18, 1990
Guest(s): Jerome Morin
Reporter: Bill Laing
Duration: 1:29

Last updated: June 12, 2013

Page consulted on September 10, 2014

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