Federal government says it'll pay for Indigenous groups to negotiate land claims: budget 2018

'We've lobbied the government for this for a long time so finally I guess they're starting to listen,' says N.W.T. Akaitcho Grand Chief Ed Sangris.

New policy was announced on Tuesday in the 2018 federal budget — with very little detail

Finance Minister Bill Morneau shakes hands with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as he arrives in the House of Commons prior to tabling the federal budget in Ottawa on Tuesday, Feb.27, 2017. The new budget says the federal government will pay for Indigenous groups to negotiate land claims. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

The federal government says it will now cover the cost for Indigenous groups to negotiate land claims with Ottawa.

The new policy was announced on Tuesday in the 2018 federal budget — with very little detail.

In the budget, the government says starting this year, "Indigenous participation in modern treaty negotiations will be funded through non-repayable contributions."

The government also says it will work with Indigenous groups to come up with a way to deal with outstanding loans which could include forgiving them all together.

Previously, the federal government loaned Indigenous groups money to participate in land claim negotiations. That money was used to hire negotiators, cover flights and other costs.

Those loans were to be paid back once Indigenous groups had settled their land claims. For many groups, those loans have become a major burden.

"Oh yeah it's over $30 million plus dollars," N.W.T. Metis Nation President Garry Bailey told CBC. The group has been negotiating a land claim with the federal government for two decades.

"Because of the loan, we'd be finalizing our agreement and have no money left for our members."

N.W.T. Akaitcho Chief Ed Sangris says the policy change is a good first step.

"I don't understand why we had to beg for a loan to negotiate on our own lands and resources. It's not a fair system," Sangris said.

"We've lobbied the government for this for a long time so finally I guess they're starting to listen."