Calgary

'This was one of many wrongs that were done': Blood Tribe settles $150M historic cattle claim

More than a century ago, the federal government destroyed the Blood Tribe's cattle industry, and today, the southern Alberta reserve signed a $150 million agreement to settle the historic claim.

Crown mismanaged reserve's cattle ranching assets from 1894 to 1923

Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett and Chief Roy Fox of the Blood Tribe held a signing ceremony Thursday in Calgary. (Elissa Carpenter/CBC)

More than a century ago, the federal government destroyed the Blood Tribe's cattle industry, and today, the southern Alberta reserve signed a $150 million agreement to settle the historic claim.

Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett and Chief Roy Fox held a signing ceremony today in Calgary.

The claim, called the Mismanagement of Assets settlement agreement, deals with Crown mismanagement of the reserve's cattle ranching assets from 1894 to 1923.

"This was one of many wrongs that were done, and an attempt to right this wrong as we continue to work together on a better path in reconciliation," Bennett said. "There's a lot more work to do but I think we're on a good path of actually just recognize harm was done, that we are sorry and how we put in place the  measures to make sure it doesn't happen again."

Chief Fox commended the agreement.

"We need to ensure that we correct the wrongs that were done to our people and we appreciate the work you have done on this matter," Fox said to Bennett. "In that spirit we hope to have the same success with other land claims and initiatives that are in progress now."

Fox was referring to a recent ruling by a Federal Court judge that found Ottawa underestimated the number of Blood Tribe members in southwestern Alberta when their reserve was created in the 1870s.

The ruling could add up to 421 square kilometres to the band's reserve, already more than 1,400 square kilometres in size. The court said the band may also seek compensation in lieu of land.

Bennett said her government will continue to work toward settling outstanding claims and it's something that all Canadians should be aware of.

"Settling claims is the right thing to do."

Fox said $123 million from the cattle claim settlement will be used for projects — housing, capital works, a new administration building and a new skating rink — while $27 million will be distributed among the residents of Canada's largest reserve.

"Of course our people also insisted that we give per capita but I think the majority of the money will be used to build capital projects that will be there for a long time."

Bennett said the government is willing to start negotiations regarding the land claim but she's not sure how soon that will begin.

"I think in the art of the possible we get the ball rolling but I think that we want the people of your nation, chief, to know ... we will keep negotiating right up until the writ drops."

The minister says since the Liberals took office in 2015, they have made settlement of claims a priority 

"We believe this agreement is a very good opportunity of what can be accomplished when work together with the spirit of cooperation, renewal, and as the chief said ... when you can find those things that both Canada and your nation can see as the truth, then we can get a lot done."

With files from Elissa Carpenter