Tobique First Nation accepts $39M land claim settlement from Ottawa
Members vote 865 for, 186 against deal that's been under negotiation for more than 40 years
Tobique First Nation in western New Brunswick has approved a nearly $40-million land claim that's been under negotiation for more than 40 years.
Members voted 865 in favour and 186 against on Wednesday night, said Chief Ross Perley. There were three spoiled ballots, he said.
The $39.2-million settlement from the federal government is compensation for 10,000 acres of land near the reserve — or more than 4,000 hectares — that was taken over by Ottawa a century ago.
Under the deal, each member will receive at least $13,500, which could drastically change their lives.
It will not affect fishing or hunting rights, according to Perley.
Eighty per cent of the money will go to the more than 2,000 band members, including children, whose share will be held in trust until they're 18 years old.
The band council is planning to spend the other 20 per cent on community development, including a new piece of land.
"It can have a positive impact if we make the right investments strategically," said Perley.
He voted against the land claim. "I was thinking of my kids, I got four kids and thinking eventually grandkids. All of us can't live here on the point."
He believes once the community grows, it will run out of space on the reserve.
The chief said the council will use part of the money for on-reserve housing, road repairs and possibly even a new recreation park.
As for what individual band members will use the money for, Aubrey Perley said he's putting his portion toward starting a new sports hunting business on the reserve.
"We're kind of backed into a corner where we have no choice [but] to vote 'yes,' because we need the money to survive," he said.
But he believes the federal government didn't leave band members much of a choice.
"More like putting a gun to your heads and say, 'Either you take it or leave it,'" he said.
The council expects to sign off on the land claim next week, at which point the agreement will need final approval from the federal government. The chief expects the process to take up to a few months.
Ross Perley said he's relieved the people have spoken after so many years of the claim being under negotiation.
But now his focus will be filing paperwork on four other potential land claims, including the village of Perth-Andover.