Canada

Peguis land deal stalls, too few votes cast

A referendum on a proposed agreement that would have compensated members of Manitoba's Peguis First Nation for land they surrendered a century ago has failed to draw enough votes to make the results count.

A referendum on a proposed agreement that would have compensated members of Manitoba's Peguis First Nation for land they surrendered a century ago has failed to draw enough voters to make the results count.

A spokesman for the band's electoral office told CBC News there were more than 4,000 eligible voters, but not even 1,500 cast ballots. A vast majority of those who did vote, however, said the band should accept the settlement.

Official vote results:

Total eligible voters: 4,234

Required majority: 2,118

Voted yes: 1,368

Voted no: 102

Ballots rejected:  9

Short of required majority: 639

Turnout needed to be at least 50 per cent of eligible voters for the results to count.

The electoral office spokesman said it's now up to federal Indian Affairs Minister Chuck Strahl to decide what to do next. Strahl can call a second vote. In that case, the turnout would not have to be 50 per cent of eligible voters; the side that gets the most votes would win.

The settlement proposal, put to a referendum vote on Friday and Saturday, stipulates that band members give up any claim to the former St. Peter's Reserve, located on about 20,000 hectares of farmland, 35 kilometres north of Winnipeg.

Proposed settlement includes $118M in trusts

Band members were evicted from the Selkirk-area land in 1907 after unresolved land disputes to an area north of Fisher Branch, about 200 kilometres north of Winnipeg.

In 1911, a provincial commission ruled the surrender was invalid. Still, federal officials insisted the Peguis relocate, to land along Lake Winnipeg that is often described as craggy swampland.

Under the proposed settlement, every adult member of the band would receive $1,000.

The First Nation itself would receive $118 million in community trusts for education, business loans and community infrastructure projects.

If approved, the overall cash settlement would be worth more than $126 million. According to the National Assembly of First Nations, that would be the largest-ever single, specific settlement for compensation in Canada.

Chief Glenn Hudson had recommended its approval, but former chief Louis Stevenson called on band members to abstain from voting, saying the value of the land surrendered is worth a lot more than the deal offers.

 

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