Dokis First Nation tucking away most of $27M timber dues settlement from Ottawa 'for future generations'

In 2013, Dokis First Nation noticed in its books that timber dues owed to the community in the early 1900s had been deposited into a government account. Leaders submitted a claim to the Crown in 2015 and talks began in 2019. Now, the Ontario community has accepted $27 million in compensation from the Ministry of Crown-Indigenous Relations.

'It's a proud day and a proud day for our ancestors,' says Chief Gerry Duquette Jr.

Chief Gerry Duquette Jr. says that with the settlement from Ottawa over owing timber dues, Dokis First Nation is glad to have some closure on 'this sad chapter in our history.' (Markus Schwabe/CBC)

Dokis First Nation has reached a settlement over timber dues that were misdirected to the Crown in 1912, when the money was deposited in the government's Indian Land Management Fund instead of the community's trust fund.

Chief Gerry Duquette Jr. says the First Nation, located between the upper and lower French River off Highway 64, filed a claim in 2015 and negotiations resulted in almost $27 million in compensation as well as an apology.

The community has decided to distribute 30 per cent of the claim among members (about $6,000 for each). A youth trust has been established for those who will receive their personal distribution when they turn 21. But most of the funds have been put away for future generations.

Duquette says the government was fair in handling the claim. 

"Members ... have told me it's not about money. We just want them to admit it, and own it and apologize, and they've done that."

He said he was "honoured and humbled" by some community members who were not concerned about a payout.

"They're just grateful that there is something coming," and that it will stay in the community.

Listen to the interview on CBC Sudbury's Morning North radio program.

The Dokis First Nation community has decided to distribute 30 per cent of the settlement among members, and put away the rest for future generations. (Youtube/GCIndigenous)

Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations Carolyn Bennett said in a statement that "addressing historical grievances is a key step in rebuilding our nation-to-nation relationship with Indigenous Peoples." Bennett also thanks Duquette, his negotiation team, and Dokis First Nation in helping "bring about the successful resolution of this specific claim."

Duquette said they are glad to have closure on "this sad chapter in our history and take some steps toward reconciliation for the hardship our people suffered over the years as a result of Canada's actions."

"It's a proud day and a proud day for our ancestors that may have not been able to be here or, at least, are looking upon us to see that's one checkmark that we have completed."

With files from Kate Rutherford