Canada forgives treaty claim debt


Last updated 4/5/2019 at 4:06pm

OTTAWA, Ont.—Indigenous groups across Canada carrying millions in dollars of debt from negotiating treaty claims will soon have that debt erased.

The federal government announced in its 2019 budget that it will forgive loans to Indigenous groups who have taken on debt to negotiate comprehensive claims and treaties. And groups that have already repaid the government for such loans will get their money back. 

The total amount being repaid or forgiven amounts to $1.4 billion, over seven years to forgive and reimburse First Nations for loans accumulated from negotiating comprehensive claims agreements, with $938 million of that distributed this month. For the 2019 budget, 200 Indigenous communities across Canada will benefit from this loan forgiveness and reimbursement.

This builds on the First Nations victory in the 2018 federal budget, which finally ended the unjust practice of forcing First Nations into increasing financial debt while negotiating a federal land claim. That approach was replaced with non-repayable contribution agreements. The commission reported in its 2018 annual report roughly $550 million in outstanding negotiation loans to First Nations. Since the commission started negotiations in the early 1990s, it has loaned money to 60 First Nations.

This move is part of the category of “redressing past wrongs and advancing self-determination” in the federal budget.

“The recent commitment to forgive all loans and repay those that have already been paid back is an important next step in ensuring First Nations are able to negotiate on an equal footing with the Crown,” says National Chief Perry Bellegarde. “I maintain that First Nations should not have to pay for the rightful restitution of our lands and traditional territories.”


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