Long Wait Over For Displaced Metis Elders

Friday, March 18, 2005 at 16:12



This is the day many Metis people in northwest Saskatchewan have been waiting for.


Four communities in that region learned officially today they will be receiving $19.5 million over the next five years from the federal and provincial governments.


The money is going to the communities of Ile-a-la-Crosse, Beauval, Cole Bay and Jans Bay, which have several elders who were forcibly removed from what is now the Primrose Lake Air Weapons Range in 1953.


Government officials have emphasized this is not compensation, but rather, funding for infrastructure and economic development.


Federal Finance Minister Ralph Goodale also says the money is not intended for one-time payments to individuals or families.


Metis negotiator Jim Durocher says it’s been a long wait, but he’s happy for the elders who have lived long enough to see this day.


Fellow negotiator Alex Maurice is asking people in the affected communities to be patient as details are worked out on how the money will be distributed.


The decisions on how the funding will be spent will be made with the advice of an elders council and through community consultations, which begin this Sunday in Beauval.


Meanwhile, Durocher says the fight for compensation money will continue, in spite of the gesture made by both levels of government today.


Goodale says there might be ways to turn some of the economic development money into a form of compensation for the elders affected by the displacement.


He says building or renovating homes for elders that were forced off their land in the 1950s could be viewed as a form of compensation, and still be seen as an economic development activity.


Durocher says the reality is most of the economic development activity spurred by the funding won’t directly benefit elders during their lifetime, which is why he sees the need for more money provided specifically for compensation.


Maurice says he feels the money announced today goes a long away towards compensating the people affected, even if it, technically, isn’t “compensation”.


Goodale says this is as far as the federal government is prepared to go, but if the affected communities take the government to court, it won’t affect the funding announced today.