First Nations man launches $11 billion lawsuit over annuity payments

 By Dave Baxter

 Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

A First Nations man in Manitoba has filed a massive lawsuit seeking more than $10 billion from the federal government, because he believes Treaty One status members have not received appropriate payments as promised by the Crown as part of Treaties signed more than a century ago.

On Wednesday, Zongidaya Nelson of the Roseau River Anishinaabe First Nation said he is listed as lead plaintiff in a lawsuit filed in Manitoba Court of King’s Bench against the attorney general of Canada.

The lawsuit is seeking damages and interest of approximately $11 billion for Roseau River and for six other Manitoba First Nations located on Treaty One territory.

The lawsuit stems from annuity payments that were originally part of a deal struck in 1871 between the Crown and Treaty One nations that saw $3 payments made to members of those First Nations every year.

In 1874, an amendment was made to the original $3 payment amount, pushing that amount up to $5 per member, but that amount has remained at $5 since 1874 and has not gone up in 149 years.

In the statement of claim, it is alleged the Crown breached its treaty obligations by not enhancing those payments to inflation over time, and it states that Treaty One members are owed “historical damages and interest.”

“The rights which flow from the Treaty were not meant to be treated in static or rigid fashion, but were rather to be treated in dynamic and evolving fashion,” the statement of claim states.

The other six Treaty One First Nations listed in the lawsuit are the Brokenhead Ojibway Nation, the Sandy Bay Ojibway First Nation, the Peguis First Nation, the Sagkeeng First Nation, the Long Plain First Nation, and the Swan Lake First Nation.

“We recognize that more needs to be done with regard to renewing the Treaty relationship and remain open to looking at ways to advance this important work,” a federal spokesperson wrote in an email to the Winnipeg Sun. “Canada will continue to work co-operatively with Treaty One First Nations to make progress together on shared priorities to help strengthen our ongoing Treaty relationship and advance reconciliation.”

The spokesperson said because litigation is currently active that it would not be “appropriate” to make any further comment at this time.

– Dave Baxter is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Winnipeg Sun. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.




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