WLFN Members Vote to Accept Village Claim Settlement
WLFN Chief and Council unanimously recommend acceptance of the Settlement Agreement and the Trust Agreement as being in the best interests of WLFN, including its past, present and future members. For decades, the WLFN Chief and Council have actively pursued a just and fair resolution of our Village Claim and, together with all the elders who have fought for justice related to this claim, have worked to achieve the Proposed Settlement.
On June 29, 2022, 56% of eligible WLFN voting members participated in a historic ratification vote to accept a proposed Settlement with Canada, with 94% of votes in favour of the proposed Settlement Agreement (including compensation of $135 million) and the WLFN Community Trust.
WLFN members have provided resounding support to accept the Settlement Agreement and the WLFN Community Trust as being in the best interests of WLFN, including its past, present and future members.
For decades, the WLFN Chief and Council, elders, members, and allies have actively pursued a just and fair resolution of our Village Claim and, together with all the elders who have fought for justice related to this claim, have worked to achieve the Settlement.
Frequently Asked Questions
HOW WAS $135 MILLION DETERMINED AS THE APPROPRIATE SETTLEMENT?
WLFN and Canada each hired their own experts to provide opinions on the appropriate compensation. The experts used different approaches and came up with different numbers.
$135 million was a negotiated outcome reached during mediation which was held with WLFN and Canada with Justice Slade.
Recognizing that the Tribunal has a $150 million cap, Justice Slade supported $135 million as fair and reasonable and cautioned WLFN that we risked getting less before the Tribunal.
IF THE SETTLEMENT IS APPROVED, WHAT WOULD A MEMBER RECEIVE? AND WHEN?
Every Elder would get a one time Elders payment of $25,000. They would get that payment either when the Settlement has been approved by Referendum and finalized, or when a Member becomes an Elder.
Each year of the Trust, every adult Member would get an annual payment of $1,500, adjusted for inflation.
A Minor Member’s annual payment of $1,500 per year, adjusted for inflation, would be paid into a Minors’ Fund within the Trust. Each Minor’s payment would grow annually at an interest rate of prime plus 1%. A Minor Member would be eligible to receive their payment upon turning 18 years of age and completing high school and a financial literacy program offered to Members by the Trust, or at 21 years of age if they do not complete high school and the financial literacy program.
WHAT HAPPENS IF A MEMBER NEVER REACHES THE AGE OF 60? WILL THEIR FAMILY INHERIT THEIR ELDERS’ PAYMENT, OR DOES IT STAY IN THE TRUST?
No, an entitlement to an elders’ payment only happens when a member reaches the age of 60.
FOR PARENTS OF CHILDREN WHO ARE, FOR EXAMPLE, 10 AND OVER, DO THE ANNUAL PAYMENTS GO BACK AND BEGIN AT BIRTH, OR DO THEY BEGIN NOW?
Payments begin once the Trust is in place and the monies from Canada have been received. There is no “catch-up” payment.
HOW OLD DOES A MEMBER HAVE TO BE TO GET THEIR PAYMENTS?
A Member needs to be 60 years old to get their one time Elders Payment.
All adult Members (18 years of age) are eligible for the annual payment directly.
A Minor Member would be eligible to receive the total of all payments paid into the Trust’s Minors’ Fund on their behalf upon turning 18 years of age and completing high school and a financial literacy program offered to Members by the Trust, or at 21 years of age if they do not complete high school and the financial literacy program.
WHY IS CHIEF AND COUNCIL RECOMMENDING WE USE A TRUST?
A trust is the best legal and financial mechanism available to ensure that our current and future Members obtain a lasting benefit from the Settlement. The benefit of creating a trust is that it ensures that the trust funds are invested safely over time and distributed and used only in the manner set out in the Trust Agreement.
HOW DID CHIEF AND COUNCIL COME TO DECIDE ON A TRUST, AND ON THE PROPOSED TRUST?
Chief & Council discussed different scenarios and looked at what other First Nations have done with large settlements. Chief & Council looked at communities that have had settlements and what happened based on how funds were distributed. Some First Nations gave more and some are back to where they were a few years before, because there was no lasting benefit to the community. In some cases, larger per capita payments resulted in destroyed lives. Of the options considered, Chief & Council considered that the Trust allowed the best opportunities for community revitalization and benefiting future generations as well as today’s members.
HOW DID COUNCIL SET THE $1,500 AMOUNT FOR ANNUAL MEMBER PAYMENTS?
It was a balancing between how much Income from the Trust will be spent annually from the Income on per capita payments and how much will be spent on programs and services offered to WLFN Members, both on and off reserve. Currently the only per capita payment is $150, and so Council felt a new annual payment that was 10 x that amount would be welcomed and appreciated by the WLFN members. Programs could include targeted spending to assist families with cost of living issues Council is also very interested in working with off reserve Members to identify possible programs and services that respond to your needs.
WHAT IS THE MONEY IN THE TRUST GOING TO BE SPENT ON?
The trust monies will be used for the one time Elders payments, the annual Members payments and for programs, services and other initiatives, including capital projects that strengthen and build up the WLFN. If WLFN proposes use of capital monies greater then $5 million in one year, then the voting Members will need to approve that use of Trust Funds.
WILL THERE BE SPECIFIC DOLLARS FOR BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT BY INDIVIDUALS?
There is a range of possibilities for how Council can spend income from the Trust. Council will do community engagement to begin developing priorities. Business development grants for WLFN members who have business development plans are possible.
HOW WILL THE MONEY IN THE TRUST BE INVESTED?
The Trust will be managed by an investment manager who will report to and be overseen by the Trustees. The investment manager will invest the Trust funds in accordance with an investment policy that the Trustees will develop and that are reviewed by WLFN Council. These policies will not allow high risk investments. The Trust will aim to earn the best return possible at an acceptable level of risk.
ARE WE EXTINGUISHING OUR ABORIGINAL TITLE AND RIGHTS AS PART OF THIS SETTLEMENT?
No. The Claim being settled relates to Canada’s failure to set aside and protect a reserve in what is now the City of Williams Lake. The claim does not relate to WLFN aboriginal title and rights or any future treaty rights.
WHO WILL BE THE TRUSTEES OF THE TRUST?
The initial Trustees will be a representative of Chief & Council, WLFN’s Chief Financial Officer, and BMO Trust Company as administrative trustee. One more individual Trustee with relevant expertise and who is not affiliated with WLFN administration will be appointed within the first year of the Trust.
WILL WLFN BE ABLE TO PURSUE OTHER CLAIMS IF IT APPROVES THIS SETTLEMENT?
Yes, this settlement agreement deals only with Canada’s liability regarding the village lands. The settlement agreement does not affect WLFN’s rights to pursue any other specific claims regarding other breaches by Canada, including other historical claims regarding WLFN reserve lands.
REGARDING THE RELEASE OF THE VILLAGE CLAIM: IF THE SETTLEMENT OF THE VILLAGE CLAIM ONLY PAYS COMPENSATION, AND DOESN’T GIVE DIRECT RECOVERY OF THE HARMS FROM, FOR EXAMPLE, LOST CULTURE, ARE THERE OTHER STEPS THAT CAN BE TAKEN FOR MORE DIRECT RECOVERY OF THOSE HARMS?
Not in relation to the Village Claim. The settlement of the Village Claim is in full settlement in relation to that claim.
WHY DOESN’T THE SETTLEMENT INCLUDE THE RETURN OF OUR VILLAGE LANDS?
Canada has no legal authority to return the village lands to WLFN. Canada can only provide monetary compensation. The only way for WLFN to recover the village lands is by purchasing it from current owners who may be willing to sell it. If WLFN purchased some of the village lands or other lands in the area, WLFN could apply to Canada to return the land to reserve status.
HAS CANADA AGREED TO ADDITTIONS TO RESERVE?
Canada won’t commit to the ATR until they see the application.
WHAT TYPES OF LAND COULD BE ADDED TO RESERVE AS PART OF THE 1,400 ACRE COMMITMENT TO DONSIDERATION OF ADDITIONAL RESERVE? COULD THESE BE SMALL PARCELS OF INDIVIDUALLY-OWNED LAND?
The land has to be in WLFN’s traditional territory. It’s for community lands, not individual lands.
IS THE PROPOSED TRUST STILL OPEN FOR DISCUSSION?
The referendum vote is a package – WLFN voters have the opportunity to vote yes or no to the Settlement Agreement and the Trust. Chief and Council have committed to continue to engage with WLFN members regarding the types of programs and services which will be offered under the Trust, including for on and off reserve members.
WHAT HAPPENS IF WE REJECT THE TRUST?
If you vote no, you are voting no to the Settlement Agreement and the Trust. WLFN would then have to go back to the Tribunal to litigate the compensation owing by Canada for the Village Lands. During the mediation, WLFN was cautioned that they could receive a significantly lower compensation amount.
HOW WILL WE BALANCE BENEFITS FROM THE TRUST BETWEEN MEMBERS LIVING ON-RESERVE AND OFF-RESERVE?
Council has committed to engagement with membership relating to spending priorities relating to trust income, including improving services offered to off-reserve members.
COULD THE FINANCIAL LITERACY COURSE REQUIRED FOR MINORS ALSO BE MADE AVAILABLE TO ELDERS?
Yes. The Trustees will be developing this course and WLFN can provide input to the Trustees on what it should include and who can take it. It can definitely be made available to elders as well.
WHAT IS THE FINANCIAL LITERACY COURSE THAT MINORS ARE REQUIRED TO COMPLETE BEFORE RECEIVING THEIR DISTRIBUTION FROM THE MINORS’ FUND?
The course needs to be developed and will be once the Trust is approved. The course could include such things as the use of credit cards, down payments, investing, and difficult conversations that people may need to have with family members and friends who are aware they are receiving some money. Other things to think about – the timing of offering a course or courses. It may have a bigger impact if you begin these discussions when a child is 15 years old, instead of 17.5 and is already considering how to spend their money.
ARE THERE INDIVIDUAL TRUSTS FOR EACH OF THE MINORS?
No, the minors’ fund is part of the Community Trust. The funds identifid for a minor can be reported on.
Ratification Officer Details
Marcus Hadley, LLB
255 Linden Avenue,