Seine River First Nation, Ontario and Canadian governments announce long-awaited flood claim settlement

By Allan Bradbury
Staff Writer

The funds will change the community and its members’ lives for the better according to Chief of Seine River First Nation, John Kabatay Sr.

Kabatay; the honourable Gary Anandasangaree, minister of Crown–Indigenous relations; and the honourable Greg Rickford, Ontario minister of Indigenous affairs, announced the successful settlement of a three-party agreement between Seine River First Nation, the Government of Canada, and the province of Ontario, regarding Seine River First Nation’s Treaty 3 flooding claim. This settlement will provide Seine River First Nation with $125.67 million in compensation, with Canada paying $64.95 million and Ontario paying $60.72 million.

The claim was filed in response to the construction of the Fort Frances-International Falls dam across the Rainy River, subsequently resulting in increased water levels flooding Seine River First Nation’s reserve land. The flooding continues to impact the reserve land to this day.

The funds have already been received and some have been distributed to community members. Beneficiaries include members registered with the community as of last November. Community members under 18 will have to wait until they reach that age to receive the funds. While some funds have been spent and distributed, over $80 million has been invested in trust accounts which have a board of trustees which will decide how the funds are invested. Kabatay says the trust fund is designed to be community oriented.

“It’s not for an individual, an individual can’t come and say ‘I want to start a business,’” Kabatay said, “We have a lot of work in front of us to put policies in place for something like that. Most of the returns are geared for community oriented projects, because we want to build a community. We want to build a new subdivision, we’re building a water treatment plant, a water tower, and we’re currently building a gas station. Hopefully we want to get a daycare too, because that’s something we need.”

According to the Federal Government, socio-economic gaps between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in Canada are the direct result of long-term colonial policies, which often led to the denial and dispossession of land. Ownership of land in Canada is closely linked to ownership of resources and economic benefit.

The flood claim process has been almost 40 years in the making. According to Kabatay the claim was initially submitted in 1988, accepted for negotiation in 2003 and 2010 by the government of Ontario and in 2009 by the Canadian Government.

As a sign of appreciation Seine River First Nation gifted government representatives with moccasins as a representation of the three parties embarking on a new journey together.

“We walked a long path to get to where we are today,” Kabatay said. “It was well over 20 years of walking, negotiating with governments. Our shoes are worn out from that long walk. I look at these moccasins as a new beginning, a new walk forward because our relationship with governments doesn’t end today, it continues to grow and prosper.”

Greg Rickford, MPP for Rainy River Kenora and provincial Minister of Indigenous Affairs says the completion of the agreement was an important day for the advancement of reconciliation.

“Settling this claim is a major milestone in our journey to advance reconciliation with the Seine River First Nation and Indigenous peoples across Ontario,” Rickford said. “The agreement, achieved through fair, respectful and meaningful negotiation, will enhance the social and economic well-being of the community and bring greater prosperity to the surrounding region.”

Also in attendance was Senior Negotiator with Indigenous Affairs Ontario Lise Hansen. Representing the Federal Government were Adrian Walraven, Senior Director Specific Claims Branch and Sarah Atchison, legal counsel for the Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Ministry.