Wabaseemoong Independent Nations Signs Historic Agreement With Ontario and Ontario Power Generation

Congratulations to my colleague Carol Godby for her work in the settlement of this claim.  The press release is here, and reproduced below. Flooding of First Nations Land in 1950s Finally Results in Settlement 50 Years Later

Wabaseemoong Independent Nations Signs Historic Agreement With Ontario and Ontario Power Generation

Press Release - August 18, 2011, 2pm

On August 1, 2011, members of the Wabaseemoong Independent Nations voted to ratify a Settlement Agreement that puts to rest historical grievances arising out of the construction of two hydro-electric generation stations in the 1950s that flooded thousands of acres of land, including the community of One Man Lake. The settlement also brings to an end the First Nation's court action against Ontario and Ontario Power Generation (OPG), but Wabaseemoong will maintain its claims against Canada.

Approximately 40 Wabaseemoong community members were relocated as homes and sacred sites were flooded under 40 feet of water. At that time, the traditional practices of the Wabaseemoong people were damaged and forever altered. Although several previous attempts had been made to resolve the First Nations claim, none comprehensively addressed the full range of grievances until now.

Years of intensive negotiations with the province of Ontario and OPG, led by Chief Eric Fisher and supported by the First Nation’s legal counsel Harrison Pensa LLP of London, Ontario, have resulted in a comprehensive settlement. A financial agreement has been reached and OPG will continue to access and operate its existing facilities. OPG and the First Nation have also established a protocol to govern their ongoing relationship.

Wabaseemoong and Ontario's Ministry of Natural Resources signed a separate protocol establishing a process for engagement with the First Nation on resource development within Wabaseemoong’s Stewardship Area. Community members further voted to ratify a Trust Agreement wherein the proceeds of settlement will be put into a trust administered by TD Canada Trust and community members on behalf of the First Nation.

Chief Eric Fisher said: “The healing process will not happen overnight, and the pain caused by the flooding will not easily be erased: the past needs to be recognized and respected.” But the Chief is optimistic: “This settlement represents a fresh start and a chance to rebuild our relationships based on collaboration and mutual respect. Most importantly, the settlement agreement gives hope and opportunities to our present and future generations.”

Carol Godby of Harrison Pensa LLP said the settlement represents the culmination of years of effort to bring closure to a painful past and give hope for the future. “We appreciated the opportunity to act with the First Nation in bringing to life a just resolution to this longstanding dispute while simultaneously honouring the legacy of the Wabaseemoong people,” Ms. Godby said.

Members of the media were invited to attend a celebration to commemorate the official signing of the Settlement Agreement August 18th in the White Dog community. Representatives from all parties were present, including the members of the Wabaseemoong Independent Nations, Ontario Minister of Aboriginal Affairs Chris Bentley, and OPG Chairman Jake Epp.

Wabaseemoong Independent Nations is comprised of three communities (One Man Lake, Swan Lake and White Dog) located approximately an hour northwest of Kenora, Ontario. Harrison Pensa LLP is a full-service law firm in London, Ontario. Its Aboriginal practice is headed by Carol Godby. For further information, please contact:

White Dog:

Chief Eric Fisher 807-927-2000 chieffisher@hotmail.com

Harrison Pensa LLP:

Carol Godby 519-661-6770 cgodby@harrisonpensa.com

GeneralDavid Canton