Flooding of Niisaachewan Anishinaabe Nation’s reserve began in 1887 when the first dam was built at Kenora. The First Nation filed its claim for flooding damage in 2000/2001 and began negotiating with Canada and Ontario in 2010.
In 2018 the First Nation, Ontario and Canada signed an Agreement in Principle on compensation. The compensation package provided amounts for past losses, ongoing permission to continue flooding of the reserve (flooding easement), and other matters. The agreed-upon compensation amount assumed that the claim would be settled by December 31, 2018. Bureaucratic delays meant that the claim was not settled by the end of 2018, so the Crown governments agreed to update the compensation to the end of 2019. Delays continued, and by the end of 2019, the claim still wasn’t settled.
Canada has recently agreed to update the compensation amounts again, to June 2021. Ontario has not yet committed to a further update, so as of now Ontario’s settlement amount only covers up to the end of 2019.
The two biggest causes of delay have been: 1. The easement surveys; and 2. The process for confirming that islands within the easement area are part of the reserve. For over a year, Ontario refused to accept the surveys. Earlier this month Ontario finally agreed to accept the surveys. Confirmation of the islands remains outstanding.
Other matters that need to be taken care of before the settlement can be finalized and compensation paid are: drafting of the legal documents (Settlement Agreement and Easement Agreement), developing the Community Trust, and community approval by ratification vote.
Canada has told us that they will likely be finished their approvals process for the updated compensation by November 2020. In the meantime, the Niisaachewan negotiation team, legal counsel, and advisors will be working to finalize all outstanding issues so that the ratification process can begin as soon as Canada’s compensation approvals are complete, with a community vote held in February or March 2021. Compensation will be paid out within 75 days after the First Nation, Ontario, and Canada sign the settlement agreement following the community vote.