Nearly 80 years after lands belonging to the Enoch Cree Nation in Alberta were “illegally” leased by the Canadian military, a settlement has been reached.
During the Second World War, the federal government took two sections making up 485 hectares and turned them into a practice bombing range.
That includes Yekau Lake which was the community’s source of water.
The lake has never recovered and to this day unexploded bombs still exist, according to Chief Billy Morin.
In 2014, Enoch’s golf course was forced to close because of safety issues when live rounds were discovered.
Canada still denies live ammunition was used.
The nation has been in negotiations to get the land back since 2007 – and still maintains it was used illegally.
“The illegal part of it was for any lease of this kind, there was to be a community vote, and there was no
community vote,” said Morin.
“So that is the legal ramifications that we explored, resolving this claim. And from 1941 to 1945 there were approximately, at our best guess, estimated 100,000 rounds of ammunition, practice bombs dropped into our lake, into our two sections of land.”
Morin said the bombs destroyed the lake and that today, there are no fish and the water is unsafe to drink. The land is largely abandoned.
“Loss of use for our economic development purposes, notable the golf course on those 2 sections of land. Some of it will go into a per capita distribution to the Nation members themselves. Some of it will go into band program funding to upkeep some of our services when those 2 areas of land,” said Morin.
“But the primary thing the 91 million dollars was made up for is land reclamation.”
Morin said removing the bombs and cleaning the lake will take years.
“Growing up in Enoch we had a lot of people passing away who talked about wanting to see this claim done. And unfortunately, they are not here anymore. So the Elders who are still here, I’m just glad they are here to see the day the claim has been resolved. And they can take that closure and move forward in a good way.”