Grand Chief Ed John of the First Nations Summit says the forgiving of loans taken out to negotiate comprehensive claims or treaties will have a huge impact on First Nation communities.
“How big a deal is it? Its a $1.4 billion deal and to me, when the loans are forgiven and off the books for First Nations, it provides those communities opportunities to raise revenues for other business opportunities for other development in the communities,” said John, head of the B.C. First Nations Summit.
In the federal budget delivered in March, the Liberals announced that the government would be forgiving loans that were taken out by First Nation communities to prepare for negotiations.
Many went into debt for millions of dollars.
B.C. Treaty Commissioner Mary-Ann Enevoldsen is the former chief of the Homalco First Nation in B.C.
She said that forgiving these loans is a step towards reconciliation.
“The issue of taking on loans for the protection of our rights title and culture was very devisive, and controversial,” she said. “It was counter productive to advance our treaties on behalf of our nations it gave fuel to people who opposed our efforts and it left a negative cloud over the treaty processes goals.”
Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett made the announcement in the backyard of former attorney general and justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould.
Media stories have reported a rift between the two ministers over the failed Indigenous rights framework agreement.
Bennett called the situation unfortunate and that the government is pressing on.
“These kinds of conversations discussions about recognition and implementation of rights should be done and paid for by Canada that it is now going forward contribution agreements where we pay for what it will take to be able to reach an agreement and nation to nation re-build the nations,” she said.
Bennett said there are a few more steps within government to finalize the details.
But letters should be going to affected communities soon.