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Pasqua First Nation sues over land claims

By Kerry Benjoe, The Leader-Post

The Pasqua First Nation is not satisfied with how the province has handled outstanding land claims, so it is taking legal action.

On June 17, the Pasqua leadership filed a statement of claim in federal court on behalf of the First Nation against Canada and Saskatchewan for their failure to properly implement the Saskatchewan Treaty Land Entitlement Agreement (TLE) and the Pasqua First Nation Treaty Land Entitlement Settlement Agreement.

Chief Todd Peigan said the issue dates back to 2008, when Pasqua settled its outstanding TLE agreement for $8.8 million. The money was to purchase approximately 6,600 acres for a land shortfall and an additional 32,000 of equity acres for a total of about 39,000 acres. As part of the settlement, Pasqua could select from provincial Crown lands, federal Crown lands or federal-provincial Crown lands.

"The lawsuit is mainly against the province," said Peigan. "In 2012, we selected 15 quarter sections of land that the province had deemed to be provincial-Crown land."

"We selected those 15 quarters and two of them were in the RM of Edenwold near the Vale Potash mine, 13 were in the RM of Dufferin in and around the K + S Potash mine. The province declined the sale of those lands to the First Nation."

Peigan claims some of the lands in question were sold at later date, but not to Pasqua. He said some the selected lands were deemed wildlife land only after the First Nation made its selection.

"The Pasqua First Nation seeks, among other things, damages and declarations that Canada and Saskatchewan have breached their constitutional duties, breached their equitable and fiduciary duties, and have not upheld the honour of the Crown," said Peigan.

He said during the process, the land is not just transferred to the First Nations from the province. The parties meet and negotiate a fair-market price and as well as the purchase of the minerals.

Pasqua has only purchased 10,000 acres from private landowners - a third of the necessary land to which it is entitled.

"To date, we have not received one acre of land from the province," said Peigan.

He alleges the province's refusal to sell the originally selected lands has negatively impacted the First Nation.

"If we had acquired those lands instead of them selling them, then we could have had our own agreement with industry similar to what the province has in terms of royalties and taxes," he said.

Pasqua is seeking compensation in terms of a portion of the revenue and taxes received by the province as well as the lost potential revenue from grazing or agricultural leases.

Peigan wants his First Nation to be given the opportunity to purchase lands that can generate revenue.

A statement of claim contains information that has not yet been proven in court.

The province said that due to the litigation process, it is not appropriate to comment on the matter.

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