An Aboriginal group’s $2.5-billion treaty claim on southeast Edmonton may be headed to the international stage after Canada’s top court tossed out its chances of a trial, says Papaschase Chief Rose Lameman.
While the court’s decision is a serious blow to regaining control of the massive block of land, they may explore opportunities similar to the campaign of the Tibetan people, which has galvanized the support of advocacy groups worldwide, she says.
“My first thought was that this is the end,” she says. “But as soon as I said that and I let a breath out, something gnawed in the pit of the stomach and said, ‘No, this is not over.’ This has to be the beginning.”
In a unanimous decision issued yesterday, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that members of the Papaschase Indian band were aware in the 1970s of the history behind the surrender of their reserve land — roughly 130 square kilometres south of Whitemud Drive and east of Calgary Trail — in the 1800s, but took no legal action.
Too much time has now passed for the surviving band members to stake a claim, the ruling states.
“Were the action allowed to proceed to trial, it would surely fail on this ground,” the judgment states.
Lameman says the ruling confirms that the Canadian judicial system is not willing to deal with Aboriginal treaty rights. She only found out that her ancestor was Chief Papaschase when she was a child in the 1970s, she says, making her wonder how she was supposed to stake a legal claim at such a young age.
“They should be embarrassed about this,” she says. “It’s a joke.”
In the late 1880s, the government recorded striking a deal with the band to surrender their treaty rights in exchange for cash.
The value of the land is now estimated at $2.5 billion.
In 2001, Lameman came forward claiming the land was never legally surrendered. The court found, however, that “the facts are shrouded in the mists of time and some details are disputed.”