Rideau Institute supports the Sayisi Dene First Nation

The Rideau Institute is proud to have supported the Sayisi Dene First Nation in their call for action from the Canadian government in addressing their claim, which resulted from the forced relocation of the Sayisi Dene in 1956.

Fourteen years ago, the Sayisi Dene First Nation filed a claim that has yet to be settled by the Government of Canada. Under Prime Minister Louis St. Laurent, the Sayisi Dene were forcibly relocated in 1956 from their traditional lands at Little Duck Lake in Northern Manitoba to Churchill. The Sayisi Dene endured immeasurable hardships and persistent social challenges as a result of the relocation. Eighty-six Sayisi Dene died in Churchill and more than a hundred have died waiting for the claim to be settled.

The situation and circumstances were reviewed thoroughly and documented in 1991 by the Aboriginal Justice Inquiry and in 1996 by the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples; both recommended a settlement. The Commission noted that the Sayisi Dene suffer from a severed relationship with the land and environment, the loss of economic self-sufficiency, and a decline in standards of health.

A claim on behalf of the Sayisi Dene was presented to Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) in 1997, and was officially filed in 2000. The claim asked for compensation, mitigation (healing), an apology and other relief, including land. Although there was a series of meetings in 2003 and 2004 with government representatives, they did not result in an agreement to enter into negotiations.

The Rideau Institute supported the Sayisi Dene this week, as they called on the government to recognize their claim.

“We simply seek the same justice and respect that has been given to other communities who have been wronged in the past and who continue to suffer today,” wrote Sayisi Dene First Nation Chief Jim Thorassie in a letter to Minister Duncan last week.

(Canada News Wire, 8 March 2011)

In response, the minister’s chief of staff assured the Sayisi Dene that Minister Duncan would set up a meeting within two weeks.  The First Nations group remains hopeful.

“The minister’s representative said these claims take time to settle,” said Sayisi Dene Chief Jim Thorassie. “The Sayisi Dene have withstood the test of time, despite our hardships.” (Canada Newswire, 9 March 2011)

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