Sayisi Dene First Nation seek redress from Indian and Northern Affairs Minister John Duncan over forced relocation

Media Release
For Immediate Release

March 8, 2011

Sayisi Dene First Nations seek redress from Indian and Northern Affairs Minister John Duncan over forced relocation

Ottawa, ON—The Sayisi Dene First Nation called on John Duncan, Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs, to apologize on behalf of the federal government and settle a fourteen-year-old claim by the First Nation concerning their forced relocation in the 1950s, and the ensuing deaths and poverty they suffered.

They were forced from their traditional territory in Northern Manitoba in 1956 due to unfounded concerns about caribou herds, and “resettled” on the beach at Churchill without food or livelihood. Eighty-six Sayisi Dene died in Churchill and more than a hundred have died waiting for the claim to be settled.

“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. Every other First Nation and Inuit community identified by the Royal Commission for Aboriginal Peoples as being relocated by government has been compensated.

After years of hardship, the Sayisi Dene began leaving Churchill to settle at Tadoule Lake in 1973, where they still endure high unemployment, substance abuse, and the legacies of child abuse and family breakdown.

The Government of Manitoba apologized in 2010 for its role in the relocation and arrived at a settlement with the Sayisi Dene, but despite repeated promises of action from the federal government, the whole process of reconciliation has completely stalled under Minister John Duncan.

A delegation of community members held a press conference and briefing for Members of Parliament today. At a vigil beneath the Peace Tower, the names of the Sayisi Dene who died as a result of the forced relocation were read aloud.

Minister John Duncan’s office has not replied to the request for a meeting from Chief Thorassie.

For information, contact:

Jeffrey F. Harris, Myers Weinberg LLP

o. (204) 926-1504 e.

Steven Staples, Rideau Institute

o. 613 565-9449  c. 613 290-2695 e.

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