Canada Apologizes for Historic Wrongdoing Against Williams Lake First Nation, Offers $135 Million Settlement

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In a long-overdue act of redress, the Canadian government conveyed an official apology on Sunday for the ‘unlawful and wrongful actions’ that dispossessed the Williams Lake First Nation of a historically significant site in their territory over 150 years ago.

Gary Anandasangaree, Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations, journeyed to the pristine Cariboo region of British Columbia to present the apology in person on behalf of the federal government. He was not alone in his journey, accompanied by the venerable Williams Lake First Nation’s Chief, Willie Sellars.

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In a poignant statement, Chief Sellars acknowledged the positive outcome of arduous efforts that aimed to rectify this egregious error, “Our ancestors were unjustly ousted from a village site our people have occupied for millennia, however, today we witness this dreadful wrong being corrected.”

Canada, after enduring a long and turbulent court battle that lasted multiple decades, finally agreed to a settlement of $135 million last year. This settlement signified redress for the unfair eviction of the nation’s people from their village in the distant year of 1861.

Minister Anandasangaree humbly acknowledged the deep scars left by such an illegal displacement of the Williams Lake First Nation. Compounding their physical dispossession was the spiritual rupture in their sacred connection to the land, damage to their rich culture, desecration of grave sites, and harm done to their historic traditions.

He expressed understanding that this painful episode in their history had also irrevocably damaged their ability to sustain themselves relying on the Village Lands. He solemnly said, “The Government of Canada comprehends its responsibility for this historical atrocity inflicted on the WLFN and expresses profound regret and a heartfelt apology for the harm caused by the unlawful and wrongful dispossession of WLFN from their Village Lands.”

Chief Sellars perceived the apology and the settlement as the result of generations of leaders’ dedication and tireless work. He articulated his belief that this note of apology marks a “milestone in the pathway to reconciliation.”

Beyond the financial reparation, the negotiated terms also provision the WLFN to augment its reserve, creating potential for an additional 1,400 acres of land.