Original Published on Jul 29, 2022 at 08:08

By Ryan Clarke, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Grassroots members Eugene Fox, Roger Prairie Chicken, and Lori Scout  from the Blood Tribe need to make amendments to a lawsuit against their  Chief and Council over the alleged improper handling of settlement  money.

 Following a Judicial Review July 21, the proceedings lack legal capacity to the claim.

  The settlement is from a treaty case involving a clause in Treaty 7,  “Cows and Ploughs”, where individual rights holders were owed $150  million. The federal government failed in a promise to provide cattle  and agricultural equipment to band members in exchange for land, as part  of the Blackfoot Treaty of 1877.

 In 1997 the Blood Tribe filed a  Statement of Claim with the Federal Court of Canada but it was only in  2018 that Canada admitted to a breach of treaty. Following this  settlement, the Blood Tribe voted to ratify the money with $3,000 going  towards registered band members and $25 million being put towards the  Long-Term Investment Fund, with remaining money spent on infrastructure  initiatives and legal fees.

  However, in the initial lawsuit against the Chief and Council (Chief  Roy Fox), the three members claim tribe members did not receive proper  consultation, few details of the specifics of the payment and the  spending, and were not allowed to make an informed decision due to a  lack of transparency about where the money would be going.

 The  lawsuit disputes who holds claim over the $150 million settlement and  trust funds. Fox and Prairie Chicken say the $3,000 payout to 14,000  members leaves a sum of $108 million in control of the Council, but  members of the Blood Tribe should have a say in how that money is spent.

  “The proposed $3,000 per capita distribution is nothing in exchange for  releasing Canada from the solemn obligation to provide ‘Cows and  Ploughs’ under Treaty 7,” said Prairie Chicken who advocates for the  members of the Blood Tribe, calling out the Council on giving “no  meaningful consultation on the extinguishment of the Treaty 7 rights.”

  On July 21, Kathleen Ring, a prothonotary Federal Court judge, made a  decision regarding the Council’s legal claim that the three members  lacked the legal capacity necessary and that they were representing all  of the members of the tribe.

 “I cannot conclude at this stage of  the proceedings, having regard to the evolving state of the  jurisprudence of the material before the Court, including the wording of  the ‘cows and ploughs’ clause in Treaty 7, that it is plain and obvious  that the treaty right to cows and ploughs is purely a communal claim  that plainly has no individual aspect.”

 Ring’s decision means the  theory of the law states this is a group decision and no one person or  persons can have a say over the claim.

 The three members will  have until the Aug. 5 to file an amended Notice of Application removing  all references to it being a representative proceeding, with the  remaining portions of the lawsuit proceeding.

 Fox says this issue  is very important to the Blood Tribe members, while claiming one of the  reasons they had issue with how the money was being spent was that  certain Council members may have a conflict of interest.

 Blood  Tribe Chief and Council said in an official statement “That information  and consultation with the tribe had been done prior to the vote on how  the money would be distributed. All members (were) given an opportunity  to request a copy of the Settlement Agreement and Trust Agreement and a  plain language version of those copies in information packages.”

This item reprinted with permission from the Herald, Lethbridge, Alberta