VANCOUVER, B.C. (CN) - A band of Native Indians says in court that Canada failed to adjust for inflation in annuity payments due under 100-year-old treaties.
Chief Richard Horseman and the Horse Lake First Nation claim in the Federal Court of Canada that the Canadian government wanted lands held by First Nations when it "became aware of both the potential value of the lands held by the various First Nations and the need to secure substantial portions of those lands for settlement and development."
From the 1860s to the 1920s, treaty "negotiations were conducted through interpreters, and the treaty documents were written in English," according to the complaint.
This made the ancestors dependent on the government's agents to explain the terms of the treaties.
"The crown's representatives did not inform the ancestors of the plaintiff and the class of the value of their lands during the negotiations," the complaint states.
The treaties entitle beneficiaries to annuity payments of between $4 and $25, but they didn't contemplate that "over extended periods of time the value of purchasing power of the Canadian dollar would decrease," according to the complaint. In that vein, the treaties also did not contemplate that "the crown would cause and or permit the value of purchasing power of the Canadian dollar to decrease over extended periods of time."
Meanwhile, the First Nations bands "were particularly vulnerable to the inequality of bargaining power between themselves and Canada, and, in particular, had no understanding of the concept that the value of the annuity payments might be eroded over time if no provision were made for adjustment to the amount of those payments," according to the complaint.
Canada is allegedly "in ongoing breach of its treaty obligations," and a "new breach occurs with every annual payment in which the Annuity Payments are not adjusted for inflation and for changes in purchasing power."
Horseman and the tribe are represented by Paul Bennett, Mark Mounteer and Matthew Good of Hordo Bennett Mounteer and Allan Donovan of Donovan & Company in Vancouver.