NEWS

Listuguj First Nation prepares for land settlement payments

06/17/2015 01:41 EDT | Updated 06/17/2016 05:59 EDT
Listuguj Mi'kmaq government has processed more than 2,000 applications for land settlement funds by community members and officials expect that number to grow to 3,200 by Friday, with applicants receiving almost $15,000.

"There's going to be a huge infusion of cash into the pockets of our members who are adults over 18," says settlement co-ordinator Jeff Basque.

"When the minors turn 18, they can apply for that same amount, indexed for a certain rate of interest. So there's going to be a lot of cash flying around."

$64.5M settlement covers 5 parcels of land

The money is part of a compensation package paid out by the federal government to Listuguj First Nation in Quebec for the loss of five parcels of land around the reserve, including parts of Highway 132 leading up to bridge connecting the interprovincial bridge between Point-à-la-Croix, Que., and Campbellton.

The community held a referendum on the proposed land claim settlement package last winter and elected per capita distribution, giving each member the opportunity to apply for their share of the $60 million in compensation. The Listuguj Mi'kmaq government was awarded $4.5 milllion to cover court fees and appraisal.

The settlement has also created jobs in the community to help with dispersement of settlement funds.

"We've employed three to four people in the process," says communications officer Michael isaac.

"That's 3-4 people who have income now,and that are no longer on social assistance or unemployment.

'We hope people act responsibly'

"There will be people wanting to consume some of the money, so it will be a shot in the arm for the local economy," says Jeff Basque.

There is concern in the community over such a large injection of cash into such a small area.

"There's going to be a police presence to make sure things don't get too crazy," said Basque. "The Listuguj police department. We hope people act responsibly."

RCMP in Campbellton wouldn't comment on whether the force would follow suit across the bridge in New Brunswick, where many from the Listuguj community spend their money.

Community foundation

Some members of Listuguj are trying to create an investment opportunity for the payments.

Naiomi Metallic is from Listuguj and now works as a lawyer in Halifax. She has helped establish wealth management symposiums on the reserve and is spearheading an effort to create a community foundation.

"There's a link to this idea that those lands were for the community not just necessarily for individuals," she says. "Some of the money from that should continue to be used for community purposes."

The referendum last December gave the option of setting up a trust, but Metallic says it was unpopular.

She estimates she has the support of 60 community members, and hopes to see the number grow by the time a registered fund is established next year.

MORE:cbcNews