Government Commitments

Treaties and Land Claims

Justin Trudeau announces $140 million for First Nations’ education needs and to settle a land claim

June 21, 2024

The prime minister announced the funding on National Indigenous Peoples Day.

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Members of the We’koqma’q Mikmaw school drum group, White Bear, practice prior to an event for National Indigenous Peoples Day in We’koqma’q First Nation, N.S. on June 21, 2024. Darren Calabrese The Canadian Press:

The Toronto Star: OTTAWA—Ottawa is providing more than $140 million to First Nations in Nova Scotia to pay for education infrastructure and to settle a long-standing land claim.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the funding alongside Minister of Crown Indigenous Affairs Gary Anandasangaree on Friday — National Indigenous Peoples Day — in Cape Breton.

The announcement includes $16 million in new funding per year to the Mi’kmaw Kina’matnewey — who represent 12 of the 13 Mi’kmaq communities in Nova Scotia — to maintain, repair, and replace their existing education infrastructure to improve conditions for 3,000 students.

Trudeau also announced a proposed settlement agreement worth $125 million with the We’koqma’q L’nue’kati (We’koqma’q First Nation) to resolve the improper sale of reserve land by the federal government in 1862. The community’s 1,100 members still needs to ratify the settlement. 

“We will always be a partner in building a better future for Indigenous Peoples, a future to be determined by all of you,” Trudeau said, wearing a beaded medallion that read “We’koqma’q.”

“Reconciliation will always be at the forefront of everything we do.”

The educational funding to the Mi’kmaw Kina’matnewey is part of a self-government policy co-developed with the First Nations and implemented in 2019.

“We are thrilled to make this announcement that enables communities and the organization to do more. We have walked through this process with a lot of optimism and look forward to the positive changes this allows communities to make,” Eskasoni First Nation chief and Mi’kmaw Kina’matnewey chair Leory Denny said in a press release.

“While it is an important and significant first step, we know that there is a lot of work to be done.”

The $125-million proposed settlement is the result of more than 45 years of negotiations with We’koqma’q First Nation which submitted the land claim against the federal government in 1978.

Spokesperson for Crown-Indigenous Relations Matthieu Perrotin said the claim concerns the sale and wrongful alienation, by the Province of Nova Scotia, of 411 acres of reserve land “pursuant to colonial legislation prior to Confederation.”

“Resolving long-standing claims such as yours generates multiple benefits that can enrich your community. First and foremost, settlements address our dark history of colonialism, the scars it has left,” Anandasangaree said.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced a proposed $125-million agreement with a First Nation in Cape Breton to settle a dispute over reserve land sold in 1862. The prime minister made the announcement in Whycocomagh, N.S., where members of the We’koqma’q First Nation say an improper sale deprived them of the opportunity to benefit economically from the land. (June 21, 2024 / The Canadian Press)

“What matters to me is that we are taking a critical step forward in our shared journey of reconciliation. We are creating meaningful change that has the potential to produce positive results long term into the future.”

We’koqma’q First Nation agreed on May 7 to present the settlement offer to their members, but no ratification date has been set.

By addressing historical injustices, this settlement represents a cornerstone that will empower our community socially, economically and culturally,” said We’koqma’q interim chief John Leonard Bernard.

“We extend our utmost appreciation to all parties involved in the journey towards a successful resolution that affirms a promising future for generations to come.”

Joy SpearChief-Morris is an Ottawa-based reporter covering federal politics and Indigenous issues for the Star. Reach her via email: