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Canada apologizes to the Williams Lake First Nation for the historical wrongs related to the Village Site Specific Claim

Press Release

From: Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada

September 10, 2023

Today, Chief Willie Sellars of the Williams Lake First Nation and the Honourable Gary Anandasangaree, Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations, gathered in Williams Lake, where the Minister delivered an apology on behalf of Canada to the First Nation for the harms suffered as a result of the unlawful and wrongful actions that separated the First Nation from their village lands.

Following the apology, they announced that the First Nation and the Government of Canada have reached a settlement agreement to resolve the Williams Lake First Nation Village Site Specific Claim.

The century-old claim concerned Canada’s failure to prevent the First Nation’s traditional settlement lands from being made available for acquisition by settlers in the late 1800s. As a result, the Williams Lake First Nation was deprived of the opportunity to select their village site lands as reserve lands. The dispossession and forced separation of the Williams Lake First Nation from the village lands also impacted their sacred connection to their homelands which always sustained them; damaging their culture; desecration of grave sites; damaging their histories, traditions and identity inextricably connected to the Village Lands; and affected their ability to continue to live sustainably relying on the village lands.

Under the settlement, Canada provided the Williams Lake First Nation with $135 million in total compensation. As part of this agreement, the Williams Lake First Nation has the option to acquire and seek to add up to 1400 acres to their reserve. Land will be acquired based on the willing participation of both the First Nation and the property owner in the property sale. This acquisition may create new opportunities for community economic development that benefit the First Nation and the regional economy for generations to come.

The successful resolution of specific claims is a key step in advancing reconciliation with First Nations by acknowledging and addressing the wrongs of the past, and helping to build a better future. The Government of Canada will continue to work alongside the Williams Lake First Nation to rebuild and renew this important nation-to-nation relationship, for the benefit of all Canadians.


“The Williams Lake First Nation has worked hard to have this terrible wrong corrected. Our ancestors were driven from a village site our people have used for millennia. We took this matter to the Supreme Court of Canada to make sure Canada took responsibility for how badly our people were treated when our village lands were wrongfully taken from us. Reaching the settlement agreement with Canada and establishing the Williams Lake Community Trust for current and future members of WLFN, is a very important achievement for our community, and a significant milestone in the path to reconciliation with Canada.”

Chief Willie Sellars
Williams Lake First Nation

“The Government of Canada accepts responsibility for this historic injustice and expresses its deep regret and sincere apology to the First Nation for the harms suffered. This apology and negotiated settlement is a step toward a renewed relationship with the community, and one that was necessary in order for Canada to be an honest and accountable Treaty partner. Thank you to Chief Sellars and all those who made this historic day possible.”

The Honourable Gary Anandasangaree
Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations

Quick facts

  • The Williams Lake First Nation is located in the Cariboo region of the Central Interior region of British Columbia.
  • The Williams Lake First Nation filed its village site claim with the Specific Claims Tribunal in 2011. In 2014, the Tribunal determined that Canada was liable for breaches of legal and fiduciary obligations to the Williams Lake First Nation for the illegal pre-emptions of their traditional village site lands by non-Indigenous settlers in 1860.
  • The settlement agreement was successfully ratified by the Williams Lake First Nation on June 29, 2022, and Chief Willie Sellars and council for the First Nation executed the settlement agreement on behalf of the Williams Lake First Nation on July 7, 2022. On November 4, 2022, then-Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Marc Miller executed the settlement agreement on behalf of Canada.
  • From April 1, 2022, to March 31, 2023, 56 specific claims were resolved for $3.5 billion in compensation, 64 claims were filed with the Minister, and Canada made an offer to negotiate on 58 claims.
  • From January 1, 2016, to July 31, 2023, 264 specific claims have been resolved for close to $8.9 billion in compensation.
  • Since the Specific Claims program began in 1973 to July 31, 2023, 669 claims, totaling $12.8 billion in compensation, have been settled through negotiations.

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For more information, media may contact:

CIRNAC Media Relations:

Brandon Hoffman
Coordinator, Marketing and Communications
Williams Lake First Nation
Office: 250-296-3507, ext. 185
Toll-free: 1-877-856-3507


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