A lawsuit was filed in the names of the Chief and Councillors of the Papaschase Descendants Council in February 2001. The lawsuit was filed against the Attorney General of Canada, claiming that the Federal Crown caused the dissolution of the Papaschase Band through various breaches of Treaty 6 and its fiduciary duty to the Band which resulted in a large portion of the original Band being discharged from Treaty, as well as the alleged surrender of the Band’s Reserve and the loss of its status as a recognized Band pursuant to Treaty 6 and the Indian Act. As such, the lawsuit sought – among other things - a declaration that the Papaschase Band No. 136 is a recognized Band under Treaty 6 and the Indian Act, as well as reserve land - or compensation in place of the reserve land owed to the Papaschase Band. The Crown in right of Alberta was added as a party to the action in January 2003.
The lawsuit involves complex treaty rights issues and historical events, requiring the gathering of extensive historical records. Maurice Law has worked to gather and review the historical documents, as well as working with the Papaschase Descendants Council in order to build its strength as a community and as a council. This has taken much time, but the Council and the firm have worked hard to push the litigation forward.
The Summary Judgment
In May 2004, the Attorney General of Canada made a motion in court to have the Papaschase lawsuit dismissed. Alberta did not participate in the motion. Unfortunately, this motion was granted. The decision of Justice Frans Slatter was released on September 13, 2004 and can be viewed by clicking on the link below.
In the wake of this decision, the Council and Maurice Law have worked to file an appeal with the Alberta Court of Appeal in Edmonton. The written arguments for the appeal have been filed by both the Papaschase Descendants and by Canada.
The Intervention by FSIN
In September 2005, the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations (FSIN) appeared before the Court of Appeal requesting to become an intervener in the appeal. This motion was supported by the Papaschase Descendants, represented by Maurice Law because FSIN has both expertise in treaty claims and an understanding of the history of Canada’s treatment of and policy towards Indian Bands in the prairies during the time that the Papaschase Band was dissolved. The FSIN motion was granted, and FSIN will be intervening in the appeal.
However, Canada and Alberta were successful on their later motion to have parts of the written argument and supporting material filed by the FSIN deleted. This decision can be viewed by clicking the link below.
The Appeal Hearing
Canada and Alberta have now filed their responses to FSIN’s written argument and the appeal hearing has been set for Thursday, September 7, 2006, at the Court of Appeal of Alberta in Edmonton, at the Law Courts Building, 1A Sir Winston Churchill Square. We encourage any Descendants or interested persons to attend the hearing in person and we recommend that you plan to arrive at the Law Courts Building by 9:30 that morning.
For further information regarding the background of the Papaschase First Nation’s lawsuit and to find out who is eligible to become a member of the Papaschase Band and how to join, visit the Maurice Law, Barristers & Solicitors website at www.mauricelaw.com. Please navigate to "What's New" and then click on "Papaschase Litigation".
Note: This article is dated so please Contact Us for further information concerning Membership for Papaschase. Thank-You.
Rossdale Burial Grounds
After the first Papaschase Band election in 1999, one of the first challenges the newly formed band council faced was the issue of a burial ground in central Edmonton. This burial ground was the Aboriginal and Fort Edmonton burial area. The Papaschase Chief and council were approached by aboriginal activists to get involved in protecting the burial ground. A power generating company, Epcor, had been operating on the site, which is located along the North Saskatchewan river in downtown Edmonton.
Incidentally, the Papaschase Chief and council were approached by descendants in the Elinor Lake area who were concerned that a gas company was trying to run a seismic line through a local burial ground were Chief Papaschase is buried. Members of Chief and council along with descendants and supporters cleared brush in and around the burial ground and marked it with a cross replacing one that had fallen down. According to Alberta's Cemeteries Act, a burial ground or cemetery that is marked with a marker is protected by law and is punishable with a fine and/or jail time.
An Energy Utility Board pre-hearing (2000) and hearings (2000/01) resulted when a number of stakeholders came forward to protest Epcor's proposed RD11expansion. Initially, the EUB approved Epcor's expansion plans but after recommendations were made to the Alberta Community Development, Minister Gene Zwodesky halted the expansion for good. Although the expansion was stopped to protect the historic buildings that were built for power generation it did result in a victory to protect the burial grounds. It also helped too that human bones were found on Epcor's property in May 2000 and in October 2000.
This resulted in Epcor being held accountable and unable to dig in the area without an Archaeological permit.
After the hearings the Aboriginal, Metis and French activists approached then Mayor Bill Smith at a meeting at City Hall to deal with the burial ground. At first, Epcor's one-sided argument swayed Mayor Smith and council but they changed there minds after seeing pictures of Archaeologists digging human remains on Epcor's property. As a result, meetings were commissioned to have representatives of the City of Edmonton and various stakeholders to discuss how best to deal with the burial ground.
Since then a portion of Rossdale Road that ran over the burial ground in front of Epcor's Rossdale generating site has been closed and removed. A memorial was developed with input from various stakeholders and descendants. Also the human remains that were removed from the site that were being held at the Medical Examiner's office and the University of Alberta's Anthropology Department were prepared for reburial. The reburial ceremony took place on August 28, 2006 near the site, and the human remains were buried in the protected area by descendants/stakeholders with hundreds of descendants, City officials, Minister Pearl Calahasen, Clergy and Spiritual leaders in attendance. Bylaws have been changed and rezoned, the site is legally a historic cemetery/burial ground and protected by law.
At the reburial ceremony, Chief Rose Lameman and Councillor Calvin Bruneau confirmed that indeed the Papaschase band had at least 31 members who were buried at the burial ground/cemetery. Councillor Joyce Bruneau's research is continuing to determine whether more of our ancestors were buried there.
Currently, the City of Edmonton has hired contractors to build a memorial honouring the First Nation's, Metis, French, English, Scottish, and Irish ancestors who were buried in the Traditional burial ground and Fort Edmonton Cemetery. The price tag is approximately 1.3 million to build. Construction is under way this spring and is slated to be completed some time this summer. All this work has been done to honor our ancestors who lived, died and were buried in this most historic and sacred site. The unveiling of the ceremony will be announced after the completion of the project.