Members of the Mississaugas of the New Credit have voted nearly unanimously in favour of an historic $145 million land claims settlement with the federal government pertaining to land in Toronto and Burlington, Ont.

The settlement ends seven years of negotiation between the band and the federal government, and represents "the largest specific claim offer to a First Nation in the history of Canada," according to a statement on the band's website.

Band members voted on May 29 to ratify the Toronto Purchase and Brant Tract Specific Claim Settlement Agreement and Trust Agreement.

A copy of a "certification of vote" posted to the website shows that 856 out of 904 votes, or 95 per cent, were cast in favour of the agreement, while only 41 votes were opposed.

The agreement calls for:

  • each of the band's approximately 1,842 members to receive $20,000 in cash (money for minors will be held in trust and paid, with interest, when they reach 18)
  • each of the band's members to be reimbursed for various items including food, fuel and utility bills up to $1,500 per year as part of a Community Wellness Policy
  • tens of millions of dollars to be designated for community and economic development, infrastructure, education, health, housing and culture

At a ceremony honouring the band at Toronto City Hall, Chief Bryan LaForme called the agreement "a very historical event for us, as well as for the City of Toronto."

Toronto Mayor David Miller said the band was "cheated at the time, and it's taken a very long time to find fairness."

The settlement resolves two land claims: the Toronto purchase of 1805, which included some 250,000 acres of land, and the Brant Tract purchase of 1797, which included 3,450 acres of land.

According to the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs, under the 1805 deal, the British paid a mere 10 shillings for a swath of land that stretches from present day Etobicoke Creek in the west to Ashbridge's Bay in the east, and south from the Toronto Islands to north of the city limits.

The Brant Tract purchase includes large parts of land along Burlington Bay.

The settlement does not affect current ownership of any of the land in question, the department says.

"Specific claims settlements right past wrongs and honour Canada's lawful obligations to First Nations," the department said in a January news release announcing the historic offer. "They also provide First Nations with the capital to invest in new opportunities for economic development and new business partnerships. These investments can bring economic benefits to the First Nation and surrounding communities."

According to the band, the federal government is required to deposit the funds at a financial institution of the band's choosing within 45 days of the Minister of Indian Affairs executing the agreement.

Jane Beecroft, president of Toronto's Community History Project, said the settlement was akin to giving the band the equivalent of a couple of downtown city blocks, rather than what the land is truly worth.

"The government isn't saying that this is payment for the land because nobody in the cosmos has that kind of money anymore," Beecroft told CTV News. "What it is is the word they're using is compensation. And after you've waited for two-and-a-quarter centuries for compensation are you going to say no in the hope that you get a better offer?"

With a report from CTV's John Vennavally-Rao