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Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett responds to a question during Question Period in the House of Commons on Feb. 25, 2020 in Ottawa.Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press

The federal cabinet has approved an agreement that will see Canada pay nearly $240-million in compensation to the Mohawks of Akwesasne to settle a land claim.

The agreement is the result of decades of negotiations between the Mohawks of Akwesasne and the federal government over an 8,000-hectare parcel of land in the most westerly portion of southern Quebec, on the south shore of the St. Lawrence River.

The territory is known in the province as Dundee, but is recognized by local Indigenous residents by its traditional name of Tsikaristisere.

In 1981, the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne filed a claim asking for the land to be returned, asserting that an alleged surrender of the land in 1888 was invalid because they never intended to surrender it. The Mohawks have long maintained they intended to gradually reclaim the land rather than permanently hand it over to the federal government.

In 2015, the federal government offered a global settlement of just under $240-million in compensation and offered to give the community the right to have up to 7,400 hectares of land added to the Akwesasne reserve, if the First Nation buys parcels on the open market.

A referendum was held in December, 2018, among Mohawks of Akwesasne to decide whether to accept the offer and 80 per cent of those who participated voted in favour.

On Feb. 29, cabinet authorized Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett to sign the settlement agreement on behalf of the government of Canada.

Through the settlement agreement with Ottawa, once they receive the money, the Mohawks of Akwesasne effectively renounce their claim to disputed land and confirm that the 1888 surrender was valid.

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