What is this claim and what are the negotiations all about?

The Algonquins of Ontario (“Algonquins”) have Aboriginal rights and title to lands within the Ottawa River and Mattawa River watersheds in Ontario – rights and title which have never been surrendered. The Algonquin Nation has owned, used and occupied the Algonquin Territory since long before the first European contact. That occupation – historically recognized by the Crown – gives rise both in common law and Algonquin law to ownership in the form of aboriginal title, as well as particular aboriginal rights. It also gives rise to human rights as described by international law.

Algonquin petitions to the Crown on this issue date back to 1772. The current claim was formally submitted to the Government of Canada in 1983 and the Government of Ontario in 1985 by the Algonquins of Pikwàkanagàn (“Pikwàkanagàn”) (known at the time as the Algonquins of Golden Lake). After conducting historical and legal reviews, the Province of Ontario accepted the claim for negotiations in 1991 and the Government of Canada joined the negotiations in 1992.

The Algonquins, Ontario and Canada (“the parties”) are now negotiating a settlement of this claim against the Crown which, if successful, will lead to an Algonquin Treaty. Such a treaty must assure the survival of the Algonquin people with elements that address, among other things, ownership of lands, rights and management obligations regarding natural resources (e.g., hunting, fishing, trapping and gathering rights, etc.), compensation, jurisdiction, economic opportunities, and/or other initiatives to promote the survival of Algonquin culture.

What area is included in the claim?

The Algonquin Traditional Territory in Ontario is an area of over 9 million acres (14,000 square miles) within the watersheds of the Ottawa and Mattawa Rivers. The area that is the subject of the Algonquin claim includes the National Capital Region and most of Algonquin Park.

What are the steps in the process?

The land claim negotiation is following a process which, if successful, will ultimately lead to the signing of a modern treaty with the governments of Ontario and Canada. The general steps in this process include:

1.    Organization of the Algonquins of Ontario, including identification of individual persons of Algonquin decent (whether status or non-status, on-reserve or off-reserve) and the election of Algonquin Negotiation Representatives (“ANRs”), to allow the voices of Algonquins throughout the territory to be heard at the negotiation table;

2.    Identification of local and national Algonquin issues and the setting of Algonquin objectives for the resolution of the claim;

3.    Substantive negotiations with the governments of Ontario and Canada with the goal of reaching an Agreement in Principle (“AIP”);

4.    Ratification of the AIP by: (i) the Algonquin people; (ii) the provincial government; and (iii) the federal government. This stage will result in an “Algonquin Treaty” which will define the respective rights and obligations of all three parties;

5.   A formal Treaty will then be prepared for ratification of the Algonquin people; and

6.    Implementation of the terms of the Treaty according to a plan to be mutually developed and agreed to by the parties.

Why negotiate?

The parties believe that the best way to resolve this claim is to work together to find common solutions through a productive negotiation process. The alternative might well involve lengthy and adversarial litigation, in which the final outcome would be subject to a decision of the courts.

Who will benefit from an Algonquin Treaty?

It is expected that this process will provide the foundation for cultural and economic prosperity of Algonquins of the Traditional Territory in present day Ontario, whether status, non-status, on-reserve or off-reserve.

All the people of Canada will benefit in securing an honourable and lasting treaty with the Algonquin people. In addition, since many Algonquins live in communities comprised of Algonquins and non-Algonquins alike, it is expected that non-Algonquins living within Algonquin Territory will also benefit from any resolution of this claim.

Who represents the Algonquin people in the negotiations?
How will they be involved?

The Algonquins of Ontario include: Antoine, Snimikobi (Ardoch), Bancroft, Bonnechere, Greater Golden Lake, Mattawa/North Bay, Ottawa, Pikwàkanagàn [First Nation], Shabat Obaadjiwan (Sharbot Lake) and Whitney.

Representatives of each Community of Algonquins are serving as Algonquin Negotiation Representatives (“ANRs”). Pikwàkanagàn is represented by six members of Council and its Chief. The other communities of Algonquins are each represented by an ANR who has been elected through a democratic election to serve a three year term (expiring in May 2008).  New elections will be held on [date].

The ANRs have sought and continue to seek input from people of Algonquin descent. Any formal agreements with the governments will require ratification by the Algonquin people.

What is happening in the negotiations now?

Currently the ANRs, with advice and assistance of a Technical Advisory Group (“TAG”), are preparing for substantive negotiations with the governments. Negotiations are expected to resume in earnest this year.

One aspect of the preparations for these negotiations is the preparation of an Economic Development Plan (“EDP”). The ANRs have identified certain central objectives of the EDP (and of the Algonquin people more generally), including:
 a. survival and prosperity of the Algonquin people and culture,
b. reaffirming the honour and pride of the Algonquin people; and
c. awareness among non-Algonquin people of the Algonquin culture.

The ANRs understand that in order to achieve these objectives, and for any Treaty to receive popular approval of the Algonquin people, the EDP and ultimately the Treaty will need to be designed to address at least three key elements:

1.    Internal integrity of the Algonquin Nation and Algonquin culture, which will require:

  • Programs and other efforts to promote the Algonquin culture (survival of the Algonquins); and
  • Algonquin Government sufficient to preserve our cultural integrity;

2.    External integrity of the Algonquin Nation and Algonquin culture, which will  require:

  • Real participation at both the decision-making and operational levels with respect to the management of natural resources and unpatented lands in the territory and major developmental changes to the region – this is Algonquin Territory and the Algonquin Nation needs to have real and tangible influence over its future;
  • Positive efforts to educate non-Algonquins regarding the traditional attachment of the Algonquins to the land and resources of Algonquin Territory and to improve the image of the Algonquin people / culture and the attitude of non-Algonquins towards them; and
  • Reconciliation of the relationship(s) of the Algonquins with the governments of Ontario and Canada.

3.    Economic opportunity, which will require:

  • Coordinated, integrated efforts to significantly improve the well-being of the Algonquin people in the region and to provide the mechanisms which are required for the development of economic opportunities – without economic opportunity, no culture can survive.

It is the hope and expectation of the ANRs that this process will lead to an Agreement in Principle, and ultimately a Treaty between the Algonquins of Ontario and the governments of Ontario and Canada which will ensure the survival and prosperity of the Algonquin Nation, Algonquin culture and the Algonquin people.

What’s next?

The ANRs and the TAG are working hard to prepare for the resumption of substantive negotiations this year.

It is impossible to say how long it will take, except to say that it is not going to happen overnight. It is important to take the time and care necessary to develop approaches that will work and an agreement that can be effectively implemented and stand the test of time.

If I own property in the land claim area, how will a future settlement affect me?

It remains the Algonquin objective that innocently acquired private property should not be expropriated to settle this claim and the rights of private land owners to make use of and access to their land will be protected.  Local interests and the concerns of directly affected parties will be taken into account during the negotiation process. It is intended that any privately-held land that might form part of a settlement package will be transferred only if there is both a willing seller and a willing buyer.

What will a final settlement look like?

The final settlement agreement will bring certainty and finality to the issues under negotiation in a form that satisfies all three parties. The agreement is expected to take the form of a modern-day treaty and the rights of the Algonquins under it will receive constitutional protection. It will clarify interests in lands in the region and give legal force to a lasting and comprehensive settlement of all outstanding issues.