The Government of Canada, the Government of Ontario and the Algonquins of Ontario celebrated a major milestone in their journey toward reconciliation and renewed relationships on October 18 by signing a historic Agreement-in-Principle (AIP). This is a key step toward a modern-day treaty to resolve a longstanding land claim that covers an area of 36,000 square kilometres in eastern Ontario.
The non-binding AIP paves the way for continued negotiations toward a final agreement that will define the ongoing rights of the Algonquins of Ontario to lands and natural resources within the settlement area.
The goal is to provide clarity going forward for all who live and work in the claim territory, balance the rights and interests of all concerned and create new economic opportunities for the benefit of the Algonquins of Ontario and their neighbours.
The AIP was shaped by consultations with the ten Algonquins of Ontario communities, other Indigenous groups and the public. This important dialogue will continue during the negotiations toward a final agreement. The AIP sets out the main elements of a potential settlement, including that the Algonquins of Ontario would receive $300 million in capital funding from Canada and Ontario and approximately but not less than 117,500 acres of provincial Crown lands would be transferred to Algonquin ownership.
If the negotiators are successful in achieving a final agreement, it will need to be approved by the Algonquins of Ontario voters in a ratification vote and then by the Ontario Legislature and Parliament of Canada. No privately-owned land will be taken away from anyone to settle the claim and no one will lose access to their private property. Algonquin Park will remain a park for the enjoyment of all.
“This major step toward Ontario’s first modern treaty shows what’s possible when strong partners work together in the spirit of reconciliation. More than a million people share this land with the Algonquins of Ontario, and a modern treaty will clear a path for neighbours to become partners, bringing new economic opportunities to their communities”, says David Zimmer, Ontario Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation. The federal Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs, Carolyn Bennett, also commented on the draft agreement: “The signing of the Agreement-in-Principle is a momentous milestone and a significant step forward on renewing Canada’s relationship with the Algonquins of Ontario. We are working together to resolve one of the largest land claims in the country. Achieved in a spirit of co-operation and partnership, this landmark AIP brings us closer to the first modern-day treaty in Ontario and our shared goal to find a balanced solution that advances reconciliation for the benefit of all Canadians.”
The change of government at the federal level last year has resulted in a much more open approach by the Trudeau Government, and the relationship between First Nations and levels of government in Canada has certainly improved. The Algonquin people have been waiting more than two hundred years to get some justice for the taking of their traditional lands. In 1783, the Crown signed land deals with a number of Mississauga and Mohawk leaders which covered the lands between the Ottawa and St. Lawrence Rivers, even though this was Algonquin territory.
In the French regime, the Ottawa River was, in fact, known as the Great River of the Algonquin. Even before European arrival in this region of North America, a major trading route ran through the territory and the Algonquin were recognised as the rightful inhabitants and were paid tolls on all goods travelling up and down the Ottawa River.
The Principal Negotiator and Senior Legal Counsel, Algonquins of Ontario, Robert J. Potts, pointed to this historic grievance in welcoming the AIP: “The signing of the AIP today marks a critical step forward in a journey that began almost 250 years ago when the first Algonquin Petition was submitted to the Crown in 1772. As we move forward into the next phase of our negotiations, the Algonquins of Ontario look forward to working in cooperation with the Governments of Canada and Ontario to improve upon what we have achieved to date and build a strong and equitable modern-day treaty. We believe that together we can work towards reconciliation and securing the long delayed justice that the Algonquin people deserve.”