What is this claim and 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 of Ontario have 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 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 the 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. To view the map, click here.
What are the steps in the process?
The Algonquin negotiations are following a process that, if successful, will result in a Final Agreement or Algonquin Treaty. The general steps in this process include:
- Key Historic Elements of the Land Claim – The Province of Ontario accepted the claim for negotiations in 1991 and the Government of Canada joined the negotiations in 1992. Guiding principles, agreed to by the AOO, Ontario and Canada, were set out in a Statement of Shared Objectives originally signed in 1994 and re-affirmed by the three negotiating Parties in March 2006
- Voter Enrolment – An Addendum protocol was created, establishing initial criteria for Electors, with the first election of ANRs in 2005. Following the election of the ANRs, ongoing efforts were made to further refine elector enrolment/criteria for voters. A Preliminary Voters List was posted in March 2011 and the enrolment process was reinstated in 2012. A Preliminary Voters List (Updated) was posted in May 2012.
- Negotiation of an Agreement-in-Principle – An AIP is the first step towards reaching a modern treaty. The AIP will not be a legally binding document. It will set out the basic elements of a proposed settlement. This will provide a foundation for the negotiation of a Final Agreement that will clarify and define the rights of the AOO as they relate to land and natural resources, among other matters, and the obligations of all three Parties.
- AIP Ratification – The proposed AIP will be put to a vote by the Algonquin Voters.
- Evaluation of AIP Ratification Vote – If the AIP is approved by a sufficient number of Algonquin Voters within each community, then the Governments of Ontario and Canada will be asked to approve it. Following these approvals the Parties will engage in negotiations towards a Final Agreement. If the AIP is not ratified, the Parties will have to consider the reasons for the failure and the negotiations may or may not resume.
- Treaty Negotiation and Ratification – A Final Agreement will set out the rights of the AOO. It will have to be ratified through another vote by the AOO. The Governments of Ontario and Canada will then each have to adopt settlement legislation to give the force of law to a modern day Algonquin Treaty protected under the Canadian Constitution.
- Implementation – An implementation plan will be developed and agreed to by the Parties as part of the settlement negotiations, prior to the Final Agreement. It will outline the Parties’ responsibilities to implement the terms of the Final Agreement. Settlement funds will be deposited in Trusts within the first two years following the Final Agreement. Lands will then be transferred over several years following the Final Agreement.
- Enrolment of Beneficiaries – Once ratified and given the force of law, the Algonquin Treaty will require individual Algonquins to enrol if they wish to become Beneficiaries.
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 the Algonquins of Pikwàkanagàn First Nation and the Algonquin communities of Antoine, Snimikobi (Ardoch), Kijicho Manito (Bancroft), Bonnechere, Greater Golden Lake, Mattawa/North Bay, Ottawa, Shabot Obaadjiwan (Sharbot Lake) and Whitney and Area.
The Algonquin Negotiation Team consists of the Chief and Council of the Algonquins of Pikwàkanagàn First Nation and one representative of the Algonquin communities of Antoine, Bonnechere, Greater Golden Lake, Kijicho Manito Madaouskarini, Mattawa/North Bay, Shabot Obaadjiwan, Snimikobi and Whitney & Area. These Algonquin Negotiation Representatives (ANRs) are elected for a three-year term. The most recent election was held in 2011.
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.
The next step in this process is for a proposed Agreement-in-Principle to be put forward for the consideration of Algonquin Voters. This vote is of paramount importance as it will indicate the level of support for the proposed elements of the proposed AIP and will provide direction to the Parties as to the likely success of future negotiations.
Upon a successful Algonquin ratification vote, the proposed AIP would be submitted to the Governments of Ontario and Canada for approval. Following such approval and signature by the Principal Negotiators, the Agreement-in-Principle, will form a non-binding framework for continued negotiations towards a Final Agreement.
Negotiations leading to a Final Agreement could then begin. These normally take 4 to 5 years to complete. A Final Agreement would also need to be approved by the Algonquins of Ontario through a ratification vote and by legislation passed by the Legislature of Ontario and the Parliament of Canada. All of these steps are dependent upon a successful ratification vote on the Agreement-in-Principle.
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.