Algonquin land claim treaty still years away
Sean Chase/Daily Observer Former Renfrew County chief administrative officer Norm Lemke brings County councillors up to date on the historic Algonquin land claim negotiations more than a week after an agreement-in-principle was signed between the federal government, the province and the Algonquins of Ontario.
Although an historic agreement-in-principle has been signed between the federal government, the province and the Algonquins of Ontario, a permanent treaty could still be five years away, Renfrew County council heard Wednesday
The next round of negotiations and public consultation will kick off in the spring, former county chief administrative officer Norm Lemke told council as he briefed them on the longstanding land claim process.
During a ceremony in Ottawa on Oct. 18, the non-binding Agreement-in-Principle (AIP) set the course for continued negotiations toward a final deal that will define the ongoing rights of the Algonquins to lands and natural resources within the settlement area. The 10 communities that make up the Algonquins of Ontario (AOO) include Pikwakanagan First Nation, Antoine, Kijicho Manito Madaouskarini (Bancroft), Bonnechere, Greater Golden Lake, Mattawa/North Bay, Ottawa, Shabot Obaadjiwan (Sharbot Lake), Snimikobi (Ardoch) and Whitney and Area.
“They will have a document that will be a road map for the next few years,” said Lemke, who now acts as a municipal advisor to the land claim.
The AIP is the culmination of years of negotiations among the AOO and the governments of Canada and Ontario. This latest round of talks began in 2005. With the ratification, a significant first step has been taken towards reaching a modern-day treaty that would be protected under section 35 of the 1982 Constitution. The AIP also provides 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 AOO and their neighbours.
“It’s not a legal document but it is a guiding document,” explained Lemke. “It’s a very significant document and a significant point in the negotiations.”
The main elements of a potential settlement includes a $300 million transfer to the AOO, a transfer of 117,500 acres of Crown land to Algonquin ownership, and recommended approaches to address such things as harvesting rights such as hunting and fishing, forestry, provincial parks and protected areas, Algonquin heritage and culture and eligibility and enrolment. No privately-owned land will be taken away from property owners and no one will lose access to their private property. The provincial Crown land up for consideration includes more than 200 parcels ranging in size from a few acres to just over 30,000 acres.
In 1996, the province established two advisory committees - the Committee of External Advisors representing more than 30 different interests such as hunters and anglers, park user groups, forestry and other resource industries, and the Municipal Advisory Committee representing municipal governments throughout the land claim territory. Lemke said there has been positive feedback from the municipalities.
“The municipalities really expressed a desire to see this treaty come to fruition,” added Lemke. “It’s an initiative that is, perhaps, way past its time. There’s a long history that needs to be preserved and to come to a conclusion with a treaty.”
A final treaty will still need to be approved by the Algonquins of Ontario in a ratification vote. Legislation needs to be passed at Queen’s Park and by the Parliament of Canada.