Algonquin land treaty still five years away
Sean Chase/Daily Observer This map shown to Renfrew County council by former county chief administrative officer Norm Lemke illustrates the extent of the Algonquin land claim (shaded in orange).
An historic treaty between the federal government, the province and the Algonquins of Ontario is in the works and could be finalized in five years, Renfrew County council heard last week.
With the ratification of an agreement-in-principal, there continues to be negotiations and consultations to form a final deal that will define the ongoing rights of the Algonquins to lands and natural resources within the settlement area. Former county chief administrative officer Norm Lemke advised council that the next big step is the preparation of the Environmental Evaluation report which must be done before any Crown lands can be transferred to the Algonquins of Ontario.
Lemke, who now acts as a municipal advisor to the land claim, explained that while people still question the need to move ahead with a treaty settlement he said a lot of work and consultation has been done to pave the way for a process that is long overdue. It was in the late 1980s that the Algonquins formally submit a land claim to Canada and Ontario, asserting that the Crown never entered into a treaty with the Algonquins.
“The governments of Canada and Ontario decided in 1991 and 1992 that this petition was appropriate for treaty negotiations and now it has to be put together,” said Lemke. “Going back to the 1700s there was a commitment to get this underway and in 250 years there hadn't been any traction until now.”
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 further consultation has been done in the form of 200 meetings with stakeholders to discuss access to private property, road maintenance, access for recreational use, land use permits, trap lines, and the protection of water and forestry. He said one of the biggest concerns in the consultation was access to private land which bordered the land claim.
Over 200 parcels have been identified throughout the land claim which covers Renfrew County as well as adjacent jurisdictions including Frontenac, Lennox and Addington and Prescott and Russell counties, and Nipissing District. Lemke added it amounts to four per cent of Crown land within the claim area. Once lands are transferred they will have a specific land zoning designation. They will also be subjected to municipal tax provisions as well as bylaws regarding building permits.
“As we go forward there will be continued consultation with the municipalities,” he said. “We appreciate the help that municipal staff and municipal elected have given the process to this point of time.”
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.