'A truly historic agreement': province and northern Ontario First Nations to share resource revenues

The agreements, made with First Nations represented by Grand Council Treaty #3, Wabun Tribal Council and Mushkegowuk Council, will see Ontario share 45 per cent of annual revenue from forestry stumpage with the First Nations. It will also share a percentage of annual mining tax and royalties.

Ontario will split revenues from forestry and mining with First Nations represented by three councils

Judy Maunuala, who uses her Ojibway name Whitecloud, in her leadership role as chief of Lac Des Mille Lacs First Nation says the resource revenue sharing agreement with Ontario is truly historic. (Lac Des Mille Lacs First Nation)

The provincial government announced Thursday that it's signed a series of resource revenue sharing agreements that will see money from mining and forestry operations in northern Ontario flow to First Nations partners in the territories where those activities take place. 

The agreements, made with First Nations represented by Grand Council Treaty #3, Wabun Tribal Council and Mushkegowuk Council, will see Ontario share 45 per cent of annual revenue from forestry stumpage with the First Nations.

It will also share 40 per cent of the annual mining tax and royalties from mines active at the time the agreements were signed and 45 per cent from future mines in the territories covered by the agreements. 
New Gold's Rainy River Project is located in Treaty #3 territory. Under a new agreement with the Ontario government, Treaty #3 First Nations will now receive a share of mining taxes and royalties from resource operations taking place in their territories. (http://www.newgold.com)

"It's awesome.  It's truly a historic agreement," said Judy Maunula, who uses her Ojibway name, Whitecloud in her role as Chief of Lac de Mille Lacs First Nation.

It's one of 28 First Nations that are part of Grand Council Treaty #3 in an area from west of Thunder Bay to north of Sioux Lookout, and along the international border, through to Manitoba.

"It actually operationalizes what is known as M.A.I or the Great Earth Law," Chief Whitecloud said. "It's the traditional and spiritual law of Treaty #3 and basically it speaks to sharing the natural resources, sharing what the creator has given us with our brothers and sisters and our relations and our friends within Treaty #3."  

The agreement also helps to reset the nation to nation relationship between Canada and First Nations, she said. 

The accords follow eight to nine months of "intense negotiations," said Jason Gauthier, chief of Missanabie Cree and lead negotiator for Mushkegowuk Council.  

"We didn't talk about what those numbers were going to be and how they were going to be shared right off the bat. We talked about principles of sharing," he said.  "This whole process wasn't necessarily strictly about the monetary gain. I think that's really important, but I don't think reconciliation is something that's finite; I think it's a process in which we keep taking steps in the right direction, and I think we've taken a couple of good steps."

Ontario brought in approximately $57 million dollars from mining taxes and royalties during the 2016-2017 fiscal year, according to data from the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines. 
Northern Development and Mines Minister Michael Gravelle said Thursday's agreements could provide a framework for similar accords with other First Nations. (Jeff Walters/CBC)

17 of 38 mines in areas covered by agreements

Seventeen of the 38 mines currently operating in Ontario are in regions covered by the revenue sharing agreements. 

The share of the money that will come from those operations will make a "heck of a lot" of difference to the seven communities that are part of the Mushkegowuk Council, Grand Chief Jonathan Solomon said.

The communities still need to work out how the money will be distributed, he added.

Treaty #3 communities have agreed to share the revenues equally, regardless of how close or distant they are from resource operations, Chief Whitecloud told CBC.

"That speaks volumes about that unity that's within Treaty #3," she said. 

The agreements don't currently anticipate a role for First Nations in setting mining royalty or stumpage rates, according to Minister of Northern Development and Mines Michael Gravelle.  However, Whitecloud said she'd like to think such discussions might be possible in the future, and she believes "the door has been opened." 

Thursday's accords provide a framework for similar agreements with other First Nations, Gravelle said, adding, "We certainly look forward to continuing these discussions with other tribal councils and other First Nations organizations."