Land, money in proposed Algonquin land claim just a start, says chief

A negotiator for the Algonquins of Ontario says the $300 million and 117,500 acres of provincial crown land in eastern Ontario set to be transferred to them is "just the beginning" as they continue negotiations leading to a final settlement.

Chief Kirby Whiteduck wants more from the largest land claim being negotiated in Ontario

Kirby Whiteduck, chief of the Algonquins of Pikwàkanagàn, says he hopes to negotiate improvements to the agreement in principle signed this week. (CBC)

A negotiator for the Algonquins of Ontario says the $300 million and 117,500 acres of provincial crown land in eastern Ontario set to be transferred to them in a proposed agreement in principle signed this week is "just the beginning" as they continue negotiations leading to a final settlement.   

The deal covers about 36,000 square kilometres stretching from Mattawa to the Quebec border, including Ottawa and Parliament Hill.

The chief of the Algonquins of Pikwàkanagàn at Golden Lake, the largest First Nation in the settlement area, said the current financial and land amounts in the proposal are "a floor, not a ceiling."

"At this point that's the financial figure on the table but we hope to improve on that — it's not the whole package," said Kirby Whiteduck.

"I think our people expect us to add to that."

Whiteduck says the Crown never extinguished the Algonquin title to the land and now, with 60 per cent of the area in the land settlement privately owned, negotiators will be looking for additional Crown land in the final agreement.

"There's more acres of land we want to own and we think we deserve more. It's our land," he said. 

Could be 5 years until it's finalized

A Toronto lawyer and senior negotiator for the Algonquins of Ontario said that moving forward, additional federal land holdings will be added to the settlement.

Robert Potts said the former CFB Rockcliffe site, where the Algonquins are partnering with the government and Tartan Homes to develop housing on the decommissioned base, is one example.

An announcement on a partnership between the Algonquins and the government on another federal commercial piece of land is coming, Potts said.

"We are incrementally adding to the packages and we're not done yet," he said.

"These joint ventures provide not only additional capital to our package but also provide us with jobs for people and expertise as we learn how to do these developments."

Potts estimates it will take another five years to negotiate a final land claim settlement deal. 

'Now starting the real negotiations'

Whiteduck says his people have waited more than 250 years for this final round of negotiations.

"We're now starting the real negotiations and this is where the rubber hits the road, or we have to dig our paddles in deeper to battle a stronger current," he said.

Modern negotiations first began 24 years ago on this, the largest land claim being negotiated in Ontario.

If the final deal is ratified by the Algonquins and passed by the federal and provincial governments, it will be the province's first modern-day, constitutionally protected treaty. 

With files from John Paul Tasker