Next decade could see key decisions in Robinson-Huron Treaty case
First Nations now awaiting court decision to determine amount of compensation owing
Ontario First Nations under the Robinson-Huron Treaty of 1850 are awaiting the next phase of a court case that could have a major impact on the economies of dozens of First Nations and neighbouring communities into the next decade.
The 21 First Nations are seeking to raise a $4-per-year annuity, a number that hasn't increased since 1874, despite the revenues generated by the territories through industries like mining and forestry.
They took both governments to court, and in 2018 a judge ruled that the annuity was not a one-time transaction, but represented an ongoing relationship between First Nations and the federal and provincial governments.
Mike Restoule, chair of the Robinson-Huron Treaty Litigation Fund, said in the treaty, the original annuity was to be 600 pounds of provincial Crown currency, starting in 1850.
"I've always said that our First Nations have subsidized Canada and Ontario since the 1800s and even before," Restoule said. "Our territories have given a lot of revenue to Canada and Ontario over those years and we never had our fair share."
"So it's time for us to get our fair share of the revenue so that our communities would not have to live in poverty the way they do today."
The next step in the case, Restoule said, is for the courts to determine the amount of compensation owing.
"If we are successful at negotiating a fair annuity it will bring revenue into the First Nations, and that revenue will be spent in the territory," Restoule said.
"We're not going to be going to the moon to spend this money. We'll be spending it in our territories and it'll generate a better economy, especially for our people."
With files from Waubgeshig Rice