Indigenous

Robinson-Huron Treaty First Nations demand Ottawa, Ontario stop land claim talks that impact their rights

First Nations that are part of the Robinson-Huron Treaty group demanded Tuesday that Canada and Ontario back off ongoing land claim talks with neighbouring Indigenous organizations that they say infringe on their treaty rights. 

Say they do not recognize Mé​​​​​​​tis in their territory as having any land rights

Batchewana First Nation Chief Dean Sayers speaks at a news conference in Ottawa on Tuesday. (CBC News)

First Nations that are part of the Robinson-Huron Treaty group demanded Tuesday that Canada and Ontario back off ongoing land claim talks with neighbouring Indigenous organizations that they say infringe on their treaty rights. 

Batchewana First Nation Chief Dean Sayers said talks between the two levels of government and the Algonquins of Ontario along with the Métis Nation of Ontario threaten the treaty rights of Robinson-Huron Treaty First Nations. 

"We assert our sovereignty and we cannot have Canada and Ontario negotiating with other groups that infringe on our rights in our territory," said Sayers at a news conference in Ottawa on Tuesday.

The Robinson-Huron Treaty group, known as the Robinson Huron Waawiindaamaagewin, was created in 2017 and includes 21 First Nations along the north and east shore of Lake Huron, the eastern shore of Lake Superior and Manitoulin Island.

The Robinson-Huron Treaty was signed in 1850.

Group wants talks between Indigenous neighbours

Nipissing First Nation Chief Scott McLeod said the treaty group hopes to negotiate a resolution between Indigenous groups, without government involvement.

"We are setting this table to talk about what those overlapping issues, jurisdiction would be and inviting to the table to find a resolution," said McLeod. 

"We feel strongly that those areas of talks and negotiations belong between Indigenous groups and not the foreign settling government."

Nipissing First Nation Chief Scott McLeod. (Erik White/CBC)

Federal Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett's office said in a statement that it was working on a "renewed relationship" that respected and affirmed Indigenous rights in the Constitution.

"We are working with Indigenous governments to resolve historical wrongs and develop ways to advance reconciliation," said the statement.

Ontario's Indigenous Affairs Minister Greg Rickford's office said it encouraged neighbouring Indigenous communities to deal with overlap issues between themselves. 

"Ontario is committed to meeting its duty to consult with Indigenous communities whose Aboriginal or Treaty rights may be adversely affected by the proposed settlement with the Algonquins of Ontario," said the statement. 

"Consultations with those communities are ongoing."

The Algonquins of Ontario (AOO) are in negotiations with the federal government and Ontario government over a land claim that covers about 36,000 square kilometres and includes the Ottawa region along with an area stretching from North Bay to Kingston.

The AOO includes only one First Nation — Algonquins of Pikwakanagan — recognized by the Indian Act plus nine additional communities legitimized specifically for the land claim. 

Kirby Whiteduck, chief of the Algonquins of Pikwakanagan, said overlaps are common in land claim talks. (CBC)

Algonquins of Pikwakanagan Chief Kirby Whiteduck said he spoke with Sayers on Tuesday morning about the issue, but he didn't know they were going to have a news conference about it. 

"I am going to have call them back and see what their interpretation of our meeting was," said Whiteduck.

"I'll talk to them I guess and I'll find out what their approach is going to be after this."

Whiteduck said there are usually overlap issues with any land claim. 

"There is some question about overlap," said Whiteduck.

"It's just a matter of what the extent is."

Group does not recognize Métis land rights

Sayers also said the federal government should not negotiate with the Métis in Ontario over lands covered by the Robinson-Huron Treaty. 

He said the treaty group "does not recognize Métis in the [Robinson-Huron Treaty] territory as having any land rights."

The Métis Nation of Ontario signed a memorandum of understanding in 2017 with Ottawa and Ontario to begin negotiations over self-government and lands.

The Métis Nation of Ontario did not respond to a request for comment as of publishing time.

The Robinson-Huron First Nations won a landmark case in December 2018 over the treaty annuities that were part of the deal. 

Ontario Justice Patricia Hennessy ruled the annuities described in the treaties — which hadn't been raised from $4 since 1874 — were meant as a mechanism to share the wealth from the treaty territory's resources and should have grown with time.

The federal government has said it wants to negotiate a settlement to the outstanding owed annuities, while Ontario filed an appeal while also being open to negotiations. 

Sayers said that while there had been some preliminary talks, Ottawa and Ontario had yet to engage in meaningful negotiations.