Group seeks to halt Algonquin Land Claims Process before it starts up again by Jeff Green
group calling itself The Algonquin National Advisory Committee (TANAC)
has provided notice of their intention to proceed with a class action
suit against everyone involved in the Algonquin Land Claims process.
Michael Swinwood, a lawyer from Almonte, has served notice of the
pending suit to the Province of Ontario, the Government of Canada, the
Council of the Pikwakanagan Reserve (Golden Lake), and two entities
which have sprung up to provide representation to non-status Algonquins
suit is coming about as Algonquin Land Claims Chief Negotiator Robert
Potts is in the midst of calling elections for Algonquin National
Representatives, individuals who are to be elected by people of
demonstrable Algonquin descent and have chosen to affiliate themselves
with one of seven communities within the Ottawa Valley in Ontario.
off reserve, so-called non-status Algonquin Communities are to sit at
the negotiating table along with the Chief and Council of the
Pikwakanagan reserve, which is located at Golden Lake. Pikwakanagan is
the only reserve within the Land Claim territory.
Algonquin National Advisory Committee held a meeting last weekend in
Sharbot Lake. About 50 people attended, from various parts of the
Algonquin territory, with a concentration coming from the Sharbot Lake
vicinity. The Algonquin Drum from Pikwakanagan was in attendance, and
Michael Swinwood addressed the meeting. He explained the perspective
from which the class action suit he is propagating for the Algonquin
Nation is coming from.
Nation is sovereign,” he said, “there has never been a treaty signed
ceding Algonquin lands to the Crown. The Land Claims should be
conducted on a nation-to-nation basis between the Algonquin Nation and
the Government of Canada.”
argued that the Province of Ontario needs to be at the table only
because they have had mineral rights granted to them from the
government of Canada, but that Ontario cannot be a principal to the
negotiations. He also said that cutting Ontario and Quebec Algonquins
off from each other was part of the “divide and conquer strategy that
has been perpetrated on Aboriginal peoples throughout North America.”
are nine Algonquin Reserves on the Quebec side of the Ottawa River, and
there has been no Land Claims Process initiated for Quebec Algonquins.
Swinwood also noted that, according to a Royal Proclamation in 1763,
“Aboriginal peoples are not to be disturbed and that their territory is
not to be taken from them.” Further, he stated that “Section 25 of the
Canadian Constitution Act of 1982 states that the Royal Proclamation of
1763 is a living document in terms of aboriginals.”
Lavalley, who comes from the Algonquin Park region, chaired the
meeting. He said he didn’t want to engage in name calling, but that
there are serious problems which make the entire Land Claims Process
untenable. “For one thing, the way it is set up, the people that have
been engaged in the process from the Algonquin side are being paid by
the government, from the proceeds of whatever settlement they come up
with, to carry on the negotiations. How can you negotiate if you are
being paid by the other side?” he asked.
made reference to two bodies that have been developed among non-reserve
Algonquins: the Algonquin National Negotiating Directorate (a not-for-
profit corporation) and the political body called the Algonquin
National Tribal Council. Under the rubric of these institutions,
offices have been set up in communities throughout the region,
including two in Sharbot Lake. The election process that Robert Potts
has set up is an attempt to move on from some of the internal problems
of these two previous bodies and focus directly on the Land Claims
The negotiations, which
were initiated in 1991, are officially frozen from the perspective of
the Ontario and Canadian governments, pending the development of a
negotiating team to represent the Algonquin side. Robert Potts is
hoping the Algonquin National Representatives will be in place in time
to resume negotiations later this year.
Potts has said that the fact that both the Provincial and Federal
Governments are prepared to negotiate makes this an historic
opportunity for Algonquins, one that may not come again.
perspective is countered by some, including Lynn Gehl, who wrote in a
recent issue of the Anishnabek News, “It is my contention that the
Algonquin need not sell their land and need not fear that this is our
‘last chance’, as others threaten. What the Algonquin need is to demand
the time to repair the present fractured and unorganised Algonquin
Nation. It took the coloniser well over 300 years to create this
position of weakness and it will take us longer than 10 years to repair
At their meeting in
Sharbot Lake, TANAC formed a committee which is devoted to contacting
as many Algonquins as possible, on both sides of the border, to inform
them of their perspective, to ask them to withdraw their support from
the Land Claims Process and put their names behind Michael Swinwood’s
class action suit.
admits the class action suit aims high. It claims all government land
within the Ottawa Valley, which includes the Parliament Buildings in
Ottawa, and asks for $13 billion in damages.