Algonquins Of Ontario Launch Information Campaign

Written by  Robert Potts Wednesday, 22 May 2013 20:43
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Algonquins Of Ontario Launch Information Campaign

by Jeff Green


Ever since the draft Agreement in Principle (AIP) for the Algonquin Land Claim was released at the tail end of 2012, there have been two competing streams of information coming out to the public about the land claim and the AIP.

Officials from the two governments involved, particularly the government of Ontario, have been putting a positive spin on the agreement, while a coalition of groups including the Federation of Ontario Cottage Associations (FOCA), and the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters (OFAH) have been critical of the agreement, pointing out a number of grey areas that are open to varying interpretations.

Among the harshest of the criticisms is that the consultations with outside groups prior to the release of the AIP seem to have had no impact on the document that was released in December of 2012.

At public events organized by FOCA/OFAH the organizers took pains to point out that the concerns they have are directed towards the governments involved and not the Algonquins. However, at meetings organized by both the Government of Ontario and the FOCA/OFAH coalition, a number of the speakers have made highly critical, sometimes inflammatory remarks about members of the Algonquin community.

In recent weeks, municipal politicians in the territory have begun to meet and they have voiced their own concerns, mainly about the land dispensations that are included in the AIP within their jurisdictions.

As all of this has been going on, the First Nation at the centre of what has become a growing storm of dissent, has not spoken out as a group.

The Algonquins of Ontario are (AOO) made up of the Council of the Pikwakanagan First Nation and Algonquin Negotiation Representatives (ANRs) from 9 off-reserve (and non-status in relation to the Indian Act of Canada) Algonquin communities within the land claim territory. Among these communities are the Snimikobe and Shabot Obaadjiwan in our vicinity.

They have launched their own information campaign this month, which includes a series of articles (the first of which is reprinted below) as well as three meetings with politicians to be held over the next two weeks.


The Algonquin Land Claim – A Journey Of Reconciliation

by Robert Potts, principal negotiator and senior legal counsel for the Algonquins of Ontario

The Algonquins of Ontario (AOO) have reached a historic point on our journey of survival, rebuilding and self-sufficiency – a journey of reconciliation – and one that includes reaching out and building relationships with our neighbours within our traditional territory. This journey began nearly 250 years ago when the first Algonquin Petition was submitted to the Crown in 1772.

The Algonquins of Ontario claim includes an area of nine million acres within the watersheds of the Kichisippi (Ottawa River) and the Mattawa River in Ontario. Unlike most other First Nations, the AOO have never had a land surrender treaty with the Crown. There are currently more than 1.2 million people living and working within this unceded territory that covers most of Eastern Ontario, including the nation’s capital. There are also 85 municipal jurisdictions fully or partially located within the settlement area, including 76 lower and single tier municipalities and nine upper tier counties.

Algonquins have lived in present-day Ontario for thousands of years before Europeans arrived. Today, the AOO are comprised of ten Algonquin communities. These include the Algonquins of Pikwàkanagàn First Nation and the Algonquin communities of Antoine, Kijicho Manito Madaouskarini (Bancroft), Bonnechere, Greater Golden Lake, Mattawa/North Bay, Ottawa, Shabot Obaadjiwan (Sharbot Lake), Snimikobi (Ardoch) and Whitney and Area.

The ten communities are represented by 16 Algonquin Negotiation Representatives (ANRs) who are elected by Algonquin Voters for three-year terms. The ANRs include the chief and council of the Algonquins of Pikwàkanagàn First Nation and one representative from each of the nine other Algonquin communities.

Based on a protocol signed in 2004, these communities are working together to provide a unified approach to reach a settlement of the Algonquin land claim.

On December 13, 2012, the Preliminary Draft Agreement-in-Principle (AIP) was released.  The Preliminary Draft AIP is a culmination of many years of negotiations between the AOO, Canada and Ontario.  Our negotiations, beginning in 1991, continue to build on the determined efforts of the Algonquin people to be heard. It has been a long journey and it is far from over.

Elements of the Preliminary Draft AIP serve as key building blocks to: 1) reaffirm the honour and pride of the Algonquin people; 2) ensure the survival and prosperity of the Algonquin people and culture; 3) raise awareness and understanding about Algonquin history and culture; 4) stimulate cultural and economic development opportunities; and 5) achieve reconciliation of the relationships between the AOO and the Governments of Canada and Ontario.

As we continue our journey, the Algonquins of Ontario are united in our commitment to achieving a just and equitable settlement of this claim. We look forward to working together as neighbours in the spirit of reconciliation.

This column is the first in a biweekly series providing insights into Algonquin history, the foundation for the land claim, elements of the Preliminary Draft AIP and next steps in the journey. The next column will focus on the transfer of funds and the land component of the Preliminary Draft AIP. For more information visit www.tanakiwin.com.


Capital Transfer And Lands

by Robert Potts, principal negotiator and senior legal counsel for the Algonquins of Ontario

As the Algonquins of Ontario (AOO) continue to work toward a modern day treaty, they look forward to a bright future of self-sufficiency, economic stability, and opportunities for current and future generations.

Key elements of the current Preliminary Draft Agreement-in-Principle (AIP), released on December 13, 2012 by the AOO, Ontario and Canada, include a capital transfer and land component. These elements are essential to build a long-term sustainable future for the Algonquin people, and respond to present day social, cultural and economic needs.

The Preliminary Draft AIP states that Canada and Ontario will transfer $300 million to one or more Algonquin Institutions, which will be Trusts established for the benefit of the Algonquin beneficiaries. These funds will be transferred in three payments over a two-year period starting on the Effective Date of the Final Agreement.

Income generated from the capital transfer will make a real and positive difference in the cultural and societal fabric of the Algonquin people by removing barriers for the creation of economic opportunities and social support programs. These funds will also lay a foundation for a rewarding and vibrant future for Algonquin youth by increasing employment opportunities and access to education and training.

The Algonquin Institutions that will receive, manage and invest this capital will be transparent and accountable to all Algonquin beneficiaries. The AOO will develop the governance structure, mandates and powers of these Institutions to ensure the most effective protection of all beneficiaries’ interests.

Land has been critical to the way of life for the Algonquins and will play an important role in the cultural recognition and future economic sustainability of the AOO. The Preliminary Draft AIP establishes that Ontario will transfer not less than 117,500 acres of Provincial Crown Land to one or more Algonquin Institutions. This lands package consists of more than 200 parcels of land ranging in size from a few acres to more than 30,000 acres.

The AOO’s proposed land selections were each chosen for the following purposes:

(a) Historical/Spiritual

(b) Community Recreation and Environmental Protection

(c) Economic Development, Resources, Tourist Commercial

(d) Future Institutional, Residential, Industrial Development

The Provincial Crown Land in the Settlement Area is 3.3 million acres. Nearly 2 million acres constitutes Provincial Parks, including Algonquin Park (1.8 million acres), where the AOO will have extensive management planning input. This leaves approximately 1.3 million acres of Provincial Crown Land to be considered for AOO land selections. The proposed lands package comprises approximately 4% of the Provincial Crown Land in the land claim Settlement Area.

Through the transfer of this land, existing access to cottages, private properties, or navigable waterways will not be lost or compromised, and no new First Nation reserves will be created.

A Treaty will provide economic development opportunities that will not only benefit the AOO, but will also provide a tremendous benefit to our neighbours living within Eastern Ontario.

This column is the second in a series providing insights into Algonquin history, the foundation for the land claim, elements of the Preliminary Draft AIP and next steps in the journey. The next column will focus on the Parks and Protected Areas component of the Preliminary Draft AIP. For more information visit www.tanakiwin.com.


Parks And Protected Areas

by Robert Potts, principal negotiator and senior legal counsel for the Algonquins of Ontario

The Algonquins of Ontario (AOO) have long held a way of life deeply rooted in conservation and ecological integrity. Environmental stewardship of land and resources has been an integral practice of the Algonquins since time immemorial.

With the release of the Preliminary Draft Agreement-in-Principle (AIP) in December 2012, the AOO once again reaffirmed their desire to work with their partners and neighbours to ensure that ecological integrity is the first priority in the management of Protected Areas, specifically Provincial Parks and Conservation Reserves in the Settlement Area. The Preliminary Draft AIP proposes a number of elements to be reflected in a Final Agreement, some of which are highlighted below.

Participation in Protected Area Management Planning - The Final Agreement will provide that Ontario will appoint at least one person nominated by the AOO to the Ontario Parks Board of Directors. This representation will ensure that the voice of the AOO is heard, and that lessons and practices learned from years of sound management and living in harmony with the land and resources are shared. Should other boards be established related to Protected Areas in the Settlement Area, the AOO will also have representation.

The Preliminary Draft AIP also proposes that the Final Agreement will set out three levels of Algonquin engagement in Protected Area management planning:

Level 1: The AOO will review and comment on Protected Area Management Plans and Management Statements prepared by Ontario.

Level 2: The AOO, as members on the Protected Area planning teams, will participate in the development and amendment of Management Plans and Management Statements.

Level 3: In Algonquin Provincial Park and 15 other identified provincial parks, the AOO and the Protected Area Manager will work through an Algonquin Planning Committee to jointly develop, amend and examine Management Plans, Management Statements, Secondary Plans, Natural Heritage Education Programs and any other strategic plans for Protected Areas.

Access to Protected Areas - The Final Agreement will also deal with access roads, trails, use of motorized vehicles and other access issues in Protected Areas through Protected Area Management Planning processes that consider the maintenance of ecological integrity as well as the Algonquin interest in access to Protected Areas for harvesting.

The AOO will work with Ontario Parks and the Algonquin Forestry Authority to develop Forest Management Plans that deal with the construction and decommissioning of forestry roads and water crossings in Algonquin Provincial Park.

Cultural Recognition in Protected Areas - Leading up to a Final Agreement, the AOO and Ontario will work together to explore the development of a signature project such as a cultural centre, museum or other tourist destination in Algonquin Provincial Park or in another Protected Area, subject to the appropriate feasibility studies. Such a project will recognize the interrelations of the land and the Algonquin way of life, while celebrating Algonquin culture.

Fundamental to this Chapter of the Preliminary Draft AIP is the continued sharing of long-standing and effective conservation and management practices by the AOO with their partners. The AOO are committed to ensuring the vitality and future prosperity of all provincial parks and conservation reserves within the Settlement Area, for the continued use of the AOO and our neighbours.

This column is the third in a series providing insights into Algonquin history, the foundation for the land claim, elements of the Preliminary Draft AIP and next steps in the journey. The next column will focus on the existing harvest management practices of the Algonquins of Ontario. For more information visit www.tanakiwin.com.


Harvesting And Conservation

by Robert Potts, principal negotiator and senior legal counsel for the Algonquins of Ontario

Since time immemorial, harvesting has been central to the Algonquin way of life. The Algonquin traditional practices of hunting, trapping, fishing and gathering flora for medicinal, food and other purposes, reflect the history of Algonquins as a hunting and gathering society. These practices embody an inherent respect for the environment and a fundamental commitment to the sustainable management of resources which has been passed from generation to generation.

The right of Aboriginal peoples in Canada to engage in traditional activities that are fundamental to their unique histories, cultures and spiritual beliefs is recognized by the Constitution Act, 1982 and upheld by the Supreme Court of Canada. Under this legal framework, the Algonquins of Ontario (AOO) currently possess the right to harvest wildlife, fish, migratory birds and plants for domestic purposes 365 days per year. This right is subject only to measures necessary for conservation and public health and safety. As such, a Final Treaty will not create Aboriginal rights for the AOO but rather, it will clearly articulate what these rights are and how they may be exercised.

As stewards of the land and resources within their Traditional Territory, the AOO recognize the fundamental importance of protecting viable populations of flora and fauna for generations to come. Since 1991, the AOO have pioneered ground-breaking harvest management plans for moose in Algonquin Park and Wildlife Management Units surrounding the park. These plans contain clear provisions which set out when and where the harvest by Algonquin harvesters can occur, what the total harvest is to be and who is eligible to participate through a tag system.

Harvest limits for moose and elk are established in cooperation with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR), based on data that addresses wildlife conservation and the sustainability of wildlife populations. The AOO is the first Aboriginal group in Canada that has voluntarily enacted these types of harvest management practices.

Over the last decade the AOO, working in partnership with the MNR have become important players in moose aerial inventory surveys in Algonquin Park. This involvement expanded to elk aerial inventories beginning in early 2012. The AOO continue to work with the MNR to develop a coordinated approach to enable the effective participation of the Algonquins in the collection of data relating to fish and other wildlife across the Territory. To date, the data collected for both moose and elk have assisted in the development of the AOO annual harvest management plans.

The AOO recognize that sustainable harvests are fundamental not only to the Algonquin way of life but also to our neighbours living throughout our Traditional Territory. As demonstrated over the past 20 years, the AOO are committed to working together to ensure the protection of viable populations of fish and wildlife for future generations.

This column is the fourth in a series providing insights into Algonquin history, the foundation for the land claim, elements of the Preliminary Draft AIP and next steps in the journey. For more information visit www.tanakiwin.com.


Forestry

by Robert Potts, principal negotiator and senior legal counsel for the Algonquins of Ontario

Forested areas have been integral to the Algonquin way of life since time immemorial. The proposed Forestry Chapter of the Preliminary Draft Agreement-in-Principle (AIP) recognizes the importance of the forest industry in the Algonquin Settlement Area to both the Algonquins of Ontario (AOO) and their neighbours.

The cornerstone of this Chapter is the commitment by the AOO and Ontario to work cooperatively to maintain support for the existing forest industry, while increasing Algonquin participation in, and benefits from the forestry sector. This commitment reflects the importance of forestry to the culture, economic stability and prosperity of the AOO.

Through several proposed initiatives and collaborative partnerships, the Preliminary Draft AIP carves out more meaningful participation for the AOO within the forest industry. A number of proposed elements to be reflected in a Final Agreement are highlighted below.

Economic Development and Training Opportunities

Key to the Forestry Chapter is the development of economic opportunities and supporting measures to increase Algonquin employment and participation in the forest industry throughout the Settlement Area, including in Algonquin Park. These initiatives include:

  • notifying the AOO of government contracts and job opportunities related to forestry in Algonquin Park

  • encouraging potential Algonquin employment, training and contract opportunities with Sustainable Forest License (SFL) holders

  • the consideration of the potential for Algonquin benefits as a relevant factor when Ontario is evaluating tender bids or other government contracting procedures

  • the provision of training opportunities by Ontario and the Algonquin Forestry Authority for the AOO in the forestry industry in Algonquin Park, including silviculture

Forestry Management and Planning

A Final Agreement will also set out the nature and scope of Algonquin participation in forestry management and planning, including representation on planning teams, both inside and outside of Algonquin Park. In addition, Ontario will appoint at a minimum one person nominated by the AOO to the Board of Directors of the Algonquin Forestry Authority for Algonquin Park.

Ontario continues its commitment to consultation with the AOO on any new forestry policy initiatives within the Settlement Area, including the forestry tenure and pricing review.

Moving Forward

The AOO, Ontario and representatives for SFLs located within the Algonquin Settlement Area have already begun working together to address forestry matters related to the Algonquin treaty negotiations as well as to collaboratively develop economic opportunities to enhance the competitiveness of the region.

As we move forward towards a historic modern-day treaty, the AOO are committed to working in partnership with Ontario and our neighbours to foster a sustainable forestry industry built on a foundation of economic prosperity, conservation and stewardship.

This column is the fifth in a series providing insights into Algonquin history, the foundation for the land claim, elements of the Preliminary Draft AIP and next steps in the journey. The next column will focus on the Heritage and Culture component of the Preliminary Draft AIP. For more information visit www.tanakiwin.com.


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