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Feature Article - May 3, 2007

Ottawa Algonquin Community drops out of land claims process

by Jeff Green

Ottawa Algonquin Community drops out of land claims process

By Jeff Green

Paul Lamothe, the representative to the Algonquin Land Claims process from the Ottawa Algonquin Community, has left the negotiation table.

In a letter Lamothe sent to Algonquin Principal Negotiator Robert Potts, as well as Brian Crane and Robin Aitken, the principal provincial and federal negotiators to the land claim, Lamothe said, “Our community recommends that the negotiation process be terminated until such time as the following [12] issues are addressed.”

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Among the 12 issues mentioned by Lamothe are issues around “identifying authentic Algonquin communities”, clarification on self government, and developing a funding vehicle which “does not favour the individuals directly involved; as well, appropriate guidelines, i.e tendering processes, need to be determined and adhered to, to ensure a fair process.”

Lamothe also took aim at Bob Potts, a Toronto-based lawyer, saying “A principal negotiator needs to be retained who is familiar with the Algonquin Nation and resides in the land claim area; this individual needs to be hired collectively by all communities, and be accountable to all communities.”

In response, Bob Potts told the News that the situation arose unexpectedly when Paul Lamothe expressed anger over a matter of confidentiality at a meeting and walked out. “I had been hoping that he would be back when the meeting resumed the next day, but he wasn’t.”

Potts said once Lamothe’s letter had been received, the other negotiation representatives had no choice but to hold a by-election to replace him. “We decided we can’t leave Ottawa without a representative, so we are holding a by-election”, he said.

In the face of the by-election to replace him, Lamothe asserts that he has not “resigned as a negotiating representative, I remain the representative; I have just left the table as a protest against how the process is being managed.”

It is Lamothe’s view that his community, the Ottawa Algonquin First Nation, has left the table, and he says that this leaves five Algonquin communities that are not being represented, including the Ardoch Algonquins under co-chiefs Randy Cota and Paula Sherman, and the Kichesiperini First Nation, along with two others.

(There is an Algonquin Negotiating Representative for Ardoch, Randy Malcolm, but there was a rift among members of the Ardoch Algonquins, and those following Cota-Sherman do not recognise Randy Malcolm as their representative).

In an interview with the News, Paul Lamothe said, “It has been clear to me that Potts has been running the negotiations. He is telling us what to do and say, instead of taking direction from us.”

Bob Potts responded by saying “I don’t have a vote at the table. I bring energy and my perspective to the process, but it is the representatives that make all the decisions.”

Bob Potts also has a specific reason for wanting a negotiation representative in place for Ottawa at this time. A major housing development planned for the former Canadian Air Force base at Rockcliffe has been blocked by the land claims process. Robert Potts was quoted in the Ottawa Citizen this week, saying, “Our objective is to make sure that what happens there [in Rockcliffe] will be of some benefit to Algonquin communities.”

Potts added that the land claim negotiators had been notified years ago that “Rockcliffe was one of the sites that we were interested in”. The Algonquin negotiating team is prepared to come to an agreement over Rockcliffe on its own, without having to wait for a full agreement in principle on the land claim, which is optimistically envisioned for 2010. “Even though Rockcliffe is of interest to all Algonquins”, Potts said, “it is located in Ottawa.”

Over the next four months, the representatives to the land claims talks will be putting together a specific set of proposals, which will be presented as a package to the federal and provincial representatives in September, when full scale talks are scheduled to resume.

Although the exact picture of any proposal is not being made public, it is clear that the transfer of specific tracts of Crown land to Algonquin communities will accompany any settlement of the land claim, along with monies for economic development. Natural resources and harvesting rights are also being discussed.

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