| Aug 20, 2009

Back to HomeFeature Article - August 20, 2009 Landclaim: Agreement in principle just two years away, once againby Jeff Green

Detail of Algonquins of Ontario Landclaim map as it applies to Frotnenac County.The grey boundary indicates the southern border of the claim. The map includes the following rider, "This map is  illustrative, and includes the Ontario landclaim area of the Algonquins of Ontariowith, the pre-contact are of the Algonquins fo Ontario and  additional areas with land uses consistent with present day Algonquin interests." Click map for full PDF version ( 1.09 Mb).

An Agreement in Principle between the “Algonquins of Ontario” and the federal and provincial governments is two years away, according to a framework agreement that has been reached.

Details of negotiations towards an Agreement in Principle (AIP) are confidential, but at a meeting of the municipal advisory and external advisors committees in Pembroke, certain basic details were revealed.

The advisory committees, which had not met for two years, include representatives from municipalities and interest groups.

North Frontenac Mayor Ron Maguire attended the meeting on behalf of Frontenac County, along with Joe Gallivan from county staff.

“The first thing that Robin Aikin, the federal negotiator, said was rather disheartening. He said we were ‘back to square one’ after 19 years of negotiations. But then he talked about a commitment to an Agreement in Principle within two years. But you’ve heard that from me before,” Maguire said, in reporting on the meeting to Frontenac County Council.

In addition to a framework agreement, the parties also signed an interim consultation agreement, which is designed not only to avoid disputes while the AIP is being negotiated, but also to encourage economic development within the land claim territory in the short term.

Although the advisory committee meetings are not open to the public, Maguire said it was decided at the most recent meeting that the information that surfaced at the meeting was not to be privileged, and he felt he could discuss it publicly

As such, Maguire revealed that one of the results of the land claim would likely be that the Pikwakanagan First Nation would no longer be a reserve under the Indian Act, but would have a new status, and that the land claim would likely result in relatively small pockets of Crown land being transferred to Algonquin communities; also, that it would not be a “cash rich” agreement, but would focus on economic development and the advancement of the local communities that are party to the claims process.

Two of those communities are the Shabot Obaadjiwan (Sharbot Lake) and the Snimikobe, whose negotiator Randy Malcolm lives in Eganville, but whose nominal territory coincides with that of the Ardoch Algonquin First Nation. The Ardoch Algonquin First Nation is not a party to the negotiation process, nor, it would seem, to the consultation process that has been developed.

There are other Algonquin First Nations that have, for a variety of reasons, either refused or left the negotiation table, and it is unclear whether the framework agreement or the consultation agreement includes them.

A website, Tanakiwin.ca, has been developed by the Algonquins of Ontario, and a sister site, TheAlgonquinway.ca has also been developed “to promote the restoration of Algonquin cultural traditions”.

While the Algonquin Land Claim does not include any reference to self government, a new office, the Algonquin Consultation Office (ACO) in Pembroke, includes the following goal in its terms of reference: “ACO will provide support to the Algonquins in the land selection process and in building land management capacity before a final treaty is concluded. The ACO will report to the Algonquin Negotiation Representatives (ANRs) and will make recommendations for consideration by the ANRs on issues relating to both consultation and land selection.”

A model of Algonquin governance that is being developed by the Algonquins of Ontario includes a nation government with a direct relationship to community governments.

Another new wrinkle to the current negotiations, which is of particular interest to the Township of South Frontenac, is that the boundaries of the Algonquin Land Claim that is posted on the Algonquins of Ontario’s website includes more territory than in the land claim map found on the Province of Ontario’s Algonquin Land Claim website. The Algonquins of Ontario’s map includes territory south of the Rideau watershed, in the Cataraqui watershed. These lands include the villages of Verona, Harrowsmith, Tamworth and Sydenham, as well as Frontenac Provincial Park.

While the new map includes a line, called “alternate barrier line”, it represents an expansion of lands that are considered of interest to Algonquins into the Quinte and Cataraqui watersheds, beyond the watersheds that drain into the Ottawa River, which have been the basis of negotiations since the land claim process began in 1990.

The Algonquins of Ontario acknowledge that this expansion of territory has not been agreed to by the governments of Ontario and Canada or by neighbouring First Nations. The consultation agreement includes provisions for overlap agreements with the Chippewa and Mohawk First Nations, who also have interests in these terrritories.

While there are implications to this expansion of claim territory, the interests of private land holders, as in all of the Algonquin territories, are not threatened by the land claim, which by agreement is limited to unpatented or Crown lands.

Still, municpal officials are concerned that the setlement of the land claim may add another layer to land use planning processes.

(Note: the information that is available publicly about the Algonquin Land Claim does include discussions of issues that led the Algonquins to walk away from the land claims table in 2001, particularly the divisions between communities and individuals over who will be eligible to share in the benefits from the process, and how to deal with the communities, such as the Ardoch Algonquin First Nation and others, which have rejected the process.

The current protocol agreements do not permit anyone involved in the negotiations to reveal the content of negotiations without the consent of the other parties to the negotiations.) 

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