What is this process all about?
The Algonquins of Ontario (Algonquins) assert Aboriginal rights and title to lands within the Ottawa River watershed in Ontario. They assert that they never gave up their rights through a treaty or sold or lost their territory through war.
This claim is linked to a series of petitions to the Crown dating back to 1772. It was formally submitted to the Government of Canada in 1983 and the Government of Ontario in 1985 by the Algonquins of Golden Lake (now known as the Algonquins of Pikwàkanagàn [Pikwàkanagàn]). After conducting historical and legal reviews, the Province of Ontario accepted the claim for negotiations in 1991 and the Government of Canada joined the negotiations the following year.
The Algonquins, Ontario and Canada ("the parties") are negotiating a settlement of this claim against the Crown. A settlement agreement could contain elements that address: ownership of lands and natural resources; hunting, fishing, trapping and gathering rights; money and economic opportunities; provisions to promote Algonquin culture; and other topics as agreed by the parties. If the agreement is ratified, it will be a modern-day treaty and the rights of the Algonquins under it will receive constitutional protection.
The parties believe that the best way to resolve this claim is to work together to find common solutions through a productive negotiation process. The alternative might well involve lengthy and adversarial litigation, in which the final outcome would be subject to a decision of the courts.
Who represents the Algonquin people in the negotiations?
How will they be involved? The Algonquins of Ontario include Pikwàkanagàn and nine communities in the Ottawa River watershed: Ardoch, Antoine, Bancroft, Bonnechere, Greater Golden Lake, Mattawa/North Bay, Ottawa, Sharbot Lake and Whitney. The off-reserve communities held democratic elections to select Algonquin Negotiation Representatives (ANRs). The Chief and Council of Pikwàkanagàn are also ANRs on the Algonquin negotiating team.
The ANRs are negotiating as duly authorized representatives on behalf of the Algonquin communities; they will be seeking ongoing advice from their communities in order to ensure that the final agreement will be acceptable to them. No settlement can be completed without the approval of the Algonquins as a whole by means of a ratification vote.
What is happening in the negotiations?
Responding to a formal request from all the elected ANRs, both Canada and Ontario agreed to recommence formal negotiations in January 2006. At this time, the Algonquins and the two governments are working toward an Agreement In Principle (AIP). An AIP is a non-legal document that sets out all the basic components of a final settlement. Once the AIP has been approved by all three parties, the next step would be to develop the legal text of a final settlement agreement. The final settlement would have to be formally ratified by all three parties. The Algonquin ratification will take the form of a vote. If approved by all three parties, provincial and federal legislation would then be drafted and passed in order to make the agreement legally binding.
What area is included in the claim?
The Algonquin claim covers an area of 8.9 million acres (14,000 square miles), within the watersheds of the Ottawa and the Mattawa Rivers in Ontario. The area that is the subject of the Algonquin claim includes most of Algonquin Park as well as CFB Petawawa and the National Capital Region.
If I own property on the claim land, how will a future settlement affect me?
It remains the position of all three parties to the negotiation that private property will not be expropriated to settle this claim and the rights of private land owners to make use of and access their land will be protected. Local interests and the concerns of directly affected parties will be taken into account during the negotiation process. Any privately held land that might form part of a settlement package will be transferred only if there is both a willing seller and a willing buyer.
What will a final settlement look like?
The final settlement agreement will bring certainty and finality to the issues under negotiation in a form that satisfies all three parties. The agreement is expected to take the form of a modern-day treaty and the rights of the Algonquins under it will receive constitutional protection. It will clarify interests in lands in the region and give legal force to a lasting and comprehensive settlement of all outstanding issues.
How long will it take to negotiate a final settlement?
It is impossible to say how long it will take, except to say that it is not going to happen overnight. It is important to take the time and care necessary to develop approaches that will work and an agreement that can be effectively implemented and stand the test of time.