Fact Sheet - Sauble Beach Litigation

Position of Attorney General of Canada Re: Northern Boundary of the Saugeen Indian Reserve

This Fact Sheet has been developed as part of the process for sharing information with the general public about the mediated negotiations between the Saugeen First Nation, the Town of South Bruce Peninsula, the Government of Canada, and the Province of Ontario with regard to the First Nation's Sauble Beach Litigation. In response to questions raised during public open houses held at Sauble Beach in August 2014, this Fact Sheet outlines the historical facts and the Government of Canada's position regarding the northern boundary of Saugeen First Nation's reserve - one of the key underlying issues in the Sauble Beach Litigation.

Litigation regarding the extent of the Saugeen First Nation reserve has been ongoing since 1990.

The four main parties to the litigation (the Saugeen First Nation, the Town of South Bruce Peninsula, Canada, and the Province of Ontario) have been in mediated negotiations since May 2013.

After completion of considerable factual and legal research, the Government of Canada supports the claim of the Saugeen First Nation that their reserve boundary extends 1.5 miles north of the current boundary (Main Street) to approximately 6th Street. 

Canada's research and analysis included a thorough review of the documents surrounding the Treaty of 1854 (Treaty 72) as well as the views of those with expertise in the surveying methods of that period (pre-Confederation).

In arriving at its position on this matter, it has been particularly important for Canada to determine how the Rankin survey that was undertaken in 1855 should best be understood today.  

Canada bases its support for the First Nation's claim on the following evidence.

  • Treaty 72 describes the north-east corner of the Saugeen reserve as a spot upon the coast located about nine and a half miles from where the western boundary of the reserve meets Lake Huron (see Annex A).
  • Charles Rankin, a Provincial Land Surveyor, was a witness to the signing of Treaty 72 in 1854 and undertook a survey of Amabel Township in the following year (see Annex B).
  • Rankin's original 1855 survey map shows a point on the coast in the middle of Lot 31 (approximately 6th Street) that is identified as the northeast angle of the Indian reserve. A more detailed map prepared the following year by an engineering firm shows a post in the middle of Lot 31 marked "North East Angle of Saugeen Reserve according to Treaty Boundary running south". This post is located approximately nine and a half miles from where the western boundary of the reserve meets Lake Huron, as set out in the terms of the Treaty (see Annex C).
  • In his survey field notes, Rankin describes laying out the road allowance between Lots 30 and 31.  Rankin notes that he placed a post 10 chains, 66 links "south of the post of the Indian Reserve". This is consistent with the post that identifies the north-east corner of the Indian Reserve as being in the middle of Lot 31 (at 6th Street) (see Annex D).
  • The Crown patents to Lots 26 to 31 are the underlying basis for the property rights being asserted by the defendant landowners.
  • While the Crown patents to Lots 26 to 31 identify the general location of the township lots, they do not include a metes and bounds description of the lots, nor do they establish that these lots extend to the Lake Huron shoreline.
  • At the time Lot 26 was issued in 1896, a strip of Indian Reserve was recognized as existing between the patented lots located north of Lot 25 (north of Main Street) and the Lake Huron shoreline. Evidence suggests that the Saugeen fished from the sand beaches on this strip of land, using nets dragged along the shallow waters of Lake Huron.
  • Since the 1890s, the Saugeen First Nation has continued to assert its claim to this portion of the beach on the basis that it is reserve land.
  • Correspondence between local landowners (e.g. Livingston Huff) and the Government of Canada has been exchanged over the years, but has not impacted the evidence upon which the federal position is based.

The law is clear that an Indian interest in reserve land cannot be lost or extinguished without a formal surrender of the land to the Crown by the First Nation. Such a formal surrender has never happened.

Annex A

Reference in Treaty No. 72 to the location of the north corner of the reserve

The text of Treaty No. 72, which was signed in 1854, notes that the reserve of the Saugeen First Nation was to be located:

"…on the east by a line drawn from a spot upon the coast at a distance of about (9½) nine miles and a half from the western boundary aforesaid, and running parallel thereto until it touches the aforementioned northern limits of the recently surrendered strip…"

Annex B

Charles Rankin, surveyor of the reserve and witness to Treaty No. 72

C. Rankin, who surveyed the Saugeen First Nation reserve, was identified in the list of signatories and witnesses to Treaty No. 72, which was done in council at Saugeen on October 13, 1854. The full list of witnesses and signatories is as follows:

For Canada:

  • L. Oliphant (Superintendent General - Indian Affairs)
  • Peter Jacobs (Missionary)
  • Jas. Ross (M.P.P.) – Witness
  • C. Rankin (P.L.S.) – Witness
  • A. McNabb (Crown Land Agent) – Witness

For the First Nations:

  • John Kaduhgekwun
  • Alex. Madwayosh
  • John Manedswab
  • Jno. Thos. Wahbuhdick
  • Peter Jones
  • David Sawyer
  • Johh H. Beatty
  • Thomas Pabahmosh
  • John Madwashemind
  • John Johnston
  • John Aunjegahbowh
  • James Newash
  • Thomas Wahbuhdick
  • Charles Keeshick

Annex C

Plan of Amabel Township by Charles Rankin, October 12, 1855

In drawing his map of the Saugeen First Nation Reserve, Charles Rankin enters in the middle of Lot 31, "NE ∠ Ind. Res." With this note, Rankin is locating the north-east angle of the Indian Reserve in the middle of Lot 31.

Annex D

Excerpt of Rankin's Field Survey Notes

Rankin's Field Survey Notes relating to the Side Road between 30 & 31, Concession D say that he placed a post 10 chains, 66 links "south of the post of the Indian Reserve." The Indian Reserve post is the same post that identifies the north-east corner of the reserve in the middle of Lot 31.