I just wanted to take a few minutes to dispel a few inaccuracies that are floating around out there about the Nipissing First Nation Boundary Claim.
First of all, this is a boundary dispute settlement. It is resolution of a long-standing, well-researched and documented error on behalf of the federal government.
Back in the day, the Dominion of Canada’s land survey agents incorrectly surveyed the Nipissing No. 10 reserve lands that were negotiated by our treaty signatory, Chief Shabogesic.
In 1850, Chief Shabogesic agreed that we “do hereby fully, freely, and voluntarily surrender, cede, grant, and convey unto Her Majesty, her heirs and successors for ever, all their right, title, and interest to, and in the whole of, the territory above described, save and except the reservations set forth in the schedule”.
The schedule of the reserves was right. But the surveying and the actual land set aside was wrong.
The government owes us restitution for this error.
In exchange, the government owes us either (1) land and/or (2) a cash settlement for fair market value, loss of historical use, interest and value increases as a result of economic and market forces.
In this case, Canada did not have the authority to negotiate for land, such a negotiation would need to involvement of the Government of Ontario. On the bright side, for those who want land, we are fully able to use the settlement to purchase new lands that can be added to the reserve through the Additions-to-Reserve process. We can add up to three additional reserves if need be.
The settlement agreement is NOT a new treaty or an additional surrender. Nor is it a surrender of our jurisdiction of sovereignty. If there are any further claims (timber, royalties, annuities, etc.), our rights to future settlement won’t be affected.
We need to all understand that the traditional territory that we share with all Canadians in northeastern Ontario was already ceded and surrendered. Voting yes or no, won’t affix our reserve boundary in any way.
The surrender language in the agreement is contract and ratification language that provides the resolution of the matter and lays to bed the legal question and obligation arising from the Boundary claim. The government insists on this so we don’t take the settlement, spend the money and take them to court anyway.
If we vote “no”, nothing will happen. We won’t receive a settlement. Sure, we may reserve the right to take the matter to federal court, and yes, we would probably win. But it will then be up to the courts to decide what settlement we will get. Most people are never satisfied with the result of a court decision – except the beautiful people in the movies.
Sure we may feel empowered over our Council, land staff, negotiators, legal and financial advisors. But it will effectively disempower our negotiating position, not improve it.
One day, we may get to the negotiation table again. But the federal government, particularly under this Conservative government, doesn’t like to give second chances. We may have to wait a generation or so. But if that is our choice, so be it.
Believe me, and I’ve been to hundreds of First Nations across Canada. I’ve seen communities with boundary claims, specific land claims, comprehensive land claims, treaty land entitlement claims, self-government agreements, and modern-day treaty agreements. The Nipissing First Nation land staff, land code and land management regime is among the most sophisticated and respected across Canada. They’ve done their homework and have done a lot of hard work on this boundary claim settlement.
When the respected and visionary ancestor of the McLeod family negotiated the Treaty, and “surrendered” this territory – he wasn’t selling out. He was looking after the future generations of his people. We’re being asked to do the same.
Let’s empower ourselves and set things right.
A few cool facts about the Boundary Claim:
- We’re getting more of a settlement for our community, than each Algonquin community will receive under the new Algonquin Comprehensive Agreement.
- We’re getting more of a settlement than each of the Chippewa bands will receive under the Coldwater land claim, one of Canada’s largest land claims.
- Although the New Credit/Toronto purchase land claim was worth more, we have the ability to add reserve lands to the mix.