Treaty beneficiaries haven't had raise in 138 years

UOI OFFICES, Sept. 10, 2012 /CNW/ - First Nations parties to the Robinson Huron Treaty haven't seen their benefits increased in 138 years.

Chiefs representing the 21 First Nations who participated in the 1850 treaty ceremonies notified the Crown today that they intend to commence an action to have the annuities provisions of the pact enforced by the courts if a settlement cannot be negotiated.

The Notice of Claim was served upon Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada and Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Ontario, on behalf of Treaty beneficiaries, each of whom currently receives $4 per year. The annuity has not increased since 1874.

"This day is a long time coming," said Patrick Madahbee, Grand Council Chief of the Anishinabek Nation. "I hope every beneficiary of the Robinson Huron Treaty joins me in saying 'miigwetch' to our Robinson Huron Chiefs for taking this gigantic step together.

"The Treaty is pretty clear that the annuities would increase when the resource revenue generated from the territory increased," said Madahbee, who helped initiate this process over 30 years ago. "It couldn't be plainer that the territory has generated vast amounts of revenues from forestry, mining and other resource development. Still we receive four dollars per year. That is unfair and not what we bargained for."

The Grand Council Chief pointed to today's annual report of the Mining Association of Canada, which referenced an estimated $9 billion in payments last year to provincial and federal governments in aggregate mining taxes and royalties, corporate income taxes and personal income taxes.

"Corporations have realized trillions of dollars in resource wealth from our territories. And various levels of government in Canada are taking big shares of that wealth, some of which rightfully belongs to the First Nations who agreed to treaties like Robinson Huron."

Under the Robinson Huron Treaty, signed on September 9th, 1850, the Anishinabek ("Ojibewa Indians") agreed to share their lands and resources with the newcomers - approximately 35,700 square miles of territory.  In return, the Crown, among other things, was supposed to pay annuities that were to be augmented from time to time.

The Chiefs are seeking an accounting, want the level of annuities increased, and are claiming compensation for losses suffered as a result of the Crown's failure to increase the annuities under the treaty, as promised.  Today they gave notice to Canada and Ontario that they intend to commence a court action against the Crown should it refuse to engage in negotiations, or in the event negotiations fail.   The Notice of Claim was served today at the Ontario Legislature at Queen's Park in Toronto on the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, The Honourable David Onley. It will also be served on the Governor General of Canada, The Right Honourable David Johnston.

Serpent River First Nation Chief Isadore Day serves as Robinson Huron Treaty Commissioner for the Anishinabek Nation.

"I am holding out hope that the Crown will choose to negotiate and engage in negotiations to settle our claim," he said. "We are in for a battle that could take a lot of time. I urge our citizens to be patient and to continue their support."

Chief Day also noted that the number of beneficiaries is unknown.

"I am a direct descendant of Wiindawtegowinini, a signatory chief. I am a beneficiary but my brother is not. Many beneficiaries were illegally disentitled to their treaty benefits through federal policy and legislation around 'status indians'.  Treaty entitlement and Indian status are not the same thing. Our treaty predates the 1867 British North America Act and the Indian Act and it is constitutionally protected. I would say that trumps the Indian Act."

Chief Day added: "While we as leaders wait for the next step in this litigation, our citizens can rest assured that the government-to-government relationship will be the focus of pressure from First Nation leaders across the treaty territory."

There are 21 First Nations parties to the Robinson Huron Treaty. All but Batchewana First Nation of Ojibways and Shawanaga First Nation participate in the Anishinabek Nation Grand Council.

The Anishinabek Nation established the Union of Ontario Indians as its secretariat in 1949.  The UOI is a political advocate for 39 member communities across Ontario, representing approximately 55,000 people.  The Union of Ontario Indians is the oldest political organization in Ontario and can trace its roots back to the Confederacy of Three Fires, which existed long before European contact.

SOURCE: Anishinabek Nation

For further information:

Maurice Switzer
Phone: 705-497-9127 ext. 2272
Cell: 705-494-0687
E-mail: swimau@anishinabek.ca
Web: www.anishinabek.ca
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