Robinson Huron Treaty Litigation Fund, which represents the First Nations engaged in litigation with the province of Ontario over annuities, has called “hollow” the Ford government’s promise to share natural-resources revenues with First Nations in Ontario.
On March 17, the province released a five-year Critical Minerals Strategy to guide the exploitation of an array of natural resources. Objective 5 is “Building economic development opportunities with Indigenous partners.” The objective states in part: “Collaborating on resource development projects can advance reconciliation with Indigenous communities and people. Many resource development projects provide socio-economic benefits to Indigenous communities.”
In a press release on March 24, the RHTLF stated: “The Robinson Huron Treaty leadership is frustrated with the failure of the Ontario government to engage in mandated negotiations with Canada and First Nation Treaty partners to resolve their treaty based annuity claim to resource revenue sharing, despite a Judgment by the Ontario Superior Court in 2018 (Restoule case), which upheld the annuity claim and was confirmed by the Ontario Court of Appeal in 2021.s.” (I have covered the Restoule case here and Ontario’s decision to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada here.) “Representatives of the RHTLF have heard promises from the province to enter into settlement negotiation from the offices of Premier Doug Ford and Minister Greg Rickford since the fall of 2021 with no substantive negotiations thus far.”
According to the RHTLF press release, Ogimaa Duke Peltier, chief of Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory, in a letter to Premier Ford, wrote that the Critical Minerals Strategy’s “words and promises sound hollow, at least to the Robinson-Huron Treaty First Nations whose ancestors insisted on the principles of partnership and resource-revenue sharing in 1850 only to have Canada and Ontario ignore their legal responsibilities which are again promised in the form of the new strategy.” The release included a comment from Chief Dean Sayers of Batchewana First Nation: “Why should Indigenous communities in Ontario believe such rhetoric, especially in a campaign period, in the face of a failure by the Government of Ontario to negotiate a settlement which would include reconciliation and socio-economic benefits?”