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BREAKING: $10B RHT annuities settlement approved

Garden River First Nation last community to sign off on historic settlement agreement between Robinson Huron Treaty beneficiaries, Canada and Ontario; settlement now officially a done deal
A treaty renewal ceremony was held on the final day of the Robinson Huron Treaty of 1850 Gathering at GFL Memorial Gardens in Sault Ste. Marie Sept. 9.

Garden River First Nation has officially approved the $10-billion settlement agreement between Robinson Huron Treaty beneficiaries, Canada and Ontario for unpaid treaty annuity increases dating back to the late 1800s — a move that now makes the historic settlement a done deal. 

Garden River First Nation Chief Karen Bell confirmed with SooToday Thursday that all 21 First Nations within Robinson Huron Treaty territory have now signed off on the settlement agreement, and that her community was the last one to sign it.

Ironically, Bell said, Garden River was the last community to sign off on the Robinson Huron Treaty itself in 1850. 

This past September, leadership in Garden River First Nation publicly opposed what it called “unequal and unfair” plans to distribute the proposed $10-billion settlement in the Robinson Huron Treaty annuities claim among the First Nations.  

Band elections happened in Garden River First Nation later that month, which saw just two council members retain their seats on the new-look council

The following is a release from Garden River First Nation: 

November 1st, 2023, Garden River First Nation, Ontario – Chief Karen Bell of the Garden River First Nation announced the approval of the settlement agreement on October 30th, 2023, marking a momentous step toward equitable sharing of profits, as a direct result of the extraction of resources within the Robinson Huron Treaty area of Northeastern Ontario. This historical settlement was reached between 21 Robinson Huron Treaty First Nations, Canada and the Province of Ontario.

“After years of perseverance, this marks a new chapter for Garden River First Nation, firmly rooted in respect and co-existence,” stated Chief Bell. “Our ancestors envisioned collaboration based on equality and nation-to-nation relationships and today, we move closer to that vision. We stand by that vision and the special relationship we have with the Crown.”

Chief Bell emphasized, “This is more than just compensation; it’s about acknowledging and reaffirming the original intent and spirit of the Robinson Huron Treaty. The signing of the Settlement Agreement relates to past compensation associated with the annuities clause within the Robinson Huron Treaty of 1850, and in no way impedes, effects, or diminishes the rights affirmed as outlined in the Treaty.”

This settlement agreement now affords all 21 First Nation signatories of the treaty compensation for the lack of fair compensation of the extractions of nickel, copper, uranium, and timber within the Treaty area. The Garden River First Nation’s decision to sign comes at a pivotal moment in history. It signifies a step towards rectifying longstanding injustices and honouring commitments of the Crown made over a century ago. 

“Today, we not only honour our past, but also secure a more prosperous and sustainable future for the Nation,” added Chief Bell.

As the Nation moves forward, Chief Bell remains optimistic about the opportunities in the future. “Our journey towards equitable compensation and equal resource sharing has been long and challenging. I want to acknowledge our Elders here in Garden River who we consulted with, the past leaders and all 21 First Nations, for their efforts in challenging and seeking the intent and truth of the Treaty. An enormous amount of effort finally resulted in the fruition of the settlement agreement. Furthermore, the commitment for the well being of our people and our lands, never wavered,” Chief Bell concluded.

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James Hopkin

About the Author: James Hopkin

James Hopkin is a reporter for SooToday in Sault Ste. Marie
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