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Final arguments in Robinson Huron Treaty case begin Monday

Provincial and federal governments in court over failure to implement terms of RHT

Final arguments for the Robinson Huron Treaty (RHT) Annuity case will begin Monday, June 4 in Sudbury at the Radisson Hotel. 

The RHT Annuity case has been in court since September of 2017. Twenty-one Anishinabek communities with annuitants under the RHT took the federal and provincial governments to court to uphold the augmentation clause contained in the 1850 Treaty.

The RHT Annuity case is also being heard with another case involving the Robinson Superior Treaty. At issue is the interpretation of an “augmentation” clause, common to both of the Treaties. The clause provides for increases in the annuity.

Twenty-one RHT Anishinaabek nations took Ontario and Canada to court over the Crown’s failure to implement the terms of the RHT. The First Nations RHT beneficiaries have received no increase to the four-dollar annuity since 1874. 

The Anishinaabek territory contained within the Robinson-Huron Treaty area includes approximately 35,700 square miles of land on the northern shores of Lake Huron; and the Robinson Superior Treaty covers approximately 16,700 square miles, north of Lake Superior.

The case is precedent setting because it is the first time a court case is being heard on both the merits of Canadian Law and Anishinaabe Law, which has historically leaned heavily to the Canadian law side. 

RHT Lawyer David Nahwegahbow says, “The treaty has two parties to it, the Crown has its own laws and unfortunately, the Crown has predominated in that relationship and British and Canadian Common Law has sort of taken over.”

Nahwegahbow hopes the court will come to understand the validity of Anishinabe law and its relevance to the Treaty. 

“We want to make sure that Anishinaabe law is well recognized and that the court hears the important historical context at the time and that the court understands what Anishinaabe law is,” said Nahwegahbow.

RHT Annuities case spokesperson and Batchewana First Nation Chief, Dean Sayers says that at the end of the day, he hopes to see the treaty augmentation clause be brought into a modern context. 

“I’m looking forward to hearing the chronological summary, all the way up to where we are today. It may not be the prettiest story but it is the truth about how we came to where we are,” said Sayers.

The trial began in Thunder Bay in September 2017, and has moved throughout the RHT Territory, including at Manitoulin Island and Garden River, near Sault Ste. Marie, the site of the Treaty signing in 1850.

All closing hearing dates will occur in Sudbury, Radisson Hotel, 85 Ste. Anne Road. 

The remaining hearing dates until the end of phase 1 are as follows:

  • June 4-8
  • June 14-15 (with a possibility for June 13)
  • June 18-22

A ruling will follow the final arguments in the coming months. If a settlement is not reached, the process will enter Phase Two to begin in the Spring of 2019.