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Provenzano asked to lean on province to settle annuities dispute

'We want to support the local economy' - Batchewana Chief Dean Sayers
Batchewana First Nation Chief Dean Sayers, left, offers welcoming remarks during 2019 National Anishinaabe Day festivities while Mayor Christian Provenzano looks on. James Hopkin/SooToday

Batchewana First Nation Chief Dean Sayers is asking for help from Sault Ste. Marie Mayor Christian Provenzano in settling an historic annuities case out of court.

"On August 13, 2021, we received correspondence from Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett informing us that Canada is prepared to enter into negotiations and settle our ongoing annuities litigation out of court," Chief Sayers advises Provenzano in a letter written on behalf of the Robinson-Huron Treaty leadership.

"Canada’s mandate to resolve this claim comes with the requirement that the Province of Ontario be party to the negotiations and settlement, given the shared responsibility for the diligent implementation of the Robinson-Huron Treaty between the provincial and federal Crowns," Sayers says.

"We write to you today to ask you to call upon Ontario to come to the table and enter into good faith negotiations to resolve this ongoing dispute."

Signed in Sault Ste. Marie on Sept. 9, 1850, the Robinson-Huron Treaty was an agreement to share land and resources.

Treaty beneficiaries in 21 Robinson-Huron First Nations were to receive an annual payment known as an annuity.

As revenue from natural resources grew, the annuity payment was supposed to grow.

It has only increased once, escalated in 1874 from $1.60 a year to $4.

"The Robinson Huron Treaty Anishinaabek want to move forward with treaty renewal and the rebuilding of our relationship with the Crown in right of Ontario and Canada. We urge you to communicate support for negotiations as the means of resolution to the Government of Ontario," Sayers asks Provenzano.

"A settlement of this claim will not only assist the Robinson-Huron Treaty Nations achieve improved health outcomes and economic development, but your municipality will also benefit economically and all of northeastern Ontario."

"Entering negotiations is an opportunity to strengthen communities and local economies in the Robinson-Huron Treaty territories as we rebuild after the pandemic, and a chance to move forward from unnecessary litigation in a way that benefits everyone in Ontario."

"The people of these 21 Robinson-Huron nations are locals, too. We shop in the same local stores and restaurants in Sault Ste. Marie as you and we want to support the local economy."

"Tell Ontario to come to the table and enter into good faith negotiations to resolve this ongoing dispute, ask your constituents to lend their support and uphold your responsibilities that come with living on this land."

Mayor Provenzano says he personally supports the idea and he'll ask City Council on Monday to pass a resolution authorizing him to lean on the province.

"I expect that if two city councillors move and second a resolution in support of your letter, that resolution will be discussed and voted on at our meeting of September 27th, 2021," Provenzano told Sayers.

Monday's City Council meeting will be livestreamed on SooToday starting at 4:30 p.m.