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Robinson-Huron chiefs petition Canada, Ontario to settle treaty annuities case

Treaty beneficiaries in 21 First Nations have been receiving $4 annually since 1874
Treaty presser
Batchewana First Nation Chief Dean Sayers speaks at a media conference held by Robinson Huron Treaty chiefs following a December 2018 court ruling that the provincial and federal governments are obligated to increase treaty annunities. Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory Chief Duke Peltier and lawyer Dave Nahwegahbow look on. File photo Northern Ontario Business

A petition signed by all 21 First Nation chiefs in Robinson-Huron Treaty territory is calling on Canada and Ontario to negotiate a settlement in the ongoing treaty annuities case.

According to a news release issued earlier this week, Robinson-Huron Treaty representatives have delivered the signed petition to the office of the Governor General of Canada and the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario. 

The petition calls on federal and provincial governments to fully implement the augmentation clause contained in the 1850 treaty, which ensured any increase in the revenue from lands within Robinson-Huron Treaty territory would be evenly distributed to the treaty signatories.

“The signing of this petition by all 21 Chiefs of the Robinson Huron First Nations is an extraordinary action,” said Chief Dean Sayers of Batchewana First Nation in the new release. “Despite our success in the court, our leadership continues to call on the Crown to uphold their treaty responsibilities via a negotiated settlement as our preferred way of achieving reconciliation.”

The annual treaty payment, which currently sees each of the roughly 30,000 treaty beneficiaries entitled to receive $4 annually, hasn’t increased since 1874. Prior to the 1874 increase, treaty beneficiaries received an annual payment of $1.60. 

The Ontario Superior Court found in 2018 that the Crown has an obligation to increase annuities when economic circumstances warrant. 

Canada has chosen not to appeal the Stage 1 and Stage 2 decisions in the annuities case, and has created a mandate process that allows for negotiation and settlement of treaty annuities cases, along with the requirement that Ontario be party to the negotiation and settlement process. 

Ontario has appealed both decisions. The appeals were heard by the Ontario Court of Appeal in April and June 2021. 

In September, SooToday's David Helwig reported that Batchewana First Nation Chief Dean Sayers sent a letter to Sault Ste. Marie Mayor Christian Provenzano on behalf of Robinson-Huron Treaty signatories, asking the mayor to lean on the province to resolve the annuities case. 

"The Robinson Huron Treaty Anishinabek 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 in the letter.

The 21 First Nations of the Robinson-Huron Treaty says that neither Canada nor Ontario has sought to stay the Stage 1 or 2 Superior Court decisions, and the Crown “has not taken any steps to implement the treaty augmentation promise moving forward.”

“We have a unique opportunity in front of us to end the long and drawn-out court proceedings. We hope that Canada and Ontario will recognize this historic moment and come to the table for negotiations,” said Ogimaa Duke Peltier via news release.

The Robinson-Huron Treaty was signed in present-day Sault Ste. Marie Sept. 9, 1850.