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Robinson-Huron chiefs welcome federal mandate to negotiate, settle annuities cases

Federal government creates process to settle treaty annuities case, while Ontario continues to appeal court decisions
Robinson-Huron-Treaty-Area-web
A map of Robinson Huron Treaty territory. Whitefish River First Nation website

The Government of Canada now has the ability to negotiate and settle the ongoing annuities case with the 21 First Nations in northeastern Ontario that make up the Robinson-Huron Treaty. 

The federal government has created a mandate process that allows for negotiation and settlement of annuities cases, according to a release from the Robinson-Huron Treaty Litigation Fund. The same release suggests that the federal negotiation and settlement process with treaty signatories also requires participation from the Government of Ontario.

“This is a significant step in the right direction – and one that we have long been waiting for,” said Batchewana First Nation Chief Dean Sayers via news release. “The mandate is clear and we welcome the opportunity to enter conversations with Canada and Ontario to bring this case to an end through a settlement that will benefit everyone in the Robinson-Huron Treaty land.”

The 1850 Robinson-Huron Treaty includes an escalator clause in which the Crown would pay annuities that were to be adjusted as resource revenue generated in the territory grew. 

The annuity amount for treaty beneficiaries was raised to $4 in 1874, and has not increased since. 

In 2018, the Ontario Superior Court found the Crown has an obligation to increase annuities when the economic circumstances warrant. 

While Canada chose not to appeal the stage 1 and 2 decisions in the annuities case, Ontario has appealed both decisions. The appeals were heard by the Ontario Court of Appeal in April and June 2021. 

Those decisions have yet to be released. 

The Robinson-Huron Treaty Litigation Fund has since called on Ontario to drop both appeals and begin “honourable negotiations” with treaty signatories. 

“Now, we need the province to come to the table to make this settlement happen,” said Sayers. “It is time for Ontario to honour the escalator clause and engage in negotiations on behalf of all people we have welcomed on our lands.”

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