Robinson Huron Treaty Anishinaabek Chiefs Commend Prime Minister Trudeau on Structural Changes
Sault Ste. Marie, ON – Anishinaabek Chiefs representing the Robinson Huron Treaty, and its 30,000 beneficiaries in northern Ontario, today commended Prime Minister Trudeau for announcing structural changes to the outdated colonial Indian Affairs structure. But they also pointed to the huge disconnect between what the federal government is saying and what it is doing about treaty rights and reconciliation.
The Robinson Huron Treaty Anishnaabek launched a court action in 2014 related to the failure of Canada and Ontario to live-up to the promise in the treaty to increase their annuities as revenues from their treaty territory increased. The annuities were last increased in 1875 to the current level of $4.00 per year.
Ogimaa/Chief Duke Peltier of Wiikwemkoong and Ogimaa/Chief Dean Sayers of Batchewana, said “Actions speak louder than words”. The Chiefs released a letter dated August 22, 2017, to Minister Carolyn Bennett, which expresses frustration over the refusal of the federal government to engage in reconciliation talks to settle the litigation. They were also sharply critical of the adversarial tactics and racist arguments being employed by federal lawyers in the litigation.
The letter to Minister Bennett says:
“We are writing to express, in good faith but in no uncertain terms, our profound disappointment regarding the clear and complete disconnect between your government’s enlightened words and hopeful statements and the actions of your government in dealing with our Claim. Your letter says: “The Government of Canada places a high priority on renewing a nation-to-nation relationship with Indigenous Peoples. We are committed to developing a partnership based on recognition of rights, respect and cooperation.” Yet, by its actions, your government is doing the exact opposite!”
“We wrote to the Prime Minister on August 21st (2016) in the hopes that your government’s stated commitment to reconciliation would provide us with an opportunity to resolve our claim through negotiation rather than litigation. Unfortunately, not only have your officials rejected our overtures at reconciliation, your lawyers are advancing arguments and evidence in the litigation that can only be described as outdated, obsolete, ethnocentric, adversarial and inflammatory. Needless to say, they reflect attitudes that are contrary to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.”
Copies of the Bennett letter were sent to Prime Minister Trudeau and Justice Minister, Jody Wilson-Raybould, who recently released a set of Principles Respecting the Government of Canada’s Relationship with Indigenous Peoples.
This year is the 167th Anniversary of the Robinson Treaties. Under the Robinson Huron Treaty, signed on September 9th, 1850, the Anishinaabek (“Ojibwe”) agreed to share their lands and resources with the newcomers — approximately 35,700 square miles of territory. The treaty territory covers the lands north of Lake Huron from Penetanguishene to beyond Sault Ste. Marie, up to the height of land. The Robinson Superior Treaty, signed on September 7th, 1850, covers lands north of Lake Superior, from North of Sault Ste. Marie to Thunder Bay. The Robinson Treaty territories have yielded vast amounts of revenues from forestry, mining and other resource development activities over the years, yet the annuities remain at a mere $4.00 per year. is also being litigated.
The court action, involving both the Treaties, is scheduled to start on September 25th, 2017, in the Ontario Superior Court in Thunder Bay, after which it will move to Manitoulin Island, Garden River and Sudbury.
In the letter to Minister Bennett, Chiefs Peltier and Sayers conclude by saying:
“We can only hope that your words and Canada’s announcement of its Principles Respecting the Government of Canada’s Relationship with Indigenous Peoples and the need for a new litigation strategy will combine to cause Canada to negotiate, rather than to litigate, a resolution of our treaty annuities claim. Only in this way can reconciliation truly be reached.”