Algonquins in West Quebec prepare to launch biggest land claim in Canada’s history – by Mohammed Adam (Ottawa Citizen – December 11, 2011)

Even larger than Nunavut claim, it includes lands now held by Mohawks

A group of Algonquins in West Quebec is preparing to launch what could be the largest land claim in Canada’s history — for a swath of territory covering 650,000 square kilometres across Eastern Ontario and West Quebec.

Stretching from Sault Ste. Marie and Cochrane in Northern Ontario through much of Eastern Ontario, including Ottawa, the territory cuts across West Quebec to Montreal, and all the way to the confluence of the Saint-Maurice and St. Lawrence rivers at Trois-Rivières. About two-thirds of the land is in Quebec.

Gilbert Whiteduck, chief of the Algonquins of Maniwaki known as the Kitigan Zibi, says the process will begin soon with the presentation of the territorial map to Quebec Premier Jean Charest to underline the claim. Whiteduck says the map and accompanying documents were presented to the federal aboriginal affairs minister earlier this year, and the group is now seeking a meeting with Charest to do the same.

“We are getting ready to present the territorial map to Premier Charest as soon as he is able to give us a time, to lay out what it is we are expecting from Quebec, specifically,” Whiteduck said.

The submission, being made under the umbrella of the Tribal Council that represents six of the nine Algonquin communities in West Quebec, is the first step on a long and arduous road to negotiations and, hopefully, compensation. Ontario’s Golden Lake Algonquins for instance, first made their claim for Eastern Ontario in 1983, but it took nearly 10 years before the federal government recognized the claim. Negotiations that began in 1994 have dragged on, and a non-binding agreement-in-principle is now expected early next year.

Whiteduck says the plan is not to demand return of the land to the Algonquin. He recognizes that land settlement “is going to be way down the line” but aboriginal communities, which face serious socio-economic problems, have to be able to utilize the resources of their land to improve their lives.

“What we want to say to the premier is, ‘this is our territory, and since you are premier of Quebec, we want to be able to sit down with you and discuss the fact that resources are being taken from the land and there should be some kind of sharing arrangement here,’” he said.

“We want the federal government to also sit at a table with us.”

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