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Robinson Huron Treaty was signed in 1850, covering land from Parry Sound to Sault Ste. Marie and north to Lake Superior
First Nations signatories of one of Canada’s founding treaties are set to start a landmark court action Tuesday against the federal and provincial governments on what they say is a failure to live up to terms of a deal made more than 150 years ago.
Nearly two dozen First Nations fall under the Robinson Huron Treaty of 1850, a vast territory encompassing 92,463 square kilometres in the middle of Ontario stretching from Sudbury to the shores of Lakes Superior and Huron and points north.
In exchange for use of those lands by the crown, indigenous people were told they would be paid $2 a year with regular increases as profits from the land grew, said Mike Restoule, chairperson of the Robinson Huron Treaty Trust Fund.
But there has been only one annuity increase of $2 in 1874 and nothing since, even though the area contains vast mining, forestry and land resources that corporations and the government have profited from for decades, said Restoule.
Currently, the 24,000 to 30,000 descendants of the Ojibway Indians covered under the treaty receive $4 a year each.
Failure to make regular annuity increases means the First Nations are seeking restitution and a clearer understanding of future payments.
While a figure between $500 million and $1 billion is not out of the question concerning how much is owed, Roger Jones, a member of the Robinson Huron legal team, said they want a full accounting of profits made from the lands before arriving at a firm number.
The Ojibway affected by this treaty have tried to seek a fairer deal from both levels of government since 1852.
Chief Shingwaukonse of Garden River near Sault Ste. Marie, who was known as a grand chief of the Ojibway Indians, first tried to complain to the Crown 162 years ago that the terms of the deal were not adequate, said Jones.
Shingwaukonse’s complaints went ignored. “We’ve been at this for a long time,” Jones said. For years, First Nations people feared complaining further due to a general mistrust of Indian agents and provisions in the Indian Act that prevented people from utilizing legal services to prosecute claims, said Jones.
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