Northern Ontario First Nations go to court to increase their share of resource development funds – by Rob Csernyik (CIM Magazine – September 26, 2017)

A lawsuit aimed at increasing a treaty annuity unchanged since 1874 is being heard in Thunder Bay, Ontario, three years after it was initially filed.

The Robinson-Huron Treaty has nearly 30,000 Indigenous beneficiaries in Northern Ontario and the lawsuit on their behalf contends that the federal and provincial governments have not abided by the terms of the treaty, particularly in regards to a clause related to annuity augmentation.

“This is one of the only treaties, if not the only, that has this annuity escalator clause incorporated right in the treaty,” Chief Dean Sayers of the Batchewana First Nation told CIM Magazine.

The annuity increased only once before, in 1874 to the current $4 per person rate. According to the Bank of Canada, $4 in 1914 (the furthest back its inflation calculator goes) is worth $87 today. But the treaty beneficiaries were supposed to see an annuity increase as revenues from mining and other resource development on impacted lands increased.

Sayers said that the lawsuit is not the first attempt to re-discuss the annuity since then. He said that over the years there was “no shortage” of letters, petitions and Chiefs going to meet with the crown.

The Robinson-Huron Treaty covers more than 90,000 square kilometres in the middle of Ontario, running along the north shore of Lake Huron and into Lake Superior. It extends from the Quebec border to Sault Ste. Marie in the west, Kirkland Lake in the north-east, and North Bay in the south-east.

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