SUDBURY – First Nations in Northern Ontario have a won a lawsuit that will require federal and provincial governments to pay them higher annuities.
“It feels great,” said Mike Restoule of the Nipissing First Nation near North Bay, who filed the lawsuit on behalf of 21 First Nations in the Robinson-Huron treaty area. “We heard the court ruling and it came down in our favour, but I don’t really have details,” he said.
“I find that the Crown has a mandatory and reviewable obligation to increase the treaties’ annuities when the economic circumstances warrant,” wrote Justice Patricia Hennessy in her decision. “The economic circumstances will trigger an increase to the annuities if the net Crown resource-based revenues permit the Crown to increase the annuities without incurring a loss.” Hennessy said the two sides need to sit down and negotiate new terms.
“The Anishinabe and the Crown now have an opportunity to determine what role those historic promises will play in shaping their modern treaty relationship,” she wrote. “The pressures they faced in 1850 will continue to challenge them.”
In 1850, the Crown and the Anishinabe “shared a vision that the Anishinabe and the settler society could continue to co-exist in a mutually respectful and beneficial relationship going into the future,” the judge noted. “Today, we arrive at that point in the relationship again. It is therefore incumbent on the parties to renew their treaty relationship now and in the future.”
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