Treaties in Ontario: what are they and what do they do? – by Rhiannon Johnson (CBC News Indigenous – November 10, 2019)

46 treaties cover what is now the province of Ontario

Since 2016, Ontario has held Treaty Recognition Week in the first week of November to honour the importance of treaties and raise awareness about treaty rights and relationships. What are treaties? A treaty is a legally binding agreement between nations.

European countries colonizing North America made treaties with the Indigenous Peoples occupying the land. These agreements often set out rules of governance, land use and the relationship between parties.

The earliest is the two-row wampum, an agreement between the Dutch and Haudenosaunee in 1613 in what is now New York state. The two-row wampum represents a river and the parallel lines represent the paths of each party’s vessel, and while they may travel forward together they will not intersect or interfere with each other.

What are treaty rights?

Early treaties included things like hunting, fishing and harvesting rights, the establishment of reserve land and payment of annuities, among others.

Modern-day treaties (those signed after 1975) include things like land use management, resource revenue sharing and financial settlements. Treaty rights are enshrined in Section 35 of the 1982 Constitution.

Treaties in Ontario

There are 46 treaties covering the province of Ontario including three numbered treaties, two Robinson treaties, two Williams treaties and 30 Upper Canada treaties.

Upper Canada treaties

Also known as the Upper Canada land surrenders, these 30 treaties were signed through the late 18th and early-to-mid-19th century.

The Royal Proclamation of 1763 had stipulated that only the Crown could purchase land from Indigenous Peoples in Britain’s colonies in what is now Canada. Through the Upper Canada treaties, the Crown acquired land to accommodate settlers flooding into Upper Canada following the American War of Independence and the War of 1812.

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