Northern Ontario First Nations claim up to $150 billion over ‘flagrant disregard’ of 1850 treaty – by Betsy Powell (Toronto Star – March 24, 2023)

The Robinson Treaty gave the First Nations groups an annual payment that was supposed to increase over time, but was last raised to $4 per person in 1875.

After years of litigation, a court case is nearing an outcome that will put the Canadian or Ontario governments — or both — on the hook for a multibillion-dollar payout to First Nations groups for failing to abide by the terms of a 173-year-old treaty.

The Indigenous bands from north of Lake Superior signed the Robinson treaty in 1850, giving the province access to their natural resources in return for an annuity starting at $1.60 per person. That was supposed to escalate over time, in keeping with rising land values, but the annual payment has remained at $4 per person since 1875.

“In flagrant disregard of promises made in this treaty, the people of this vast area — which includes the Hemlo goldfields and massive tracts of land that was licensed to logging companies — have received next to nothing,” Toronto lawyer Brian Gover wrote in an email.

Economists for the groups have testified they are owed upwards of $150 billion. The federal government is already paying out tens of billions to resolve various other lawsuits brought by Indigenous groups for, among other things, the harm caused by residential schools, described by a national commission as a “cultural genocide.”

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