Lisa Gervais: Reconciliation must be fair to all
|By Lisa Gervais - Editor | June 8, 2017|
It’s called the Algonquin Land Claim.
Some of you probably know about it, but many of you may not.
It was a fairly big national story back in October, when the Algonquins of Ontario, the province and feds signed an agreement in principle.
Although one of the most complicated land claims in the history of Ontario, it basically means a transfer of money expected to be well in excess of $300 million; a transfer of approximately 117,500 acres of provincial
Crown land to Algonquin ownership and defining ongoing rights of the Algonquins related to lands and natural resources within Eastern Ontario.
Why now you might ask? Well, the claim dates back 250 years and negotiations have been ongoing for 24 so it’s not exactly new. The Algonquins maintain they have Aboriginal rights and title that have never been extinguished, as well as ongoing ownership of portions of the Ottawa and Mattawa River watersheds and their natural resources.
It’s still only an agreement in principal. Those involved in the negotiations say it will take another five years to attain a final agreement. Others say it will take longer.
Since the fall, we’ve been trying to get a handle on what it means for Haliburton County and we finally got a little clarity, along with county council, last week.
We have land within the claim area, in Algonquin Highlands, Dysart and Highlands East.
But we’ve now been told that none of it will be transferred in a final agreement. This according to senior negotiator, Jennifer Griffin of the province’s Land Claims and Treaties Section, in a letter to county planning director Charlsey White. For some time, White had been trying to find out if any lands would be part of the settlement process.
Further, we’ve found out that: no private property will be taken from anyone to settle the claim; no one will lose existing access to cottages, private property or water and any land transferred will be subject to the same land use planning and development approvals and authorities as other private lands.
As for Algonquin Park, it will continue to be part of the Ontario Parks system and preserved for the enjoyment of all. Ontario will continue managing Ontario parks, with the Algonquins having a greater planning role. There’s talk of a new 30,000 acre provincial park near Crotch Lake.
There are still a lot of unanswered questions, though. With the park being such an important asset for the county, we will want to have input and be informed about the negotiations before the final settlement. What does a great role in planning mean? What will the harvesting rights for the Algonquins look like? What will it mean for fishing and hunting, for the harvesting of plants and forests?
We believe in reconciliation but it must be fair to all parties and balance the interests of the Algonquins and their neighbours.
And, finally, the province says a final settlement will benefit not only the Algonquins but their neighbours throughout Eastern Ontario by increasing investor confidence, and providing new opportunities for investment and economic development in the region. We would like more information on what this can specifically means for Algonquin Highlands, Dysart and Highlands East.
The devil is in the detail and we’ll be keeping a keen eye on these ongoing negotiations.
Lisa Gervais is the editor for The Highlander.