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New era of respect proclaimed.


By Birchbark Staff


Rainy River First Nations announced May 14 that it has reached an agreement with Canada and Ontario on the general terms of a proposed land title settlement after 10 years of negotiations.

If ratified, the agreement will make reparation for reserve land illegally surrendered and sold by the federal government in 1914 and 1915.

Chief Al Hunter called the negotiations "one of the most extensive public consultation processes in Ontario claims history," adding "today's announcement represents a significant step forward in meeting the continuing commitment of the Rainy River First Nations, Canada and Ontario to finalize and resolve this claim."

The announcement was made just before the 34th annual Manitou fish fry celebration at the Manitou Mounds.

Ontario was represented by the Minister Responsible for Native Affairs Michael Bryant, who also presented a $16,000 cultural grant in support of the Ojibway Creation Story exhibit at the five-year-old Kay-Nah-Chi-Wah-Nung Historical Centre at the Manitou Mounds ancient burial grounds site.

"I am pleased to host Minister Bryant in our community," the chief said. "All around him he can see examples of creativity and innovation, a community of prosperity and accomplishment. He can see that the settlement of the Rainy River land claim will benefit not only the people of the Rainy River First Nations but the local and regional community."

The agreement contains approximately $71 million for the First Nations as compensation for the loss of the use of their land for 90 years. The money will be paid equally by the federal and provincial governments. The agreement also spefies that more than 46,000 acres of new reserve land will be set aside, subject to the federal government's Additions to Reserves Policy. A third of the land will come from Crown land and the remainder (about 30,000 acres) will be purchased by Rainy River First Nations from private land holders on a willing seller/ willing buyer basis over 40 years. The property is currently in the hands of about 350 people.

If the deal goes through, it will be the first time in Ontario that new reserve lands have been established in a populated area. Fort Frances is a major service centre for the entire Rainy River region.

The First Nations has more than 700 registered members and more than 400 Native and non-Native people live on the present 5,600-acre reserve at Manitou Rapids.

In 1873, seven bands now known as Rainy River First Nations, signed Treaty 3 with Canada. Seven reserves were surveyed for them in 1875, but Ontario said the land could not be set aside for reserves without its consent, and the court of the day supported the province's position.

Ontario further refused to enact legislation confirming all other Treaty 3 reserves unless Canada agreed to obtain surrenders for sale of six of the Rainy River reserves.

The land, 72 square miles, was taken and five bands were relocated to Manitou Rapids where the other two bands resided. The federal government made the amalgamation official in the 1960s.

In 1982, Rainy River First Nations filed a land claim on the basis the reserves were wrongfully taken and filed a claim for damages. In 1988, it began a lawsuit against both Canada and Ontario, but that was deferred when both governments accepted the claim for negotiation in 1997.

BY Birchbark Staff

COPYRIGHT 2004 Aboriginal Multi-Media Society of Alberta (AMMSA)
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Publication:Ontario Birchbark
Date:Jun 1, 2004
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