MMA to petition MPPs on land claim concerns

Tom Sasvari

The Recorder

KAGAWONG—The Manitoulin Municipal Association (MMA) is going to again make its concerns known in regards to the Manitoulin Island 1990 land claims agreement with the new members of provincial parliament and municipality in Ontario.

“Is there anything to talk about (concerning the 1990 land claims agreement)?” asked MMA chair Ken Noland at a meeting last week. “What would you think of the suggestion of sending a letter to all the newly elected provincial MPPs, and individual municipalities, so everyone is well aware of the concerns we have with the land claim agreement, in case (the politicians) have to vote on this.”

“I think we should,” stated Jack McQuarrie, a representative of Cockburn Island.

Bud Rohn, reeve of Assiginack Township said, “I agree totally. Have we forwarded a motion to all other municipalities in the province.”

Mr. Noland pointed out the MMA had done this previously (prior to the last provincial elections) and had also made their concerns known through the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO).

The whole land claim process, “is our problem now, but there could be many others areas with the same concerns the future,” said Mr. McQuarrie.

Concerns raised by the MMA were also provided at a delegation members made to various provincial ministers at the AMO annual conference. The presentation had been made to, among others, then Minister of Aboriginal Affairs Chris Bentley and Rick Bartolucci.

“I don’t know if this got to the people we needed to get to, but Mr. Bartolucci said he would help us out,” said Paul Skippen, a Northeastern Manitoulin and the Islands councillor. “He feels we should have decided to be part of the municipal advisory committee to the land claims agreement negotiations,” he said noting the problem as far as the MMA is concerned is that they would not have any real input into the negotiations.

“The opportunity was not there for us to take an actual part in the negotiations,” said Mr. Noland, “that was our concern. The negotiations would go on in the back room and we would have no say in the agreement.”

“We have never been asked to be a real part of the negotiating committee,” said Mr. Rohn. “We would just remain in the backseat and they would come to us with the results of the negotiations after it is done. We have been encouraged by a lot of people to sit on the negotiating committee, but we were never asked to actually be part of the negotiations.”

“Mr. Bartolucci was shocked when we told him that, that this would all be rubber stamped and we have never been part of the land claim negotiation process,” said Mr. Skippen.

Since the meeting with the ministers earlier this fall, “we haven’t heard anything new regarding the land claim negotiations,” said Mr. Noland.

The MMA passed a motion to have letters sent to Ontario MPPs and provincial ministries outlining their concerns and feedback, and go from there.

At meetings in June the MMA, in regards to the draft Manitoulin Municipal Association Advisory Committee to the 1990 Land Claims agreement said, “the MMA members decided they wish to see the document and would not go in-camera to do so; the document was discussed as to the roll of the MMAAC. The MMAAC would be an advisory position and not an active participant in negotiations and was restricted by confidentiality in its ability to advise the MMA or Manitoulin municipalities of the agreement; it was determined not to proceed with the MMAAC and to draft a resolution to be presented to Manitoulin municipalities for their endorsement. The resolution is to outline several points of concern; the downloading of the cost of a land negotiation agreement by the province on to the municipalities; the inadequacy of the provincial proposed MMAAC to secure information as to the content of the agreement and its effect on Manitoulin municipalities; the confidentiality clause in the terms of reference for the MMAAC rendered it useless in providing information to the MMA as to the land claim agreement and its effect on Manitoulin municipalities.”

As a follow up, a motion was passed by the MMA regarding the 1990 land claim, which indicated the municipalities need representation at the negotiations table, the province should cover the municipal cost of the land claims agreement, and the resulting conclusion was that there should be no downloaded costs, no exemption of municipal by-laws and no closing of road allowances.

A draft MMA motion was put forward at the time, as a press release, which states in part, “the Manitoulin Municipal Association does not support the implementation of the revised 1990 UCCM land claims agreement without assurances that the following items be incorporated in the final agreement: the province will compensate affected municipalities, yearly for all loss of tax revenues resulting from properties being added to reserves, held in trust or otherwise removed as taxable properties; two, the province will ensure the agreement clearly articulates that properties acquired in fee simple, by the First Nation Bands or placed in trust for First Nations are subject to planning, zoning and municipal by-law controls; three, the province will extend the agreement to ensure access for affected property owners can be registered on title and transferred to subsequent owners.”

As well, the MMA wants, “all originally surveyed road and marine allowances including those bordering designated reserve lands to remain under municipal control; the province to provide a dispute resolution mechanism in the terms of voluntary service agreements between member municipalities and individual First Nations or land trusts regarding the First Nations share of all municipal services including infrastructure, social services, policing, education, etc. and that funding of municipal costs in all disputes be provided by the province.”