Negotiations between twenty-one Robinson-Huron Treaty nations, Ontario and Canada begin

Chief Dean Sayers, of the Batchewana First Nation, at a 2019 media conference held by the First Nations in the Robinson-Huron Treaty to provide reaction to a ruling that the provincial and federal governments are obligated to increase treaty annunities. Wiikwemkoong Chief Duke Peltier and lawyer Dave Nahwegahbow look on. photo by Northern Life’s Arron Pickard

ROBINSON-HURON TERRITORY—Leadership of the Robinson Huron Treaty Litigation Fund (RHLTF) and Ontario and Canada officials have established a negotiation table to find common ground for resolving the annuities litigation outside of court. The 21 First Nations, which includes all First Nations on Manitoulin Island, have argued that a $4 per person annuity established in 1874 needs to be renegotiated.

“We are pleased to be in place where we are talking about negotiating a resolution to our annuities case outside of the court. We have always known that reconciliation will not happen in the courtroom,” said Chief Dean Sayers, of Batchawana First Nation.

Wiikwemkoong Ogimaa Duke Peltier said, “it has been a long journey to get to this point and we are ready to work with our treaty partners toward a settlement. We remain grounded in our commitment to ensure the Robinson Huron Treaty is implemented.”

Chief Sayers told The Expositor, “we have been at the table (with negotiators for the government) for the past couple of months. And last Friday Premier (Doug) Ford provided a mandate to provincial negotiators (to enter into settlement negotiations). I was impressed with the premier’s sincerity on the issue and the need to resolve this 150-year-old issue. He told (provincial) negotiators to come to the table, similar to what Canadian government representatives have done.”

“We would love to see a resolution sooner than later, but the important thing is to make sure it is done properly,” Chief Sayers told The Expositor. He sounded very confident that an agreement will be reached. “Oh yes, it is going to happen. We have been waiting since 1874, and a  couple of more months of negotiation is not going to hurt anything. It is going to take a few months to get through the gathering of information to provide the formal position of each party and to negotiate a settlement.”

“We don’t want a judge to have to rule on this in court,” said Chief Sayers. “We have been waiting too long to share resources as is supposed to be happening, and we are looking at favourable discussions with both governments at the table. We have heard so many promises over the years, and finally I can say I’m excited and looking forward to a favourable result for all parties.”

Chief Sayers dismissed the idea that Ontario is making this move to go to the table to negotiate due to a provincial election to be held in June. “I have met and talked to the premier and this is not about any election. It is about an issue 150 years old that needs to be resolved,” he told The Expositor.

The Robinson Huron Treaty First Nations have outstanding litigation against both Canada and Ontario relating to treaty annuities. At this point, the negotiations are confidential. More details will be released at a later date.

The RHLTF includes 21 First Nations, including all those on Manitoulin Island.