Wiikwemkoong claims to Islands in Georgian Bay leads to offer of Crown lands in reparation

OTTAWA—Northeast Town council received a letter from Alison McLaren, Indigenous Affairs senior negotiator for the Wiikwemkoong Island Boundary Claim, informing them that the province has concluded the formal Category C environmental assessment requirements for the boundaries claim, locally known as the Wiikwemkoong Island’s Land Claim.
The claim includes several islands included in the Northeastern Manitoulin and the Islands catchment. The conclusion of negotiations does not directly impact the municipality or its assessment base, as noted by Northeast Town Mayor Al MacNevin during an October 18 council meeting.
The boundary claim, which involves both the Province of Ontario and the Government of Canada, as well as Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory, centres on Islands in Georgian Bay and the North Channel which were never surrendered to the Crown, some of which were transferred to the Municipality of Killarney shortly after the amalgamation which created the Northeast Town in the late 1990s.
The Class EA focuses only on potential impacts arising from the transfer of Crown land to Canada to be set apart as reserve for Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory. Alternatively, if this is not possible, the lands will be conveyed to a designate of Wiikwemkoong in fee simple, to be held in trust for the benefit of Wiikwemkoong.
Potential uses to be made of the lands and any planning or development decisions are not assessed as part of the undertaking to transfer the lands, as the future use of the property is not assured at the time of transfer.
The official definition of the Wiikwemkoong Islands Boundary Claim is “a land claim relating to the islands off the eastern shore of Manitoulin Island. Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory asserts that its rights and interests in and to these islands under the Treaty of 1836 have never been ceded or extinguished.”
Through the settlement process, provincial Crown land within the area of the boundary claim and alternative provincial Crown land on the mainland and Philip Edward Island and surrounding islands, are being proffered as replacements for patented lands (privately owned) that cannot be returned to Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory.
The selections of alternative provincial Crown land on the mainland and Philip Edward Island were influenced by a number of factors, including their proximity to Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory’s Point Grondine Reserve, proximity to infrastructure for community development and the historical presence that Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory has maintained in the area.
The lands may be transferred to the Government of Canada to be set apart as reserve upon request of Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory, but band leadership has indicated to The Expositor in the past that there is an intention to keep a portion of land on the Highway 17 corridor outside of the reserve process so that it can be utilized for commercial purposes.
Ms. McLaren noted in her letter that “although Ontario has concluded the formal EA process for the Wiikwemkoong Islands Boundary Claim, we are committed to continuing to update the Municipality of Northeastern Manitoulin and the Islands on the Wiikwemkoong Islands Boundary Claim negotiations as they proceed to settlement.”