The Fort William Boundary Claim
The Fort William First Nation, Canada and Ontario are negotiating a resolution to the First Nation's Boundary Claim. The First Nation is located in northwestern Ontario, adjacent to the city of Thunder Bay. The goal of this process is to find a common solution to resolve this claim in a way that is fair to everyone.
The settlement of this claim will resolve a historic grievance dating back to the early 1850s. The settlement will allow the First Nation to invest directly in the local economy and open up new opportunities for economic development that will bring long-term benefits to First Nation members. These investments, in turn, can generate spin-off economic benefits for neighbouring communities and the potential for new business partnerships.
Overview of the Boundary Claim
The Boundary Claim dates back to the Robinson Superior Treaty of 1850. The basis of the First Nation's claim is that the boundary of the Fort William reserve, as surveyed in 1853, does not reflect the First Nation's understanding of the location and size of the reserve that was supposed to be set apart for their use under the Robinson Superior Treaty of 1850.
The Boundary Claim was submitted to Canada in 1986 and to Ontario in 1987. After extensive research and legal reviews of the claim, Canada accepted the claim for negotiation in 1994 under its Specific Claims Policy. Ontario accepted the claim in 2000.
Negotiators for the First Nation, Canada and Ontario have concluded talks on a settlement proposal for the Boundary Claim. This is an important step in this process and brings the Parties closer to achieving final resolution of this longstanding claim.
Key Elements of the Settlement Proposal
Negotiators for the First Nation, Canada and Ontario have reached a general consensus on the key terms of a proposed settlement of the Boundary Claim. The First Nation has agreed to put the proposed Settlement to a vote by its members. The proposed settlement for the Boundary Claim includes approximately $154 million in total financial compensation, about $149 million from Canada and approximately $5 million from Ontario. The settlement proposes to transfer approximately 4,655 hectares of Ontario Crown land to Canada to be set apart as reserve for the Fort William First Nation. This is made up of Flatland Island and about 4,311 hectares on Pie Island including the Le Pate Provincial Nature Reserve.
The transfer will be subject to the terms of the proposed Settlement Agreement and the federal government's Additions-to-Reserve policy.
In return for this compensation, the First Nation will provide Canada and Ontario with releases to ensure the claim can never be re-opened. All of the parties agree that this settlement will bring closure for all concerned.
No private property will be expropriated or taken away from anyone to settle this claim and existing access to private property will be assured.
Sharing Information with the Public
Before the Crown settles a land claim, the Province of Ontario engages in a public consultation process. The Fort William First Nation and Canada participated in a provincially led consultation process beginning in 2006. The focus of the consultations was on the land component proposed for inclusion as part of a settlement, which included the provincial Crown lands on Pie and Flatland Islands, along with Le Pate Provincial Nature Reserve. Three open houses were held in the Thunder Bay area.
The consultation process provided information to the public about the Boundary Claim and on the provincial Crown land that would be affected in a proposed settlement.
The parties have also made efforts to update interested parties as key milestones were reached during this joint process. This has included newsletters and publications.
A number of steps need to be completed before this claim can be settled. The parties have completed drafting the legal text of a Settlement Agreement. The First Nation must also complete its work on a proposed Trust Agreement for the settlement. This Agreement will set out how the First Nation will use, manage and administer its settlement funds for the future benefit of its members.
When this work is complete, the First Nation will launch an information campaign to explain the proposed settlement to its members. This will include community meetings and the mailing out of information materials.
The First Nation's membership will have an opportunity to say yes or no to the proposed Settlement Agreement and the Trust Agreement by way of a referendum. This vote will take place on January 22, 2011. If a favourable vote is reached, the next step would be for Ontario and Canada to approve the Settlement Agreement. The Agreement would not take effect until it is signed by all parties.