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Frequently Asked Questions

Fort William Boundary Claim

Ministry of Indigenous Affairs

The Fort William First Nation and the Governments of Canada and Ontario are working together to find a solution to resolve the Boundary Claim. The goal of this process is to conclude a final settlement that will bring closure to the claim once and for all

Context

What are the Boundary Claim negotiations about?

The parties are working together to resolve an outstanding land claim. 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.

What is the Robinson Superior Treaty?

In 1850, the government of the Province of Canada entered into the Robinson-Superior Treaty with the Ojibway of Lake Superior. Pursuant to the Treaty, the Province of Canada agreed to set aside certain lands as reserve for the Ojibway in return for the Ojibway's agreement to give up their title to lands located in the Lake Superior watershed.

What are treaties?

Treaties are solemn agreements that set out promises, obligations and benefits for the parties. Beginning almost 300 years ago, treaties were signed between the British government and many First Nations living in what was to become Canada. Through many of these agreements, First Nations surrendered their interest in the land in exchange for one-time or ongoing benefits, ongoing rights and reserve lands. This allowed for the peaceful settlement and development of much of Canada.

These treaties between Canada and First Nations are basic building blocks in the creation of our country. The continuing treaty relationship ensures that First Nation and non-First Nation people can together enjoy Canada's benefits.

Why are we dealing now with events that happened so long ago?

Land claims deal with the past grievances of First Nations. These grievances relate to the Crown's obligations under historic treaties or to the way it managed First Nation funds or assets. While the historical events that gave rise to the Fort William First Nation's claims took place over a century and a half ago, the claims were formally submitted after both the federal and provincial governments had set up processes to address outstanding land claims through negotiations.

The Government of Canada established its various claims policies in 1973, along with a process and funding for resolving Aboriginal land claims through negotiations. The Province of Ontario established a process in the 1980s for resolving Aboriginal land claims within Ontario.

Negotiations lead to "win-win" situations that balance the interests of all concerned; they ensure that settlements lead to a just resolution of First Nations' claims and are fair to all parties.

The Negotiations

When did the Boundary Claim Negotiations begin?

The Boundary Claim was submitted to Canada in 1986. Negotiations among Canada, Ontario and Fort William First Nation started in 2000.

What has been achieved through these talks?

Initially, the parties agreed on a general framework for the negotiations. A study process was then put in place to assist the parties in determining fair compensation. This included appraisals to value the claim lands and work to determine the economic losses of the First Nation, resulting from lost opportunity to use the claim area. A public consultation process on the land component of the proposed settlement was also completed.

Negotiators have concluded talks on a settlement proposal. This is an important step in the process, which brings the parties closer to achieving final resolution of this longstanding claim.

What is in the settlement proposal?

The proposed settlement for the Boundary Claim includes the payment of approximately $154 million in total financial compensation to the First Nation. This includes about $149 million from Canada and approximately $5 million from Ontario. The settlement offer also includes transfer of the Crown land on Pie Island, including the Le Pate Provincial Nature Reserve, and all of Flatland Island, to Canada to be set apart as reserve for the Fort William First Nation. This will be subject to the terms of the Settlement Agreement and the federal government's Additions-to-Reserve Policy.

The lands do not automatically become reserve lands when the Boundary Claim is settled. Canada's Additions-to-Reserve Policy specifies a number of steps that must be completed before any lands can be given reserve status.

The privately owned land on the south end of Pie Island will not be affected in any way by the settlement of this claim.

How does a settlement bring closure to this claim?

In return for compensation, the First Nation will provide Canada and Ontario with releases to ensure the claim can never be re-opened. Settlements must bring closure and certainty for all concerned.

How will the settlement monies be managed?

When the claim is settled, Canada will pay the compensation to the First Nation. The First Nation is developing a Trust Agreement that sets out how these settlement funds will be used and managed for the present and future benefit of its members. The Trust Agreement will also be submitted for approval by First Nation members when they vote on the proposed Settlement Agreement.

The Land Component

Is any property on the mainland affected?

No.

Where are the proposed Crown land selections located?

The proposed Crown land selections are all of Flatland Island plus the provincial Crown land on Pie Island, including the Le Pate Provincial Nature Reserve.

Why were Flatland and Pie Islands selected?

Pie Island was selected because in 1853, the government surveyor recommended that Pie Island be included in the Fort William First Nation's reserve. However, the surveyor's recommendation was never implemented.

Flatland Island was selected because it was traditionally used by the Fort William First Nation.

What will happen to the Le Pate Provincial Nature Reserve?

Once Canada, Ontario and the Fort William First Nation ratify a Settlement Agreement, Le Pate Provincial Nature Reserve will be deregulated and transferred to Canada to be set apart as reserve.

What's been done to share information with the public about this claim?

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 consultation process provided information on 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. Three open houses were also held in the Thunder Bay area.

Looking Ahead

What happens next?

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. This Agreement will set out how the First Nation will use, manage and administer its settlement funds.

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 mail outs of information materials.

 The First Nation membership will have an opportunity to vote yes or no to the proposed Settlement Agreement and the Trust Agreement. This vote will take place on January 22, 2011. If a favourable vote is reached, the next step is for Ontario and Canada to approve the Settlement Agreement. The agreement would not be final until it is signed by all parties.

How will the settlement of the Fort William First Nation's Boundary Claim affect the Thunder Bay area?

The successful resolution of land claims through negotiated settlements can create a positive environment for economic development for Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people. As the Fort William First Nation is located adjacent to the City of Thunder Bay, economic development initiatives resulting from the settlement will bring economic spin-offs for the First Nation and Thunder Bay businesses and residents.

The resolution of the Boundary Claim will address and resolve the land claim and bring certainty to the affected area and parties.

The Fort William First Nation has other specific claims. What is the status of these other claims?

Canada and Fort William First Nation have also reached an important milestone towards the resolution of the First Nation's Neebing Surrender Specific Claim, which involves financial compensation only. Negotiators for Canada and the First Nation have recently completed a draft Settlement Agreement that includes approximately $22 million. The Chief and Council have agreed to take this settlement proposal to First Nation members for a vote. This vote will take place on December 4, 2010.

The First Nation's Pipeline claim was successfully settled in February 2010. Negotiations between Canada and the Fort William First Nation to resolve the First Nation's Railway Claim are ongoing.

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