The Fort William Boundary Claim
The Fort William First Nation, Canada and Ontario have reached a negotiated settlement that resolves the First Nation's Boundary Claim. The First Nation's reserve is located in northwestern Ontario, adjacent to the city of Thunder Bay. The goal of this process was to find a common solution to resolve this claim in a way that is fair to everyone.
Benefits of Settling Claims
The settlement of this claim resolves 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 and job creation.
Overview of the Boundary Claim
The Boundary Claim dated back to the Robinson-Superior Treaty of 1850. The basis of the First Nation's claim was that the boundary of the Fort William reserve, as surveyed in 1853, did not reflect the First Nation's understanding of the location and size of the reserve that was supposed to be set apart for its 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.
In November 2010, Canada, Ontario and the First Nation announced that their negotiators concluded talks on a settlement proposal for the Boundary Claim.
Key Elements of the Settlement
The settlement for the Boundary Claim includes the payment to the First Nation of approximately $149 million in financial compensation from Canada and approximately $5 million from Ontario. The settlement provides for the transfer of 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 Le Pate Provincial Nature Reserve.
The transfer of the lands is subject to the terms of the settlement and the federal government's Additions-to-Reserve policy.
The First Nation provided Canada and Ontario with releases to ensure the claim will never be re-opened. All of the parties agree that this settlement brings closure for all concerned.
No private property was expropriated or taken away from anyone to settle this claim and existing access to private property is 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 that began in 2006. The focus of the consultations was on the land component of the settlement, which includes 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 the provincial Crown land component of the settlement.
The parties also made efforts to update interested parties as key milestones were reached during the negotiation process. This included newsletters and other publications.
Steps to a Final Settlement
A number of steps needed to be completed after the November 2010 announcement before the claim could be settled.
The parties finalized the drafting of the text of the Settlement Agreement, which is a legally binding contract. The First Nation also completed its work on a Trust Agreement for the settlement. This Agreement sets out how the First Nation will use, manage and administer its settlement funds for the future benefit of its members.
The Settlement Agreement and Trust Agreement were approved by First Nation members in a vote that took place on January 22, 2011. The Settlement Agreement was then approved by Ontario at the end of January 2011 and by Canada in August of 2011. The Settlement Agreement took effect as soon as it was signed by all three parties.