Chiefs from the Robinson-Huron Treaty territory, acting on behalf of some 30,000 beneficiaries of the 1850 Robinson-Huron Treaty, have taken significant legal action by filing a Statement of Claim today naming the Crown in right of Canada and the Crown in right of Ontario regarding the longstanding failure of the Crown to raise annuities as agreed to under the Treaty.
“On the 164th Anniversary of the signing of the Robinson Huron Treaty – the Robinson-Huron Treaty Chiefs declare that our people have exhausted their patience waiting for the Crown to act honourably, they want their fair share and they want the Crown to honour its promises,” said Chief Dean Sayers spokesman for the Chiefs. “Shortly after the Treaty was entered into the Chiefs began petitioning the Crown for an increase in the annuities with limited results. Today’s Robinson Huron Treaty Chiefs and Councils intend to ensure that the Crown lives up to its obligations under the Treaty. The Robinson-Huron Treaty anticipates and provides economic benefits for us in perpetuity. The annuity was intended to be our revenue stream, our share of the wealth generated by revenues from our territory, yet many of the beneficiaries live in poverty. This is not what our ancestors and the Crown agreed to.” Chief Sayers also noted that any revenue sharing received by the Robinson-Huron Treaty First Nations will provide significant benefit for the economy of Northern Ontario.
Under the Robinson Huron Treaty, signed on September 9th, 1850, the Anishinabek (“Lake Huron Ojibwa Indians”) agreed to share their lands and resources with the newcomers – approximately 35,700 square miles of territory. In return, the Crown agreed to a number of responsibilities including the payment of annuities that were to be augmented from time to time based on use and development of the lands. Treaty beneficiaries currently get $4.00 per year and there has been no increase since 1874. This despite the fact that the Treaty is explicit in stating that the annuities would increase if the resource revenue generated from the territory produced such an amount as to enable the increase without incurring a loss.
The Robinson Huron Treaty territory has yielded vast amounts of revenues from forestry, mining and other resource development activities over the years, yet the annuities remain at a mere $4.00 per year. The Chiefs are seeking an accounting of revenue generated since the Treaty signing; they want the level of annuities increased; and compensation for losses suffered as a result of the Crown’s failure to increase the annuities under the Robinson Huron Treaty, as promised. The Statement of Claim asks that the Crown deal “liberally and justly” with their claim, in accordance with the honour of the Crown, and engage in negotiations to settle the claim.
Assembly of First Nations National Chief Ghislain Picard stated: “This is a serious, long-standing breach of the Robinson-Huron Treaty and a breach of fiduciary obligation on the part of the Crown. Canada has grown rich off the traditional territories of First Nations and both provincial and national economies benefit while too many of our communities and citizens face chronic poverty. This is clearly unfair and is not consistent with the Treaties and agreements we entered into in good faith with the Crown. The AFN calls on the Crown to honour its promises and negotiate a fairer share with First Nations.”