Quebec First Nation files title claim for parts of Ottawa
A Quebec First Nation has filed an Aboriginal title claim for parts of downtown Ottawa, including Parliament Hill and the Supreme Court.
The move is intended to block a treaty between the Algonquins of Ontario and the federal and provincial governments — an agreement that the Algonquins of Quebec say they should also benefit from.
The Algonquin Anishinabe Nation, made up of several communities in Quebec, says they were never consulted on the Ontario deal, even though they have occupied the Ottawa Valley for thousands of years, and have a deep historical connection to the area.
The proposed deal, which has already been in negotiations for 24 years, would see around 36,000 square kilometres of Crown land, including parts of the Ottawa Valley, ceded to Algonquins of Ontario. It could take another five years to finalize the details. The proposed deal includes a $300-million payment.
The Ontario Algonquins have “sold their souls,” said Chief Jean-Guy Whiteduck, whose band Kitigan Zibi has brought the land claim on behalf of all Algonquin Anishinabe people.
“The Crown has never addressed the fact that Parliament, the Supreme Court of Canada and the Library and Archives are built on unceded Algonquin land,” said Whiteduck, during a press conference at the Hilton Lac Leamy in Gatineau, Que., during the Assembly of First Nations annual winter chiefs gathering. “We have brought this claim to the courts as a last resort. We are tired of being ignored by the Crown and it is time for the Crown to address our Aboriginal title throughout Ottawa and the surrounding area.”
The claim also includes the LeBreton Flats, where negotiations are underway to build a new arena for the Ottawa Senators, as well as Chaudiere, Albert and Victoria Islands. It names the National Capital Commission, the Attorney General of Canada, Ontario’s Ministry of the Attorney General as defendants.
There are roughly 13,000 Algonquin people living in nine communities in Quebec, Whiteduck told VICE News, adding that thousands of people involved in the vote for the deal were “self-declared Algonquins.” Whiteduck and other chiefs have said the criteria to determine who is considered Algonquin under the deal has been too loose, and that the vast majority of the Algonquins of Ontario aren’t actually Algonquin or even Aboriginal.
“They filed a claim, we don’t agree with it,” he said. “Our people were never formally consulted by the federal government. We claim Aboriginal title to all this territory, and our people have rights. It’s not about selling out, it’s about sharing. It’s not about displacing anyone. It’s about making sure our community benefits today and in the future.”
“We’d like to be treated as an equal in negotiations on how our land is going to be used and how we can benefit from it too,” he said.
If their lawsuit is successful, the First Nation would have a say on anything that occurs on the land, including that occupied by Parliament Hill.
Cover: Photo by Lars Hagberg/The Canadian Press