Ontario Regional Chief Joins Premier McGuinty in Calling for an Independent Body to Resolve Outstanding First Nation Land Rights
TORONTO, May 10 – Today, Ontario Regional Chief Angus Toulouse joined Premier Dalton McGuinty in calling upon the federal government to establish an independent body to settle the hundreds of outstanding land claims across the country. In a November 2006 report by the Senate Standing Committee on Aboriginal Peoples Special Study on the Federal Specific Claims Process, entitled “Negotiation or Confrontation: It’s Canada’s Choice”, witnesses were clear in their assertion that the current process is long, complicated and essentially ineffective. The Senate Standing Committee report identified that the number of unresolved Specific Claims now exceeds 800 and continues to grow. The study further notes that “these claims represent a significant potential liability for the Government of Canada.” The Ontario Regional Chief stated, “The report of Senate Standing Committee was quite clear – First Nations land rights issues must be addressed as through an independent mechanism which would determine the Crown’s liabilities. These are outstanding legal obligations in which the honour of the Crown is at stake.” The two key findings of the report include increasing funds available for settlements for an amount no less than $250 million per year, and establishing an independent body within two years with the mandate and power to resolve Specific Claims.
These findings are consistent with the Report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples (RCAP) completed ten years ago. The RCAP report is one of many studies that identified that the existing land claims settlement process is deeply flawed. Chief Toulouse stated, “Numerous reports have consistently identified that the Government of Canada is in a position of conflict of interest by acting as judge, jury and defendant in the claims resolution process. There are few avenues to compel the Federal Government to act promptly to address outstanding land rights issues. An independent authority must be established to address claims fairly and in a timely manner.”
Regional Chief Toulouse also notes that First Nations have worked diligently over the years with government to develop mutually agreed upon approaches to establishing an independent claims body. “Resolving outstanding First Nations claims requires political will by the Federal government to establish a truly independent authority. They can either work with First Nations to make it happen, or continue to live with the uncertainty that results from the status quo – which has absolutely no benefit for anyone,” states Regional Chief Toulouse.
The Chiefs of Ontario is a coordinating body for 134 First Nation communities located within the boundaries of the Province of Ontario. The purpose of the Chiefs of Ontario office is to enable the political leadership to discuss regional, provincial and national priorities affecting First Nation people in Ontario and to provide a unified voice on these issues.
For further information: Pam Hunter, (905) 683-0322 or Policy Advisor, (613) 203-3233