Ottawa/Queen's Park



Algonquin sunset

Dear Editor,
Recently, we learned that the Federal Government, the Province of Ontario, and the Algonquins of Ontario have signed an "Agreement-in-Principle" which sets out the main elements of a potential settlement on an ongoing land claim by the Algonquins of Ontario. This letter serves to outline my concerns surrounding the current claim and the potential problems that could arise if it is not settled properly - particularly the implications for those who have been hunting, fishing, trapping, visiting cottages, and living on this land for years. Simply put, these individuals need to be protected.
Before I begin, I should note that I fully believe that legitimate land claims that are evidence-based should be settled by all parties involved and that compensation should be made when it is determined there has been a loss. Having said that, all efforts should be made to protect land use for all stakeholders. You cannot simply throw money and land at the issue and expect to walk away with a solution that works for everyone. It is absolutely essential that all parties involved are protected and I will fight tooth and nail to ensure that this happens.
The claim made by the Algonquins is very expansive and encompasses quite a bit of land. The area of the claim covers approximately 36,000 square kilometres in eastern Ontario which includes the City of Ottawa (including Parliament Hill), the majority of Algonquin Park, and is home to more than 1.2 million people. Algonquin Park is not and should not be part of the settlement, nor obviously is the City of Ottawa. The land that will be given to the Algonquin will consist of smaller parcels spread throughout the area of the claim. Regardless, the decision that is made will impact an incredible number of people. It will have implications for those who live in the territory in question as well as those who have enjoyed the great outdoors by hunting, fishing, canoeing, trapping, and camping in the area. I am fundamentally opposed to any transfer of land that would jeopardize the level of access that everyone currently has to this land. Clear and explicit protections must be in place to ensure that everyone who uses this land for hunting, fishing, trapping, camping etc. will still be able to do so without any impediments once the transfer is finalized.
As it stands right now, under the Agreement in Principle, the Algonquins of Ontario would receive $300 million in funding from Canada and Ontario and approximately but not less than 117,500 acres of provincial Crown lands would be transferred to Algonquin ownership. However, it is not clear from the agreement what exactly will happen with the 117,500 acres of Crown land that will be transferred. Both the federal and provincial governments have repeatedly stated that they will be open and transparent on how this potential settlement will impact a number of different stakeholders, and have committed to a consultation process to keep the public informed, something they failed to do previously. There are very massive implications for hunters, anglers, community groups, and home and cottage owners. If the agreement does not have specific provisions that ensure the rights of hunters, anglers, trappers and cottagers are protected then I will fight the ratification of this agreement every step of the way.
The next step in the process involves the negotiation of a final treaty, which is expected to take between 3 and 5 years. Before the final treaty is approved, it must be voted on by the Algonquins of Ontario, the Ontario Legislature and the Parliament of Canada. Before all parties consider and vote on a treaty, there needs to be a full explanation of the implications for all stakeholders. Without this transparency, it will be impossible for me to make an informed vote on this settlement. I currently have grave concerns about what this agreement could mean for the hunting and angling community and those who have settled their homes and cottages on this land. It's not enough to throw money and land at the issue and give yourself a pat on the back. There are more than just three parties involved here and I expect them ALL to be protected in any agreement.
Larry Miller, MP Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound


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