Among the many questions brought up for discussion at last week’s land claims public meeting, questions about land rights, land access and hunting were very much to the fore.
So, what does the deal say, exactly, about all of these issues?
Participants at the meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 29, at the Perth Royal Canadian Legion branch, could pick up a “Preliminary Draft Comprehensive Land Claim Agreement-in-Principle,” executive summary.
Some attendees wondered about access to property, particularly landlocked property being sought by the Algonquin First Nation claim that would require them to use a private road over private property, or private property owners who would have to travel across First Nations land to access their land.
The parcels of land are located in Port Elmsley, Kilmarnock, northern Lanark County, and in parts of Renfrew and Frontenac counties.
Under chapter five of the agreement, “Ontario would not transfer public roads, but may transfer some unopened road allowances which it owns. Ontario would not transfer road allowances owned by a municipality. Municipalities may transfer some road allowances under their jurisdiction.”
As for private property, before a final agreement is reached, “Ontario would facilitate the negotiation of agreements between the Algonquins and the holders of existing rights or interests on settlement lands concerning the continuation of those existing rights or interests. Persons holding existing rights or interests would continue to have the right to access settlement lands where reasonably necessary to exercise or enjoy those existing rights or interest in settlement lands.”
Existing interests are also addressed in the agreement and these, in particular, but not limited to, hunt camps, public utilities, trap lines, mining leases and claims and aggregate licenses.
“Interests on settlement lands existing at the time of transfer would continue on those lands after transfer to an Algonquin institution,” the agreement states.
Further within the lines of chapter five, access is mentioned.
“Laws governing access to or across private property would apply to settlement lands unless otherwise stated in the final agreement,” the agreement states. “Persons who hold legal interests would have access across settlement land through easements as set out in descriptive plans.”
When it comes to harvesting, in chapter eight, Algonquins have the right to harvest wildlife, fish, migratory birds and plants “for domestic purposes, throughout the year on crown lands located throughout the settlement area. The Algonquins could also harvest on privately owned land within the settlement area with the consent of the landowner.”
The agreement would also allow Algonquins to “barter and trade amongst themselves.”
However, the chapter “recognizes that harvesting rights are communal rights…harvesting by the general public would continue to be subject to laws of general application.”
Further to this, “Algonquin harvesting rights would be subject to laws and other measures that are necessary for conservation, public health or public safety.”
There would also be limits on the amount of hunting as well.
“A total allowable harvest would be established for allocated species in consultation with the Algonquins and taking into account the interests of other users,” the document states. Harvesting of moose in Algonquin Park, however, would “continue in the area currently hunted for that purpose.”
Trapping for fur for domestic purposes would be a right, while trapping for commercial fur sale would be governed under an agreement yet to be negotiated. Enforcement would remain under the authority of Canada and Ontario.
Algonquins “would not be required to pay license fees, charges or royalties for harvesting in the settlement area for domestic purposes.” However, they would still need to obtain the necessary firearms licenses for their guns, and to produce documentation to enforcement officers to show that they are indeed Algonquins.
As for forestry in chapter seven, “Ontario and the Algonquins agree to work cooperatively to maintain support for the existing forestry industry, and increase Algonquin participation in, and benefits from, the forestry industry.”
The agreement seeks to increase Algonquin employment and participation in forestry, and “Ontario would consider the potential for Algonquin benefits as a relevant factor when evaluating tender bids or other government contracting procedures.”