(Information shared in this Article specific to the agreement can be found on the Government of Canada’s Websites)
A 2018 Settlement Agreement between the Williams Treaties First Nations, Canada and the Province of Ontario to resolve issues surrounding the 1923 Williams Treaties is a repeat of history where Ontario has already breached this Agreement says a Land Defender.
John Hawke, a Beausoleil First Nation member erected a blockade on June 21, 2019 for five weeks of Ontario’s Awenda Provincial Park situated on land involved in the settlement to raise awareness of what he feels is a continuation of injustice. Hawke also claims there is a potential conflict of interest by two Federal Ministers who have property on the Indigenous lands that were surrendered in this agreement.
“ A group of us set up a cultural camp and built a cabin in Awenda Provincial Park in 2012 to oppose these kinds of agreements. The 2019 blockade of the Park was a heightened action in response to continued extinguishment of our underlying title of our traditional territory.” Explains Hawke.
Hawke feels the Agreement to compensate for grievances surrounding the 1923 Williams Treaties replicates the same injustices it attempts to resolve.
“Canada breached its fiduciary responsibility to work in our best interest on behalf of the Crown and continues to do so in these biased settlement agreements.” explains Hawke who feels a more fair process should be pursued when dealing with such land disputes.
“ An Imperial Statute in 1704 and reaffirmed in 1773 as a result of Mohegan vs Connecticut established a special impartial court for Indigenous Nations and Settler Governments to settle land disputes.” Explains Hawke.
The Williams Treaties First Nations include Alderville First Nation, Chippewas of Beausoleil First Nation, Chippewas of Georgina Island First Nation, Chippewas of Rama First Nation, Curve Lake First Nation, Hiawatha First Nation and Mississaugas of Scugog Island First Nation.
HISTORY OF THE 1923 WILLIAMS TREATIES
Between 1764 and 1850 the British started to make what is referred to as pre-Confederation Treaties in Upper Canada with the Anishinaabe in order to occupy their lands for military use.
The ancestors of the Williams Treaties First Nations entered into these pre-Confederation Treaties (the Collins Treaty of 1785, the Crawford Purchase of 1784, the Gunshot Treaty of 1787-88, the Penetanguishene Treaty No.5 of 1795, Treaty No. 16 of 1815, Treaty No.17 of 1816, Treaty No. 18 – Nottawasaga Treaty of 1818, Treaty No. 20 – Rice Lake Treaty of 1818, Treaty 27-27 1/4 of 1822).
In these Treaties, Anishinabe Hereditary Clan Leaderships reserved their harvesting rights over the lands surrendered where as early as 1847 they started to petition the Crown about encroachment on their pre-Confederation Treaty harvesting areas and onto their northern hunting territories which had not been surrendered.
In entering into the 1923 Williams Treaties these communities expected to protect their pre-Confederation Treaty harvesting rights and to receive compensation for their northern hunting territories. In contrast, the Crown interpreted the Williams Treaties as taking not only a surrender of all lands that were held in aboriginal title by the seven First Nations but also taking a surrender of all other rights in pre-Confederation treaties. As a result these First Nation’s were the only Indigenous peoples in Canada to be denied rights to harvesting (hunting, fishing, trapping and gathering).
In the 1980’s research led to the conclusion that the Williams Treaties did not take away all rights. It also led to conclude the Government of Canada, required to act in the best interest of these First Nations as a result of section 91 (24) of the British North America Act 1867 and did not properly compensate the First Nations for rights and land they claimed were taken as a result of the 1923 Williams Treaties.
In 1992, the First Nations filed a suit in the Federal Court. In 1993, Ontario agreed to negotiate and in 1994, Canada agreed to negotiate. In 2000 negotiations ceased because the Crown brought no mandate to the table allowing for negotiations on constitutionally recognized and protected harvesting rights. In 2008, negotiations restarted but again the Crown brought no mandate to negotiate the matter of harvesting right so the First Nations chose to go back to court. In 2009, court proceedings began. In 2016 negotiations resumed and in February 2017, a Negotiations Framework Agreement was established to settle out of court. The negotiated settlement was approved by First Nation members in June 2018 and signed by the seven First Nations in July 2018 and by Ontario and Canada in August 2018.
THE 2018 SETTLEMENT
The Indigenous Title to 13 Million acres; a total of 12,944,400 Acres except for Harvesting Rights on to those lands have been extinguished by the Williams Treaties First Nations. The Settlement included an apology from Canada and Ontario, a total of $1.11 billion in compensation for pre-existing treaty harvesting rights; allowing the purchase of up to 11,000 acres for each First Nation (a willing-seller/willing-buyer basis) and applying to Canada to have the land added to their reserve land base. The agreement declared also to work towards fully implementing the settlement, renew ongoing treaty relationship and to foster reconciliation and understanding.
CRITIQUE OF THE AGREEMENT
Some Community Members feel the Agreement is a continuation of the same injustices implemented on their ancestors and that only certain voices from the community throughout the trial and negotiations were heard.
“ Our harvesting rights are inherit which stems from our underlying title to our Territory which is inseperatable and can never be extinguished on behalf of our future generations. Canada created the poverty and third world conditions that exist in our communities and monopolizes on that in these settlement offers.” Says Hawke.
The designation of lands within the agreement is also a concern.
“We shouldn’t have to purchase our own lands back with our compensation that comes from revenue created off of misappropriated Indigenous Lands that allows Canada to exist. There is available unoccupied Provincial and National Parks that can be transferred back to our Nation.”
“ Applying to Canada to designate any purchased lands as Reserve is further extinguishment as Reserve Lands fall under the Indian Act and belong to the Crown.” Hawke further claims.
Although a substantial one time payment to the seven First Nations was given Hawke feels the agreement is not reflective of the true spirit of Treaty.
“This is not a Treaty and the Agreement is only a real estate transaction. A Treaty needs to guarantee annuities, access to health and education in exchange for occupying our Territory. This agreement doesn’t even include an impact benefit and resource revenue sharing agreement of our Territory.” Explains Hawke.
Hawke’s grievances also echo the voices in other Indigenous Communities which recently was heard and seen within the Wet’suewe’ten this past February and currently at Six Nations of the Grand River where grassroots and Hereditary Leaderships oppose such agreements made by the Indian Act Elected Councils.
“ The Indian Act Band Councils are a creation of Canada and under its jurisdiction and are not the lawful representatives of our Clans, Tribe and Nation where a major conflict of interest exists when they assume jurisdiction to make such agreements regarding our Territories. The 1923 Williams Treaty and this Agreement made with Indian Act Councils are unlawful. ” explains Hawke.
The 1867 British North America Act unilaterally gave the Government of Canada jurisdiction of the new legal definition of “Indians” under it’s Indian Act which also implemented an Elected System and outlawed Tribal Clan Governing Systems. This was done in breach of the Nation to Nation 1764 Niagara Covenant Chain Belt Treaty and the Royal Proclamation.
Although Canada’s Self Government Agreements addresess Hawke’s concerns about specific issues in this Treaty and Agreement he shares a growing concerns along with Indigenous Communities with Self Governments Agreements such as the First Nations Lands Management Act that many communities have ratified.
” There is not enough lands to become Self Sustainable that this Agreements allows. The Self Government Agreements also are not Treaties but are an attempt to to get out of the Indian Act to eventually create us as a fourth level government under the jurisdiction of the Province. We’ve given up title to our massive Territory for a one time payment and these Self Government agreements do not guarantee secured funding for Education, Health and Land Management where we will be forced to become Municipalities where the Federal Government is trying to get out of its Fiduciary Responsibility by these Self Government Agreements” says Hawke.
ONTARIO ALREADY BREACHES THE AGREEMENT
Hawke also raises a concern regarding a potential conflict of interest regarding two Federal Liberal Ministers who have property on lands surrendered in this agreement. The Federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau and Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett both have property in Tiny Township land that falls within 50,000 acres of the 1798 preConfederation Treaty number 5.
“It is integral to know if they declared a conflict of interest in cabinet before their government agreed to this settlement” Explains Hawke.
If Minister Bennett and Finance Minister Bill Morneau did not declare a conflict of interest in cabinet before government approval of the William’s Treaty settlement, they are guilty of an offence under Ethics and this should be investigated by the RCMP
Hawke feels this 1798 preConfederation Treaty should’ve been handled as a stand alone claim and not swept in with this Settlement which is one factor to his actions taken in Ontario’s Awenda Provincial Park.
“ In this 2018 Agreement a total of 11,000 acres can be purchased back by the seven First Nations yet the 1798 Penetang Harbour Purchase was 55,000 acres of one collective community which was wrongfully surrendered and was submitted as a claim by the Chippewa Tri Council in 1986 and 1990 but rejected by Canada.” Explains Hawke.
Hawke erected a blockade to the entrance to the Provincial Park for 5 weeks which ended by his arrest for allegedly uttering threats to the Park Warden which he says was fabricated to get him out of the park in which OPP took him into custody.
Hawke was taken into custody for almost 30 hours and released on bail. While in custody Park Staff cleared the blockade along with dismantling the cultural camp and cabin that was up for 7 years in a separate forested area in the Park and wasn’t part of the blockade.
“By the Park taking down the cabin and the OPP putting conditions on me not to return to the Park the Province of Ontario has already breached this 2018 Agreement which infringes on our reinstated Harvesting Rights and the promise to foster reconciliation and understanding as declared in the Agreement.” Says Hawke
Hawke further explains that erecting Cabins on Crown lands coincides with Indigenous Harvesting Rights as affirmed in R v Sundown a Supreme Court decision.
Hawke is not addressing the charge of uttering threats, claimed by the Park Warden but has filed a Constitutional Challenge questioning the assumption of jurisdiction of an Ontario Court over Indigenous Peoples and questioning the validity of Canada’s Constitution. Hawke strongly feels questioning Canada’s outstanding constitutional issues and its validity is a fundamental issue that also needed to be raised in this Williams Treaties fight. Hawke and many others throughout Indigenous Communities are criminalized for asserting their Sovereignty, addressing such injustices trying to hold Canada and its Provinces to the Rule of Law.
His date for his Constitutional Challenge is in mid December 2020. He also is attempting to find support and raise awareness how Ontario has already breached this agreement by taking the Cabin in the Park down.
For More Information Contact
Johnny Hawke @ firstname.lastname@example.org or 705 247 2120