First Nations sue Govt. for not upholding 167-year-old fishing right treaty
2017-10-18 17:46:59   copyfrom:    hits:

Indigenous chum fishery on the Fraser River, Canada (Photo: Fraser Valley Aboriginal Fisheries Society)CANADATuesday

Indigenous chum fishery on the Fraser River, Canada. (Photo: Fraser Valley Aboriginal Fisheries Society)

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Tuesday, October 17, 2017, 22:00 (GMT + 9)


Twenty-one First Nation communities, representing about 30,000 people, have taken the federal and Ontario governments to court, accusing them of failing to uphold a fishing and hunting right treaty signed 167 years ago.

The deal, the Robinson Huron Treaty, determined that in exchange for access to more than 35,700 square miles of land, William Benjamin Robinson, acting on behalf of Queen Victoria, offered hunting and fishing rights to the indigenous people – and an annual payment equivalent to CAD 2 (USD 1.60) per person each year, The Guardian reported.

In 1874, the payment was increased to CAD 4 a year and since then, it has remained stagnant.

Central to the case is the question of how the annual payment – a promise that dates back more than a century – should be interpreted.

The treaty stipulates that any increase in the annuity “shall not exceed the sum of 1-pound provincial currency in any one year, or such further sum as Her Majesty may be graciously pleased to order”.


More than a century after the first increase, despite petitions and appeals from First Nations chiefs to various levels of government, the annuity remains unchanged.

“The case has shone a spotlight on treaty annuities, a tool used in some of the more than 600 treaties that exist across Canada. The annual payments were often added to treaties to sweeten the deal as Britain, and later Canada, pursued access to indigenous lands for white settlers and resource development,” said James Dempsey, a professor of native studies at the University of Alberta.

The Robinson Huron treaty is one of two in the country, signed within days of each other, that included the prospect of an increase. The second treaty – known as the Robinson Superior treaty – is also being challenged in an Ontario court in a concurrent case.

Plaintiffs are pushing for a retroactive payment from 1874 onwards, as well as increased annuities in future. Some have estimated that the land may have yielded between CAD 500 million and CAD billion in revenue from resource development over the years, and the First Nations have said they want to see a full accounting of these profits before deciding on a compensation amount.

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