Tell Ontario to Honour and Uphold the Robinson-Huron Treaty of 1850

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This petition is to demand that the Ontario Government become a more honourable partner to the Robinson-Huron Treaty First Nations, starting by abandoning any plans to appeal Justice Patricia Hennessy’s decisions in Phase 1 and Phase 2 of the Robinson-Huron Treaty annuities case, and by engaging in good faith negotiations of the terms of just compensation.

Signed in 1850, the Robinson-Huron Treaty promises annual compensation (Treaty annuities) for the sharing of lands, resources, and the wealth created to First Nation Treaty beneficiaries. A provision was included to ensure this amount increased as resources revenues increased. Initially, in 1850, members of the Robinson-Huron Treaty First Nations received an annuity of $1.60. In 1874 the annuity was increased to $4, but it has not changed since.[i]

“The Treaties represent unique agreements by the Crown and the First Nations of the Lake Huron Territory and the Lake Superior Territory whose long-term goal was peaceful and respectful co-existence in a shared territory. Treaties are part of the constitutional fabric of this country.”[ii]  The phrase “we are all Treaty people” acknowledges that on Treaty territories, both First Nations and settler peoples benefit from and have obligations to the Treaty and to one another. Treaties have given settlers the right to live in and use some of the territories and have guaranteed the rights of First Nations peoples to retain their ways of life and relationships to land.[iii]

The Crown often fails to live up to the terms, agreements, spirit, and intent of the Treaties. However, a growing number of non-Indigenous Canadians wish to see the Crown relate honourably with First Nations. We realize that any legitimacy we have to live on these lands depends on Treaties. We are aware of the colonial genocide perpetrated against Indigenous peoples by Canada and we want it to end. We are working to create a just, honourable, Nation to Nation relationships with First Nations and when we look at the perpetual treaty violations committed by our governments, we say, “NOT IN OUR NAME!”

The 21 First Nations of the Robinson-Huron Treaty have waited long enough for justice and these appeals may result in significant delays or barriers to justice in the case. We are angered to see taxpayer money fund Ontario’s fight against First Nations peoples and against fulfilling our Treaty obligations.

How You Can Support

You can support by signing this petition, by sharing it with friends and family, and sharing it through social media. We welcome all signatories, wherever you live and whoever you are (if you are an Ontario resident, please indicate this). Although many petition signatories may not agree with resource extraction companies generating wealth through exploitation of the earth, nor with Governments profiting from these activities; they nonetheless strongly believe that Treaty agreements should be honoured and that Indigenous Nations should not be excluded from receiving promised funds that would help ensure the health and wellbeing of their communities.

You can also support by learning more about the Robinson-Huron Treaty of 1850, and/or by learning more about the Treaty lands where you may live, and about the benefits and obligations of being a part of that treaty. More information about the Robinson Huron Treaty of 1850 and the Robinson Huron Treaty annuities case can be found below. Also, included in the references of this petition document are links and sources that provide some such information.

We also encourage you to voice your opposition to Ontario’s appeals of Justice Hennessy’s Phase 1 and Phase 2 decisions to your Member of Provincial Parliament (if you are an Ontario Resident). We ask all signatories of this petition to call or email the office of Ontario Premier Doug Ford; Ontario’s Attorney General Doug Downey; Ontario Minister of Energy, Northern Development and Mines AND Minister of Indigenous Affairs, Greg Rickford; and Premier Ford’s other Cabinet members (contact information and names linked below). Please also take the time to contact your own MPP if you live in Ontario. Please click here for a template email/script you can use: Sample email/script

Premiere of Ontario Doug Ford’s contact information: https://www.ola.org/en/members/all/doug-ford

Ontario’s Attorney General Doug Downey’s Contact Information: https://www.ola.org/en/members/all/doug-downey

Ontario’s Minister of Energy, Northern Development and Mines; and Minister of Indigenous Affairs, Greg Rickford’s contact information: https://www.ola.org/en/members/all/greg-rickford

Members of Doug Ford’s Cabinet: 
https://www.ontario.ca/page/meet-premiers-team?_ga=2.153937339.2046495689.1602621755-1620618009.1602621755

MPP contact information:
https://www.ola.org/en/members/current/contact-information

History of Robinson-Huron Treaty of 1850

Much of Canada is founded on Treaties, and Canadians benefit from this in one way or another. They may engage in tourism and recreational activities, work, and/or live on Treaty lands. Much of the wealth of Canada is based on agriculture and the extraction of resources from Treaty lands and other Indigenous lands.[iv]  It is important to know the history and the principles of Treaties. It is important to acknowledge the history of the land we live on.

Although this petition concerns the current dishonourable actions of Ontario regarding the Robinson-Huron Treaty of 1850, the historical context is important. The Royal Proclamation of 1763 affirmed Aboriginal Title and sovereignty over their lands. It mandated that European settlement could not take place on these lands unless an agreement was in place for sharing the lands.[iii] In 1845 Anishinaabe peoples of the northern shores of Lake Superior and Lake Huron petitioned the Crown when settler encroachment onto their untreatied territories for exploration and mining negatively impacted Anishinaabe ways of life.[iv]

In 1849 the Anishinaabe asserted their sovereignty by occupying the Mica Bay Copper Mine and the involved Chiefs were arrested and jailed in Toronto, a story that has repeated itself all over Canada throughout history, and continues in present times. In response, the Crown appointed William Benjamin Robinson as Treaty Commissioner and he was charged with the task of negotiating the terms of a treaty. On September 9th, 1850 the Robinson-Huron Treaty was signed between Lake Huron Anishinaabek leaders and representatives of the Crown on Whitefish Island in Baawating, now known as Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario.[v]

The Robinson-Huron Treaty Annuity Case

The Province of Ontario maintains that despite the fact that Treaties were signed over 150 years ago, Treaty commitments made remain valid today, and that we are all Treaty peoples. The Ontario Government writes that it is “working to rebuild trust and relationships with treaty partners and Indigenous peoples.”[vi] In contradiction to these statements, the Ontario Government has chosen to appeal both the Phase 1 and Phase 2 decisions of Justice Hennessy in the Robinson-Huron Treaty annuity case.[vii] It should be noted that the Government of Canada has chosen not to appeal these decisions and has asked that the Phase 1 appeal by Ontario be dismissed.[viii]

The Robinson-Huron Treaty of 1850 annuity case concerns what is referred to as the augmentation clause of the Treaty. It says that Her Majesty promises that if the Territory should “produce such an amount as will enable the Government of this Province, without incurring loss, to increase the annuity hereby secured to [members of the Robinson-Huron Treaty First Nations], then and in that case the same shall be augmented from time to time [to such further sums] as Her Majesty may be graciously pleased to offer.”[ix]

We can only imagine how large the revenues collected by the Crown from mining and other resource extraction in the Territory must be. Initially, in 1850, members of the Robinson-Huron Treaty First Nations received an annuity of $1.60. In 1874 the annuity was increased to $4, but it has not changed since. The failure of the Crown to live up to the terms and the spirit and intent of the Treaty is what prompted the 21 Robinson-Huron Treaty First Nations to file a Statement of Claim in 2014 to be settled by a court of law.[x]  The claim was made against both Canada and Ontario because the federal and provincial governments have differing views of which level of government is responsible to uphold the augmentation clause.

Phase 1 of the case began September 25, 2017. As a result of the powerful testimonials provided by Elders, Chiefs, community members, experts on Anishinaabe laws and perspectives, and the efforts of the legal team, the formal judgement by the Court was issued in December 2018. With regard to the augmentation clause, Justice Hennessy held: “I find that the Crown has a mandatory and reviewable obligation to increase the Treaties’ annuities when the economic circumstances warrant. The economic circumstances will trigger an increase to the annuities if the net Crown resource-based revenues permit the Crown to increase the annuities without incurring a loss. The principle of the honour of the Crown and the doctrine of fiduciary duty impose on the Crown the obligation to diligently implement the Treaties’ promise to achieve their purpose (i.e. of reflecting the value of the territories in the annuities) and other related justiciable duties.”[xi]

Phase 2 of the case began on October 15th, 2019 with the motion to declare that both Crowns, the Provincial Government of Ontario and the Government of Canada were jointly and equally liable to respect the Robinson-Huron Treaty of 1850. On June 26th, 2020, Superior Court Justice Patricia Hennessy ruled in favour of the First Nations, again citing the obligations and promises made over 150 years ago and rejecting the argument that the Crown has immunity from the claim.[xii]

Phase 3 is scheduled to resume in September 2021. This Phase will address issues of compensation, and how to develop remedies that will restore the ongoing Treaty relationship.

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[i] Robinson Huron Treaty Litigation Fund. (n.d.a). History. https://www.robinsonhurontreaty1850.com/history

[ii]  Restoule v. Canada, 3932 ONSC p. 29 (2020, June 26). https://8c5bb793-a51a-4ece-98a4 86f75067272a.filesusr.com/ugd/d8bed7_37c61d417f3e409bb353fb13f1a2e2eb.pdf?index=true

[iii] Duhamel, K. (2018). Gakina Gidagwi’igoomin Anishinaabewiyang: We are all Treaty People. In L. Ross (Ed.), Treaties and the Treaty relationship (pp. 10-16). Canada’s National History Society. https://www.canadashistory.ca/CNHS/media/CNHS/cnhs-media/PDFs%20and%20Powerpoints/EN/CHDig2018Treaties.pdf

[iv] Manuel, A., & Derrickson, R. M. (2015). Unsettling Canada: A national wake-up call. Between the Lines.

Jay, D. O. (2013, January 7). What if Natives stop subsidizing Canada? [blog] The Media Co-op: Local Independent News. https://www.mediacoop.ca/blog/dru/15493

[v] Robinson Huron Treaty Litigation Fund. (n.d.a). History. https://www.robinsonhurontreaty1850.com/history

[vi] Robinson Huron Treaty Litigation Fund. (n.d.a). History. https://www.robinsonhurontreaty1850.com/history

[vii] Robinson Huron Treaty Litigation Fund. (n.d.a). History. https://www.robinsonhurontreaty1850.com/history

[viii] Ontario Ministry of Indigenous Affairs (2016, October 27). Treaties. https://www.ontario.ca/page/treaties

[ix] Barrera, J. (2019, January 22). Ontario appeals Robinson treaties annuities case, but open to settlement negotiations. CBC. https://www.cbc.ca/news/indigenous/ontario-appeals-treaty-annuities-ruling-1.4988675

[x] Restoule v. Canada, Appeal Court File C66455 p. 19 (2020, February 7). Factum of the respondent, the Attorney General of Canada. 

[xi] Robinson Huron Waawindaamaagewin. (2020), p. 5. The Robinson Huron Treaty. http://rhw1850treaty.com/the-robinson-huron-treaty/

[xii] Robinson Huron Treaty Litigation Fund (n.d.b). Robinson Huron Treaty Litigation Fund. https://8c5bb793-a51a-4ece-98a4-86f75067272a.filesusr.com/ugd/d8bed7_7aaf75cf512f4d4a91cbfe8bdf1f1fb1.pdf?index=true

[xiii] Restoule v. Canada, 7701 ONSC p. 8 (2018, December 21). Reasons for judgment-Stage one. https://8c5bb793-a51a-4ece-98a4-86f75067272a.filesusr.com/ugd/d8bed7_473175575ee8477686658ca5109b677d.pdf?index=true

[xiv] Restoule v. Canada, 3932 ONSC p. 29 (2020, June 26). https://8c5bb793-a51a-4ece-98a4 86f75067272a.filesusr.com/ugd/d8bed7_37c61d417f3e409bb353fb13f1a2e2eb.pdf?index=true

Anishinabek News. (2020, June 6). Robinson Huron Treaty leaders and beneficiaries receive favourable judgement in annuities case. https://anishinabeknews.ca/2020/06/28/robinson-huron-treaty-leaders-and-beneficiaries-receive-favourable-judgement-in-annuities-case/

White, P. (Producer). (2016). The Anishinaabe view-In their own words with Alan Corbiere (Episode7) [Video]. The Algoma District School Board and ShawTVSSM. https://youtu.be/fVvE6EItv_M