You are here

Doug Ford adds insult to injury on Indigenous rights

John Bell

March 7, 2023
Ford government lawyers want Indigenous people to pay the historical costs of their own colonization. 
If your jaw dropped reading this, imagine the reaction of Indigenous people. “I just don’t have words to express how disappointing it is,” said Chief Patricia Tangie of the Michipicoten First Nation.
While the media has given almost no attention to it, a years-long court case between Anishinaabe First Nations and the Ontario and federal government has dragged on. The communities, situated along the north shore of Lakes Huron and Superior are signatories of the “Robinson Treaties”, dating from 1850.
In the balance is a compensation package potentially worth billions. Even that will be a fraction of the value that has been stripped from their lands.
Every member of the communities was to receive an annuity, to increase as resources were extracted from their territories – rich in timber and minerals. Then in 1874 the province arbitrarily capped payments at $4 per person per year. According to the Treaties, these First Nations are owed almost 150 years’ worth of payouts.
The court case is in its final stage. Superior Court Justice Patricia Hennessy has already stated the Anishinaabe are due a major payment plus a modern annuity going forward. At issue are the amounts.
That is where Doug Ford’s legal team comes in. They are trying to argue that Indigenous people should be charged for building the roads and rail lines to reach the resources, for the costs of shipping resources to market, and costs of damage done to the land. They should pay for the costs of the Residential School system that tore generations of families apart and sought to destroy Indigenous culture. In short they should pay the costs of their own colonization.
So, they argue, First Nations are not only liable for the costs of clear-cutting the forests, but the costs of replanting trees as well. Through this absurd line of reasoning, and some equally fallacious bookkeeping, Ontario argues that First Nations are owed nothing for a century and a half of exploitation.
A tactical difference has emerged between the Huron Treaty FNs and those of the Superior Treaty. While the latter pursue a conclusion in court, the former have opted out, believing they can reach a just settlement in direct negotiations with provincial and federal agents. But the two groups remain in solidarity and mutual support.
At issue is not just compensation for the exploitation and injustice of the past. Doug Ford has staked a lot of Ontario’s economic future on development of the so-called “Ring of Fire”, mineral wealth on and under unceded Anishinaabe territory north and west of the Robinson Treaty lands.
The outcome of these legal wrangling will have a huge impact on whether future generations of Indigenous people control and benefit from the development of their own land.
One thing is clear: the racism and colonial arrogance apparent in the Ontario legal tactics foretell many struggles yet to come. 
Geo Tags: 

Featured Event


Visit our YouTube Channel for more videos: Our Youtube Channel
Visit our UStream Channel for live videos: Our Ustream Channel