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Public meetings planned to discuss Algonquin land claim draft agreement 0

By Heather Sutherland, Barry's Bay This Week

Local landowners and hunt camp operators concerned about the Algonquin land claim preliminary draft agreement-in-principle should note there will be much consideration of public concerns and discussion in the years coming prior to a finalized treaty, says the province’s chief negotiator.

Brian Crane, the Ontario chief negotiator for the Algonquin land claim, said affected landowners can either meet with MNR specialists who have been working on the individual land pieces presented in the draft agreement-in-principle – which was released in mid-December and includes land Renfrew County – or attend public meetings that will be held across eastern Ontario in the first two weeks of March. More information on those meetings will be available soon.

The draft agreement-in-principle identifies some parcels of Crown land that may be transferred to the Algonquins of Ontario in the future.

Created through the work of negotiators for the Algonquins, Canada and Ontario, the document also includes other information such as about harvesting, parks and the qualification for being recognized as Algonquin.

Landowners who have property that could be affected by the claim received letters in late December informing them of the document, which is available online at www.ontario.ca/landclaims.

Nancy Gavin is a local landowner who received the letter and said since then, she has heard a lot of talk among people about the agreement’s affect.

“A lot of people are concerned about the hunting impact,” she said.

Crane noted generally speaking, the draft agreement-in-principle will not expropriate existing legal interests and avoids taking third-party lands.

“We are protecting third-party access over lands to lakes...and to navigable waters,” he said.

“We’re also protecting the hunt camps, which have received land use permits and we will not be terminating any land use permits.”

Crane explained land use permits usually cover a small area that protects the cabin used by the hunt camp group. Understanding the importance of hunting culture in the area, he said there will be an “extensive period of discussion” between the Algonquins and hunt camp operators as well as with people who have commercial interests such as bait fish operations or trap lines.

“There will probably be a period of two to three years [of discussion],” he said. “It’s not something that can be done overnight.”

He added currently, it’s not certain if new land use permits will be given.

“The Algonquins are conscious of the need to sit down with operators and work things out, and Ontario will be at the table to sort of facilitate those discussions,” he said.

For Gavin, one of her main concerns is the possible transfer of Foy Provincial Park, a non-operating park that is included in the draft agreement-in-principle.

“It’s a beautiful piece of property [and] it would be a shame if it wouldn’t be accessible for the public if it’s part of the agreement,” she said.

Putting out some feelers on Facebook, Gavin said she got some comments back agreeing, but added she’ll wait until the public meetings before deciding how to proceed with her concerns. “Maybe there’s a way to preserve it as park land so that it can’t be developed,” she said.

Concerning parks, Crane did say three non-operating parks are part of the proposed lands for transfer in the draft agreement-in-principle, but added no lands in Algonquin Park are included.

For the most part he said provincial parks will continue as normal, though the Algonquins may have a role in the planning of park management plans.

The draft also includes a proposal for the establishment of a new provincial park in the area of Crotch Lake, near Elliot Lake.

Right now, the main objective of those working on the claim is to ensure the proposed land selections of the Crown land don’t adversely affect people who have interests on those lands.

“Somebody might have a particular traditional way of travelling to their cabin or travelling to a lake which is used, but it’s over Crown lands [and] it hasn’t been identified on our maps,” Crane said as an example.

“That’s a type of traditional right of way that we would like to protect if at all possible.”

Speaking to some concerns, Crane added the future use of the lands transferred to the Algonquins will be subject to municipal planning laws.

Overall, Crane said there will be many discussions and more negotiations before there is a final treaty.

“I think the main issue is that there will be lots of time for these [concerns] to be discussed and...no lands are going to be transferred in the immediate future,” he said. “We’re looking at five plus years to work things through and make sure that this is a workable settlement.”

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