Algonquin Land Claim moves forward to 2023 negotiation completion

·6 min read

Pembroke – A 45-day public consultation period has begun in the Algonquin land claim with updated maps and new properties designated for eventual transfer when the negotiations are completed in 2023.

“Despite the pandemic we have substantially picked up the pace,” Doug Carr, Ontario’s chief negotiator, told Renfrew County council last week. “We zeroed in on financial compensation and the land packet.”

County council receives an annual update on the land as it pertains to municipalities. Last week the virtual update focused on many of the changes to provincial lands proposed for transfer to the Algonquins of Ontario. Jennifer Griffin, the senior negotiator for the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, highlighted some of the changes to public lands in Renfrew County, which include both additions like the former Renfrew OPP detachment and deletions like the MTO picnic park on Mundt’s Bay on Golden Lake.

She also said while adjacent landowners have been notified about changes, this is a time for public consultation through an online process at Ontario.ca. Under the Algonquin Land Claim there is detailed information on the changes to the lands under the Supplemental Report to the Draft Environmental Evaluation Report. There are also boundary amendments to Lake St. Peter Provincial Park, as well as a recommended Whiteduck Provincial Park around Crotch Lake Conservation Reserve in Frontenac County. As well, there is a link to the Tanakiwin interactive map where proposed changes and detailed county maps can be found.

“There have been some changes since the 2012 release of the agreement in principle,” Ms. Griffin said, explaining there has been a modification of the settlement lands since 2017.

There are two distinct categories. One is comprised of Crown and acquired Crown lands which will be transferred directly to the Algonquins of Ontario. The other lands are the new provincial park, the addition to an existing provincial park at Lake St. Peter which will be in provincial control through the provincial park system.

Significant changes include a new parcel of land in the northern part of the land claim area, she said.

“There is a fairly large settlement in the Mattawa and North Bay area,” she said.

This area of over 7,600 acres would be for cultural and hunting practices.

As part of other changes to the maps there has been a shift to larger parcels instead of so many small parcels, she added.

“The general consolidation of lands into larger parcels, so the total number of parcels has decreased by 10 per cent,” she said.

There are currently 230 parcels in the map. This includes an increase of 3,000 acres to the protected areas at Lake St. Peter and Crotch Lake.

There are 43 municipalities in the land claim which will be affected by the land transfer. In Renfrew County there are several new sites in the land claim which include: areas at Big Gibson Lake; the (old) OPP Detachment in Renfrew; MTO lands at Braeside; lands near Calabogie Peaks; land at Lake Clear to allow boat access; land at Blackfish Bay and Camp Edlau.

There have also been some removals of lands slated for transfer in Renfrew County. These include: the Mundt’s Bay MTO picnic site; an area at Jameson Lake; a reduction at Bark Lake; an area at Hurds Lake and a reduction at Waterloo Lake.

“The lands are subject to municipal planning where there are at-capacity lakes,” she added.

Proposed land use designation and zones will confirm to local planning document schedules and policies, she stressed.

The negotiations are continuing to proceed, and plans are for a conclusion of negotiations in 2023 with the approval process beginning then.

Under the agreement in principle no land will be expropriated from private owners. As well, no one will lose existing access to their cottages or private property or access to navigable waterways. Approximately four per cent of the Crown land in the claim area is proposed for transfer, with most of the Crown land base will remaining open to all existing uses. According to the agreement-in-principle as well, after the transfer, Algonquin lands will be subject to municipal jurisdiction, including the same land use planning and development approvals and authorities as other private lands.

According to provincial documents, the land transfers will: restore historically significant sites to the Algonquins; contribute to the social and cultural objectives of Algonquin communities and provide a foundation for economic development for the region.

Councillors Concerns

Admaston/Bromley Mayor Michael Donohue questioned if the lands transferred will fall under the assessment authority of MPAC. Ms. Griffin said the intention is they will be applicable for taxation under the MPAC system.

“The Algonquins have asked to understand what the tax burden will be,” she added.

Renfrew Reeve Peter Emon expressed some concern about the Cherry Park stop in Greater Madawaska. It is located between Burnstown and Calabogie.

“It is sort of on a loan agreement with the county,” he said. “It is used as a rest spot for the travelling public.”

This is a great spot to launch a kayak or have a picnic, he said.

“I’m a little concerned that it is not protected and in the future there would be three building lots on it,” he said.

If this happens the public access to this spot would no longer be accessible.

Ms. Griffin said during the consultation process there is an interest in shared usage.

“We have been mindful of existing users of the land and folks who want to see that continue,” she said.

Mayor Jennifer Murphy of Bonnechere Valley pointed out when the overview on lands which were removed was first presented in a slide during the presentation, the parcel on Constant Lake was included, but then Ms. Griffith clarified it was not on the list to be removed.

“I was very pleased to see Constant Lake was removed and now you are saying it is not,” she said. “This particular piece of land is problematic because it is land-locked and we would not be able to offer emergency services.”

She questioned if the Algonquins of Ontario are aware of this challenge and Ms. Griffith said they are.

Petawawa Mayor Bob Sweet asked for the ability to speak in private about some land slated for transfer in Petawawa.

“There is some sensitivity,” he said.

Former County of Renfrew CAO Norm Lemke, who is the co-chair of the municipal focus group, said an update will be provided next year as well.

“It has been the commitment of Ontario to engage municipalities,” he said. “Renfrew County is very much in the heart of the land claim area.”

From October 26 to December 10 all Ontarians can provide feedback by going to www.ontario.ca/page/algonquin-land-claim#section-1. Council was told following the 45-day comment period public and indigenous consultation will continue as the negotiations proceed. This will include information about the input Ontario received following the 2017 publication of the Draft Environmental Evaluation Report and the publication of a Final Environmental Evaluation Report.

Debbi Christinck, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eganville Leader