Ontario believes that negotiation combined with public consultation is the best way to address the historical, legal and practical issues that arise in land claims.
Ontario's approach is to resolve land claims in a way that addresses the interests and concerns of people who live on or who use the lands within the claim area, through meaningful public involvement and dialogue.
A land claim is a formal statement made by an Aboriginal community that it is legally entitled to land and/or financial compensation. A claim may be submitted to the federal government and/or the provincial government.
For example, a community may claim that:
Land claims in Ontario generally fall into three categories:
Ontario will not expropriate private lands in the settlement of a land claim. Private property may be included in a land claim settlement if the lands are available for purchase on a willing buyer/willing seller basis.
A treaty is a negotiated agreement, between an Aboriginal community and the Crown, which is intended to create mutually binding obligations. Because of its special nature, it is to be solemnly respected by all parties to the agreement.
Treaty making between Aboriginal communities and the Crown began in what is now Ontario more than 200 years ago.
At the end of the American Revolution, the Six Nations people allied to the Crown and the United Empire Loyalists came to Canada seeking Crown protection. This created an urgent need for the Crown to make land available for settlement, as well as for the defence of what remained of British North America.
By the mid-1800s, the Crown's focus in entering into treaties shifted to acquiring legal rights in land and addressing Aboriginal rights.
Many of the treaties called for Aboriginal communities to be compensated in return for giving up their rights to land. The forms of compensation often included:
Although some of the treaties were signed hundreds of years ago, the debate over certain issues continues today because of differing views about the intentions of the parties to the treaties. These differences in understanding can stem from differing cultural traditions.
Treaty rights are the specific rights of Aboriginal peoples embodied in the treaties they entered into with, first, the British government and then, after Confederation, Canada.
These rights often address the creation of reserves and the rights of Aboriginal communities to hunt, to fish and to trap on provincial Crown lands.
Treaty rights are protected by section 35(1) of the Constitution Act, 1982.
At Confederation, the power to make laws was divided between the federal government and the provinces.
The Constitution Act, 1867 assigns to the federal government exclusive jurisdiction over "Indians, and Lands reserved for the Indians." The provinces were assigned the ownership and management of Crown lands and natural resources that are located within a province.
Both the federal and provincial governments often need to be involved in resolving claims because:
A land claim can impact provincial interests and matters, such as:
The Ontario government has a responsibility to represent the interests of all Ontarians. By reaching a negotiated settlement, Ontario tries to find a resolution that will address the:
Ontario may negotiate land claims because:
Ontario decides whether negotiation is the best way to resolve the issues raised by a land claim on the basis of various criteria. Please visit the Negotiations Criteria section on our website for more information.
There are four steps to negotiating a land claim:
Please visit the Negotiation Process page on our website for more details on each step.
Settling land claims:
The time required to conclude a final settlement agreement varies from claim to claim. Each claim is unique, varying in its complexity and the number and kinds of interests involved.
Ontario is exploring new ways to reduce the time it takes to settle a claim. We will achieve this by finding new ways to work together with:
We have also made a commitment to complete the research and assessment stage of our work within three years of receiving a claim.