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Ontario offering its islands to American First Nation

Staff Writer |
Ontario is offering its islands in northern Georgian Bay to Wikwemikong Indian Band, descendants of American Indians who emigrated to Canada around 1830.

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The land claim dispute centers around 41 fishing islands near Manitoulin Island which were set aside for all natives in 1836 and subsequently ceded to the crown in 1863, Beaverstone Bay Mill Lake Association said.

Wikwemikong claims it did not sign the 1863 treaty and wants exclusive possession of 41 islands plus another 23,000 islands in Georgian Bay from Sault Ste Marie to south of Parry Sound, which they never inhabited.

If the transfer occurs, the Band would displace generations of Ontarians who have used these islands since the days of the fur trading voyageurs. The thousands of people who travel around and camp on Philip Edward Islandarchipelago, near Killarney Park will not be allowed on these islands. The native band has shown what to expect. Wikwemikong settled its first land claim in 1995 and immediately posted no trespassing signs on its Reserve along the Beaverstone River.

Owners of private islands in Georgian Bay will find themselves inside the newly created Indian Reserve. Water access will be an issue as residents point to a blockade last year on Beaverstone River.

Wikwemikong Indians were considered recent immigrants to Canada from USA when the first treaty of 1836 was signed. Wikwemikong received land for their reserve on Manitoulin upon their arrival to Canada.

A potentially serious and deadly situation is the removal of thousands of kilometers of shoreline from public use which will prevent canoers, kayakers and boaters from coming ashore between the French River Park and Killarney Park. Georgian Bay routinely gets two metre waves, dangerous for small craft and canoes. There will be no place for shelter in rough seas along the entire northern Georgian Bay shoreline.

Ontario, in 2006, proposed the creation of "Killarney Coast and Islands Provincial Park" covering many of the same islands being claimed by Wikwemikong. Now MNR is silent on the new park.

Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation is ignoring the Royal Proclamation of 1763 which requires Indians to have occupied the lands being claimed.

MIRR issued a Draft Environmental Study Report in June 2017 requesting public comments.

Beaverstone Bay Mill Lake Association, a local cottage association found the draft ESR to be deficient as it did not address the needs of the public to continued free access to these islands, it did not recognize the historical use by the public even before the arrival of Wiikwemkoong to Canada and it did not deal with pubic access through a native reserve.

Canada was founded by immigrants many of whom arrived in Canada before Wikwemikong.

Hopefully MIRR will not ignore these serious issues and agree with the conclusions that have been presented - either Ontario does not pursue a negotiated settlement or it re-negotiates should Ontario purchase Fitzwilliam Island and Wikwemikong withdraws its claim for the 23,000 islands.

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