Millroy: A red flag if there ever was one

“There are many issues that still have to be dealt with, including the go-forward implementation,” the Robinson Huron Litigation Fund said near the end of February in announcing that the $10-billion settlement awarded to Robinson Huron treaty annuitants for past compensation was going to be on its way in the coming weeks.

A red flag if there ever was one.

Because it seems the go-forward implementation that was still to be dealt with included  how the money was to be paid out after it got into the hands of the 21 First Nations included in the treaty.

It is leading to some unrest and justifiably so.

Some First Nations people want all the money to come to them individually.
Some First Nations councils want to keep a share for the use of their communities as a whole.
I find it incredible that as this wound its way through the courts over the years that those involved in the treaty hadn’t ironed out as a group how the money would be distributed.  

If they weren’t about to do this themselves, surely there should have been a nudge or two pointing them in that direction from the federal and Ontario governments, who would be paying out the funds.
It should have been spelled out in no uncertain terms long ago and this communicated to all those involved in the First Nations covered by the treaty.

Every question that could arise about the payouts should have been brought up and answered by this point but that is obviously not the case.

In having coffee last week with an indigenous friend from Sudbury, John Moore, who is a member of a First Nations down the line, I found he was adamant that the money go to the individual members rather than a portion being held by the community government.

A few days later the leadership of Garden River First Nation announced it had decided against a 100 percent per capita distribution of the funds.  

It was a decision Nipissing First Nation had pretty well come to in February.

Nipissing First Nation council plans on distributing up to 75 per cent of the money it receives directly to band members. The remaining money will remain within a legacy fund, “money set aside for generations to come.”

Garden River First Nation Chief Karen Bell was quoted on SooToday as saying Garden River First Nation leadership upholds a profound fiduciary duty to the entire community, including future generations,.
“In recognizing the need to maintain a reasonable balance between the collective and individual portions of the annuity, we have resolved not to pursue a 100 per cent per capita distribution of the past compensation under the treaty settlement,” Bell said. “This decision allows us to invest significantly, avoiding the financial pitfalls that could arise from depleting our funds through immediate individual payouts — a situation that has adversely impacted other communities.”

A statement posted on social media said the decision follows a “careful review of the treaty’s implications and a recent judicial clarification regarding annuity distributions.”

Recent judicial clarification?

What is it? It is this lack of transparency that is part of the problem. If there is indeed a judicial clarification regarding annuity distribution, then surely it should be shared with the community
Jan Couchie, who now lives in Virginia but grew up in Nipissing First Nation, helped organize a protest against the lack of transparency there, also complaining that members hadn’t had a say in the settlement.
But Scott McLeod, Chief of Nipissing First Nation, said in a BayToday story that demonstrators did “not fully understand the spirit, intent and the legal wording of the treaty that was upheld in court.”
He said since Nipissing First Nation members have directly received a $4 annual payment for well over a century,  they feel that the compensation is 100 per cent theirs and somehow we are taking money from them for the proposed community fund. But he said the treaty did not originally call for an individual payment.

“Rather,” McLeod said, “it was a communal payment started in 1850 as a lump sum to the Chiefs.”
That was indeed the case with some treaties but apparently not with Huron Robinson.

While William Benjamin Robinson, the former fur trader in the Muskokas and member of the colonial legislature who negotiated the treaty on behalf of the Crown, stated in his report that the Superior (also negotiated by Robinson) and Huron treaties were “based on the same conditions as all preceding ones”, a Canadian government website points out that in reality they are rather different.

For one thing, apropos to the argument now, it says “they changed the way annuity payments were issued, with payments in cash going to individual band members instead of yearly lump sums paid to the band in either goods or cash payments.”

Following that logic, it would seem that that would be the way funds should flow now.

But I can also see why the leadership of some First Nations who are struggling would want to see some of the funds put to use for the community as a whole, assistance provided now when it is needed but also for the future.

To me, that seems the logical way to go but I realize the bands” leadership groups will face a hard fight when the opponent is personal greed.

Nothing has been said of how payments will be made going forward and how much they will be.
They will have to be more than the $4 of the past or somewhere down the road the parties will be back before the courts.

7 thoughts on “Millroy: A red flag if there ever was one

  1. There’s no proven track record that FNs know how to manage this amount of money (dropped like manna from the sky at the expense of Canadian taxpayers). Unfortunately, this $10 billion could simply be a huge windfall for the drug trade, affecting FN members and surrounding communities, and adding further devastation in northern Ontario.

    1. ridiculous payout by taxpayers to begin with considering they get things not covered in original treaty

  2. Hopefully the news agencies keep on top of this story !!! This has been a long battle that needs to be seen through to it’s conclusion…

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