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First Nations surprised Ontario appeals annuity ruling

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Area First Nations are surprised and disappointed that the Ford government will appeal a judge’s ruling that says Ontario and Ottawa should have regularly increased a $4 annuity to Indigenous people in return for both governments collecting revenue from land-based resources.

The ruling affects 21 First Nations including Nipissing First Nation.

In 1850 the federal and provincial governments signed the Robinson Huron Treaty with 21 Indigenous communities where the members would receive the annuity and the amount would rise as revenue from the resources rose for both governments.

However, the $4 amount never increased and that finally triggered a court challenge which resulted in a judge agreeing with First Nations last month that the annuity should have risen on a regular basis.

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Mike Restoule of NFN is the lead plaintiff for the Robinson Huron Treaty annuities claim and says he thought Ontario would “follow the lead of Canada” and not appeal Judge Patricia Hennessey’s ruling.

Both governments had until January 21st to appeal the verdict and the federal government announced its intentions to accept the decision before the deadline and added it wanted to negotiate a settlement.

Restoule says Ontario is exercising its right to appeal and believes it’s being cautious with the issue since it could be on the hook for a larger percent of the annuity.

Restoule also says the news isn’t all bad.

“I spoke to an Ontario government representative and he indicated to me that they are prepared to sit down or attend a conference call meeting to restart negotiations for a settlement,” Restoule said.

Restoule adds this raises the possibility of an out-of-court settlement and talks could take place while Ontario has its appeal in place.

Restoule also says the discussions would include court costs because Justice Hennessey said Ontario and Ottawa had to reimburse the First Nations for much of their costs associated with the claim and Ontario is also appealing this.

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