Ten Treaty 9 communities are intending to take legal action against the federal and provincial governments, challenging what they call the senior levels of government's "purported unilateral jurisdiction and decision-making control" throughout the territory.
The communities — Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug, Neskantaga, Eabametoong, Ginoogaming, Aroland, Constance Lake, Kashechewan, Attawapiskatt, Apitipi Anicinapek Nation and Fort Albany — announced their plans to initiate the legal claim at a press conference in Toronto on Wednesday.
A news release detailing the case said the action claims the treaty was signed as a co-jurisdiction agreement, which would maintain the First Nations decision-making governance over the lands and resources, while the Crown would have some governance rights but not the right to take over.
"The Treaty we entered was to share mutual benefits with the settlers; agreeing to share the land and resources. We did not agree to, nor did we have a frame of reference to understand, the Crown's colonial, racist and oppressive intentions tied to the treaty," Neskantaga First Nation Chief Chris Moonias said in a statement.
"Treaty 9 was not a surrender treaty. Even throughout the Crown's systematic genocide of our people, we never gave up our sovereignty or jurisdiction. The Crown's current understanding on Treaty No. 9 continues to be a tool of racism and oppression. We never agreed to this."
A summary of the draft statement of claim outlines that the community would be seeking equitable compensation or damages in the amount of $95 billion.
Treaty 9, which was signed in 1905 and 1906, covers a vast area of land that represents about two-thirds of the landmass of Ontario.
"We are putting Ontario and Canada on notice. No more development — mining, forestry, hydro or any other similar activities without our consent," said Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug Chief Donny Morris.
"Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug never ceded or surrendered its jurisdiction. We retain jurisdiction and decision-making control over our traditional territories. The real Treaty guaranteed this. If the Crown is ready to honour the real Treaty, we are willing to sit down with the Crown and negotiate how decision-making will happen in Treaty 9 Territory. We invite the Crown to take this step with us. Will you Canada? Will you Ontario?"