Canada - First Nations issue $127M bill to Ontario for extracted resources

Date of publication: 
11 February 2015

Nishnawbe Aski Nation calculates value of centuries of mining, forestry on its traditional territory

The Nishnawbe Aski Nation is resubmitting an unpaid bill in the amount of $127 million to Ontario as part of the province’s budget consultation process.

The provincial treaty organization, representing 49 First Nations in northern Ontario, hired York University economics professor Fred Lazar to calculate the current value of resources extracted from its traditional territories between 1911 and 2011.

In Lazar’s 2012 report he pegged the figure at 3.2 billion dollars, and then broke that down to an annuity, with a four per cent interest rate, that would amount to 127 million dollars per year, in perpetuity.

Nisnawbe Aski Nation Deputy Grand Chief Les Louttit said he doesn’t really expect the province to cut a cheque “but there are ways in which they can invest into Nishnawbe Aski First Nations to improve the value and quality of our lifestyles in our communities.”

Those ways include funding such things as housing, water and sewage treatment or social programs to deal with such things as addictions, Louttit said.

The invoice from Nishnawbe Aski Nation was first submitted to Ontario in 2012 and received no response. So Louttit said he resubmitted it, according to the wishes of the chiefs he represents, during recent budget consultations in Thunder Bay.

He said it’s a way of correcting the misguided public perception, fostered by the province, about the roots of poverty in First Nations and the rights to resources.

“They convey to the public that [land] was expropriated, it was a land surrender, it was a loss of aboriginal title,” Louttit said. “That was not the case in our view, according to our elders and the people who were there when the treaty was signed.”

Lazar based his calculations largely on the value of forestry permits issued in Nishnawbe Aski Nation and more than a dozen mines that have been developed in the area.