January 2013

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JANUARY 26, 2013
Algonquin land claim east of Temagami marks big power shift

Three Algonquin first nations prepare to lay claim to their joint 34,000-square-kilometre traditional territory in Quebec and Ontario, bounding the east side of Temagami.

The documents are ready, but no formal land-claim process has begun. Something more powerful is happening.

Timiskaming, Wolf Lake and Eagle Village first nations never signed a treaty, which would have extinguished title, or mapped their hereditary lands.

"Government has been telling us we need to document our use before we can negotiate [a treaty]," says Chief Terence McBride of Timiskaming First Nation. "Now we have."

Land claims and treaty negotiations have been a priority for first nations since 1951, when Canada legalized land claims (yes, it was illegal to seek title).

With few resources they have been documenting their historical land use. This is doubly difficult as most territories were never surveyed, the gold standard for legal decisions, and few supporting historical documents exist.

Claims have been slow to be resolved and first nations, and northern municipalities, have been impatient and frustrated as these get locked in political power struggles and bureaucratic nightmares. The focus on claims misses a tectonic shift of power that blind-sided everyone.

The Constitution Act of 1982 enshrined aboriginal rights and strengthened their hand. Over the last decade legal rulings have interpreted section 35 of the act and a new right has emerged: duty to consult. Before development on traditional aboriginal territory can proceed there must be consultation between the public or private developer and first nation, whether it has signed a treaty or not.

This is a game-changer for aboriginal rights and the way business must be done on Crown land. It puts new power directly into first nation hands and bypasses bureaucrats and politicians.

There has been a learning curve for all sides, in particular, oil, gas and mining companies. The resource industry has been the biggest development force in remote areas. A big hurtle has been confusion over whose territory they wanted access to. Who should they consult?

Pressure ramped up to map and the three communities, already working on their claim, saw the urgency and did not wait for completion of their land-claim game plan to release their map.

The Temagami First Nation is ahead of the curve because it produced a map when it took its land claim (10,000 square kilometres) to court in the 1980s.

The three northern Algonquin communities are descended from the Timiskaming, Dumoine and Mattawa bands. (Many guides who worked at camps Wabun and Keewaydin in the first half of the 20th century were members of these bands.)

McBride is careful to point out that their land is not part of claims made by the Algonquins of Ontario (sometimes called the Golden Lake claim) or the Algonquins of Western Quebec (Maniwaki claim).   

The duty to consult is complicated by overlapping use by more than one aboriginal group. On traditional lands, "there were no lines that people did not cross."

Three small blocks of the northern Algonquins' claim overlap Temagami First Nation lands: west of the Montreal River and south of Mowat's Landing, west of the Montreal River and south of Latchford, and a strip of land between the mouth of the Matabitchuan River and the south end of Rabbit Lake.

The duty is not going away, and it has caused some significant clashes between industry and first nations. The messy, public court battle between Wahgoshig First Nation on Lake Abitibi and gold explorer Solid Gold Resources is an obvious example.

It is refreshing to see first nations, often perceived as obstructionist, take initiative to resolve roadblocks before they happen. 

“We want to participate as true partners in the regional economy,” McBride says.

  EXTERNAL WEBSITE:   Northern Algonquin docs and map



Photo: -40 C

JANUARY 23, 2013, 9:30 a.m.

"It was three degrees colder an hour earlier," Bob Farr emailed today from Bear Island,"but I was too comfortable to go outside to take the photo."

"It was supposed to be a record low for this date in January. Back in the 1970s we used to get -40 C, or more, quite often in late January and early February, but there are many more days of winter still to come to achieve this."

Photo: January 13, 2013 melt on the ice

Melt water on top of ice. Shot taken from Bear Island with Temagami Island in the background.

JANUARY 13, 2013
Winter turns upside-down

A temperature spike yesterday and today and rain hit Temagami. Today's thermometer read 7 C and that may set records. Here's a report from Bob Farr on Bear Island:

"All the snow has melted on the ice leaving pools of water. A good deal of the snow disappeared from the land also, and it is difficult to believe that it is almost mid-January in Temagami.

"The lake is still safe for travel, but it's a bit spooky driving a snowmachine over huge areas of black ice that appear to be open water underneath you.

"Colder weather is arriving tonight with a bit of snow perhaps. I expect to see vehicles coming over to the island sometime later in the week.

  MORE PHOTOS:   Ice extremes

JANUARY 12, 2013
Life and death on Devil's Mountain

Ron Miller caught a rare moment for a wolf pack preying on a moose on Devil's Mountain, Lake Temagami.

Miller has been capturing some extraordinary images of Temagami winters from his plane.

  PHOTOS:   Life and death on Devil's Mountain

                        Life and death on Devil's Mountain- Photo of the Month

                        Wolf pack on ice

                        Open water and coyote?

                        Lake Temagami ice 

                        Winter moose yard



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