Rainy River land claim almost finalized

The Rainy River First Nations land claim is close to being finalized. The First Nations have proposed that certain provincial Crown land be provided to them for reserve upon settlement.
The provincial government has invited the public to attend open houses around the district to discuss the proposed land selections.
Representatives from the Ontario Native Affairs Secretariat (ONAS), Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC),and the Rainy River First Nations (RRFN), will be available to provide information about Crown land proposed as part of the settlement agreement, and to answer questions about the claim.
“We’ll be running the open houses with MNR representatives and representatives from Native Affairs over the next week,” said ONAS Deputy Director of Negotiations Chris Maher.
The series of open houses will lay out the process and of identification of Crown land in the negotiations process and explain the reasons for the particular selections under consideration.
The open houses enable the public to view and comment on the proposed land selections before final confirmation by Ontario and the First Nations.
“The positive side is this is getting towards the end of the claims negotiations process,” said Rod McLeod, lawyer for the RRFN. “Once we resolve this, we can draft the final agreement, and look forward to settlement, maybe as soon as the spring of 2003.”
McLeod explained the informational open house is conducted before the provincial government releases or changes the uses of provincial Crown land.
“They go through this public process explaining what they’re doing with the land and receive comments,” he said. “We receive all those comments and consider how it may change or affect selections or how we finalize them.”
Maher stressed that there won’t be any surprises for people who’ve kept abreast of the claim process.
“We’ve kept them in the loop, we usually meet with the municipalities to update them on the status,” he said. “We don’t want there to be any surprises.
“We’d certainly like to hear from anyone who might have a vested interest in the land.”
Local politicians have been supportive throughout the claims process.
“Rainy River is a big part of the economy so when Rainy River does something it means a lot to this whole area, “ McLeod said.
Maps, background history, and a new newsletter, will be available at the meetings.
The open house schedule is as follows:
•Monday, Sept. 9: Nestor Falls United Church Basement
•Tuesday, Sept. 10: Morson Community Hall
•Wednesday, Sept. 11: Rainy River Legion Hall
•Thursday, Sept. 12: Emo Rec Centre Hall
•Friday, Sept. 13: Fort Frances Legion Hall
•Saturday, Sept. 14: Rainy River First Nation Gymnasium
All open houses are scheduled for 2-9 p.m.
Most Aboriginal land claim negotiations involve the federal government, which has primary responsibility for the resolution of Aboriginal land claims. The provincial government may become involved in Aboriginal land claims because of provincial involvement in the historical events giving rise to the claim and because many claims involve the assertion of rights with respect to Crown lands, natural resources and private property.