Mississauga water claim could change everything

NEW CREDIT — What do Burlington Bay/Beach, the Bay of Quinte, Catfish Creek, Chipeweigh River, River Etobicoke, Head of Lake Ontario (Head of the Lake), Humber River, Lamabinicon (small creek), Lake Erie, Lac La Claie, Lake Huron, Niagara, Rice Lake, River Credit, River La Tranche, River St. Claire, River Thames, Rouge River/River Nen, Sixteen Mile Creek, Twelve Mile Creek, Waghquata, and Mississaga/Messissague Point, all have in common?

They are all still owned by the Mississaugas. At least that is the assertion being considered by Ontario and Ottawa after historians from the Mississaugas of the New Credit and lawyer Kim Alexander Fullerton submitted their final arguments last week to support their claim.

According to an extensive historical research report compiled by Joan Holmes Associates Inc., and presented to government, “The First Nations were generally agreeable to allow other First Nations as well as Europeans to utilize fish resources and travel on waterways within their traditional lands. However, in regard to European land purchases, First Nations demonstrated no inclination to give up or sell the lakes and waterways central to their existence. Victor Lytwyn, historical geographer, argues that land surrenders negotiated with Great Lakes First Nations during the 18th and 19th centuries did not cover the water or aquatic resources.”

The report goes on to say, “Early Jesuit records profile the importance of fisheries among the Ojibwa of the Great Lakes. In 1647-48, the Jesuits reported that Algonquian tribes occupying lands north of the Huron Indians lived off hunting and fishing and exercised seasonal subsistence, staying at one place if the fish were plentiful. Donald B. Smith, historian, in his article about the Algonquian (Ojibwa) Indians known as the Mississaugas, argued that by moving into southern areas of Ontario during the 17th century they obtained new hunting and fishing grounds.”

The importance of the fisheries was strongly underlined in 1805 during the Toronto Purchase renewal when Chief Quenepenon insisted to William Claus, Deputy Superintendent General of Indian Affairs, that the old chiefs in particular reserved the fishery of the river. Chief Quenepenon reminded Claus that Colonel Butler in 1787 replied to the Mississaugas’ request for the fisheries by stating, ‘We do not want the water, we want the land.’

“The first half of the 19th century saw a number of Mississauga land deals with the Crown which contain clauses designed to protect Mississaugas’ rights to the salmon fisheries within traditional waterways,” says Fullerton.

According to New Credit Chief Stacy Laforme and Fullerton, who has acted as council to the Mississaugas for years, including the Toronto Purchase case which they won, they are both optimistic that some kind of agreement can be reached to compensate the Mississauga for revenues lost over the years and hope to create a perpetual income for the people of the Mississaugas with a win in this claim.

The claim was filed in September of 2016. They are seeking an out of court settlement to compensate for past and present usage of water found within rivers, streams and even some of the Great Lakes. Also for current and future water usage.

“I prefer an out of court settlement,” says Fullerton. “It’s always a roll of the dice when you take something into court.”

But ether way, he and Chief Laforme are cautiously optimistic the evidence will show the Mississaugas never surrendered water or fishing rights and specifically worded so within many of the land deals they made in the past.

“ I think we have a very compelling case,” says Fullerton.

But what are the realistic expectations from this claim? According to Fullerton, it could leverage other Mississauga claims in their favour and give the Mississauga a say in water protection and, it is hoped, its use in the fracking process of oil extraction which puts fresh water in danger. A response from the government is expected by September of 2019.


CUTLINE: Mississaugas of the new Credit Chief Stacey Laforme, seen here with Prince William welcoming him to Mississauga Territory, is seeing through a claim his Nation first filed in September of 2016. The claim proposes that all the water and the rivers and lake beds were never surrendered and still belong to the Mississauga. New Credit lawyer Kim Alexander Fullerton filed the claim on behalf of the Mississaugas of the New Credit. SUBMITTED PHOTO


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