Saugeen Ojibway Nation Treaty and Title Claim

If you are interested in the SON Treaty and Title Claim, please bookmark this page and check back regularly, as it will be updated throughout the case.

OKT is proud to represent the Saugeen Ojibway Nation in the trial of two longstanding claims: a claim about its ownership of lands under water and a claim seeking redress from Canada and Ontario for a broken promise to protect some of SON’s lands.

Closing arguments began on October 19, 2020 and were completed on October 23, 2020. Closings arguments were heard by the Ontario court virtually, due to pandemic restrictions in place restricting attendance numbers inside a courtroom.

Download Written Closing Submissions

Background

SON is made up of two distinct First Nations – the Saugeen First Nation and the Chippewas of Nawash Unceded First Nation. The two First Nations launched its claims jointly approximately 20 years ago.

Aboriginal Title Claim

SON’s claim about ownership of lands under water is a claim about title to SON’s traditional homelands that were not surrendered by treaty.  SON’s traditional homelands includes the Saugeen (Bruce) Peninsula and about 1 ½ million acres of land to the south of it, stretching from Goderich to Collingwood. It also includes the waters surrounding those lands. Those are the waters of Georgian Bay and Lake Huron, and SON is asking the court to recognize SON’s ‘Aboriginal title’ to those waters.

Aboriginal title, in Canadian law, is an Indigenous land right that is recognized and protected by section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982. While First Nations in Canada have successfully brought court claims about Aboriginal title to lands, this is the first time that the issue of Aboriginal title to waters will be decided by a court.

Treaty Claim

SON’s second claim is about Treaty72. In 1836, the British Crown pressed SON to surrender 1.5 million acres of its lands south of Owen Sound. In exchange for those rich farming lands, the Crown made SON an important promise: to protect the Saugeen (Bruce) Peninsula for SON, forever. But, 18 years later the Crown came back for a surrender of the Peninsula. The Crown said that they could no longer protect SON’s remaining lands from settlers, and Treaty 72 was signed in 1854.

SON’s claim is that the Crown could have protected the Peninsula and misled SON in the negotiations of a surrender of the Saugeen (Bruce) Peninsula. SON’s claim is that this was a breach of the Crown’s fiduciary duty. What SON is seeking is a declaration the Crown breached this duty. If successful, in a later phase of this claim, SON will be looking for recognition of its ownership interests in  lands on the Saugeen (Bruce) Peninsula that are still owned by Ontario or Canada or have not been bought and paid for by third parties (so, municipal roads, for example), as well as compensation.

The trial of both claims began on April 23, 2019, and is being presided over by Justice Wendy Matheson of the Ontario Superior Court.

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