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Lessons from Algonquin Territory: Conceptualizing land claim agreements in land-use planning

Lessons from Algonquin Territory: Conceptualizing land claim agreements in land-use planning

Written by: Jenna L. Davidson
Published in: Outstanding Papers - Year: 2019
Book Line: Vol. 25 No. 17 ISSN 1702-3548


The Algonquin Land Claim negotiations have been ongoing for over 25 years in Ontario, and will be the province’s first modern-day constitutionally protected treaty. Traditional territories of the Algonquin Anishinaabeg Nation under claim include areas in the Ottawa River Valley and the city of Ottawa itself. As a result, this land claim is unique in jurisdictional complexity, situated in urban landscapes that are heavily populated and developed, as well as rural areas that feature cottage country, hunting and fishing camps, provincial parks and natural resource projects. A series of public information sessions across the settlement area were held by the Algonquins of Ontario and Governments of Canada and Ontario to address land-use planning issues such as access, right-of-way and user interests on the selected Crown lands. Raising contention among stakeholder groups, private property owners, anglers and hunters and conservation authorities, the Algonquin Land Claim’s community consultation component proves to be an interesting juncture to examine concerns and conceptions of Indigenous assertions over territory.

The research explores the Algonquin Land Claim negotiations process within the current jurisprudential landscape of Indigenous sovereignty and recognition, and implications for a case study in the exurban regions of Frontenac County, Ontario. The analysis draws from discourse in political ecology, planning theory, and settler-colonial studies to investigate how Indigenous land claims are perceived within this non-Indigenous community, and the role municipal governments have in navigating these spaces of difference. The research illuminates commonly held notions of ‘amenity’ and ‘property’ environmental ideologies, and suggests opportunities for planning to broaden its conceptual scope in order to rightfully include Indigenous definitions of land use in self-governance and planning frameworks. Recommendations flowing from this study include amplified cultural competency and Indigenous-relations capacity training by municipal planners, as well as critical reflections on ingrained settler-colonial ideologies regarding land use, economic development and ‘the environment’ in treaty negotiations. Reconciliation as an action word – as opposed to a buzzword – in planning will require strong leadership and concerted interdisciplinary efforts of truth-sharing and relationship-building between Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities.