By Mitch Gold

Not many Torontonians have heard of a Land Claim made by the original Native inhabitants of the Toronto area regarding the “lands from the south of the foot of Front Street”. So what is the status of this vital issue today?

The Federal Government agreed to a land claim process after a 21-year-plus charade with the First Nation tribe, the Mississaugas of the New Credit.

It was quite a surprise in June of 2003 when Chief Bryan Laforme — current Chief of the Mississauga of the New Credit — agreed to “throw in the land south of Front Street” in order to open the Treaty to the North for negotiation. This was likely a compromise in the process as I had been representing a contrary point of view at City Council for a number of months with the Chiefs’ full agreement. His new agreement with the Claims Commission agreed to an opening for a claim of an earlier Toronto treaty on the issue of price, and would do so only if the First Nations would throw in the land South of Front Street.

This red herring deal that Chief Laforme entered into outraged many other tribes of the region – but they hesitated to do anything about it as they did not want to derail the negotiations and the Mississauga tribe’s hold other purse strings. The Mississauga of the New Credit also “receives net revenues from Casino Rama and distributes to Ontario First Nations among other things”. This includes about 133 First Nations. Chief Laforme is now silent on how he will act on behalf of all the Native peoples in these negotiations. Having talked with Vern Harper, a highly-respected Urban Elder in Toronto and a Hereditary Chief of the Cree Nation, and Larry Frost, Executive Director of the Native Canadian Centre of Toronto, both indicate they have not been informed or consulted with in any way in regard to the Mississauga claim.

The First Nations Indigenous Trust was formed by First Nations Elders from around the world with a view to keeping a larger perspective on the settlement of land claims on behalf of all the people.

The Trust is beneficiary of a “global solution” called the 1% Solution (TOPS), a leading-edge education/business programme intended to fund civil society worldwide. Indigenous elders from around the world will be watching our process.

Fred Lazar, economics professor at York University indicates somewhere between $300 and $800 billion dollars is owed to the First Nations peoples of Canada.. Quite a variance. The Land Claim for Toronto is being pursued to protect and benefit Toronto, and its current and future inhabitants. In this regard, we refer to First Nations Peoples that may come to Toronto in the future from across Canada and from around the world.

The best outcome for the Trust will be a renewed organizational structure for the Islands and the Toronto Waterfront Revitalization Corporation.

We disagree with the existing political structure and decision-making processes that involve the land under claim. The Ontario Municipal Board is conducting a “pre-hearing conference” with regards to a Proposed Amendment No. 257 to the Official Plan of the City of Toronto to re-designate lands identified as the Central Waterfront O.M.B. (Ontario Municipal Board) File No. 0030096.MB. The Trust has “participant status” in the hearings. Formal filings have not yet been accepted at the Ontario Land Registry Office. but no formal complaint action has taken place yet. Our intention is to have the Land Claim negotiators pay attention to the values as identified in the Appeal process. An obtuse strategy – but relatively inexpensive.

In short, we are attempting to find out what values are affected by the changing of the by-law in question and how this should be included in the land claim settlement. We want the Land Claim settlement to be more transparent.

Documents properly filled out (with the assistance of employees of the Land Claim office and under their direction) were rejected off hand by Ministry of Consumer and Business Services Kate Murray, Director of Titles. (Provincial Land Claims Office) stating the Claim was both not recognized under Provincial land legislation and the document presented “is not in electronic format to be registered in the Toronto Land Registry Office.”

Toronto Mayor David Miller’s office too was invited to align forces in these discussions with the Federal Government as a matter of Toronto City Policy. The suggestion was put to Tobias Novogrodsky, a Corporate Management and Policy Consultant for the Mayor. While his initial reaction was positive, his supervisor determined not to explore the efficiencies that might be afforded by a co-operative approach to the Federal Government on behalf of the people representing the interests of the Claim.

Recent Supreme Court Rulings indicate that indigenous people need be consulted on all issues that concern their well-being seem to have escaped Toronto City Hall.

As an antidote to this process, the reader may like to feel a measure of comfort in knowing that the processes that we are engaged in will bring to the international stage a presence of Toronto as the “Meeting Place”. Thoughtfully, this ‘brand’ name can be encouraged in all Toronto literature as we see ourselves as the “Meeting Place” of the World.

If our vision is actualized, our waterfront will house the Meeting Place for a Council of World Elders – an advisory body to the United Nations, a Peace University of the United Nations, a World Youth Centre and a World Healing Centre.

Now won’t that be a good result from this Land Claim Process?