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Quebec Algonquins Planning Canada's Biggest Land Claim Ever

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A group of Algonquin Indian bands are putting the finishing touches on a land claim for 250,000 square miles over western Quebec and part of eastern Ontario that would be the biggest such claim in Canadian history.

The claim would run from Sault Ste Marie in the west, looping up past Cochrane and Matagami in the north, then down through eastern Ontario to Ottawa, across West Quebec to Montreal, and ending where the Saint-­Maurice and St. Lawrence rivers merge at Trois-Rivières, according to the Ottawa Citizen.

Algonquin Anishinabeg Nation Tribal Council Chief Gilbert Whiteduck, of the Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg (the Algonquin of Maniwaki) told the Ottawa Citizen that the five-band group will seek resource-sharing, given that outright ownership is not feasible.

The Ontario portion overlaps with 14,000 square miles of existing claims that have been under negotiation in Ontario for 20 years and are about to be concluded. The Pikwaknagan, or Golden Lake Algonquin, claim it as their ancestral land, while the Anishinabeg tribal council holds that the lands technically belong to all Algonquin, not just one group.

Genevieve Guibert, a spokesperson for Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada, told the Ottawa Citizen that agreements with the Algonquins of Ontario would not affect agreements with other groups.

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"We believe the Algonquins of Ontario cannot enter into a treaty without all of the Algonquin nations having given their approval," Whiteduck told the Ottawa Citizen. "We have to decide what to do, whether we can afford it, but I expect what will happen is they will get challenged in court. We will challenge them in court to say that they cannot move forward without the agreement of the Algonquins in Quebec."

The Anishinabeg Nation is planning to formally present its claim to Quebec Premier Jean Charest, having done so to the federal government earlier this year. The federal government has refused to negotiate with the Anishinabeg tribal council because it represents only six of Quebec’s nine Algonquin bands, and the government wants to deal with all nine at once.

The claim also overlaps territory claimed by the Ojibwe Batchewana First Nation, The Sault Star reported.

Batchewana Chief Dean Sayers said any negotiations would be conducted "based on respectful protocols,” the newspaper said.

"We will work with our Algonquin relations, we will work with all of our First Nations relations all around the Great Lakes," Sayers told The Sault Star. "We have to get away from this colonial thinking, this colonial divisive thinking."