Background:

Since September 1992, the Grand Council Treaty #3  engaged in discussions with the Provincial Government (MNR) and the Federal Government (INAC) under the ICO process.  These discussions dealt with trapping issues as a self -government matter.  Treaty #3 is represented by a committee of Elders and Trappers who give direction to the Trapping Coordinator and legal counsel.

Appropriately, community consultations were initiated, in addition to several trapper meetings and conferences, to raise awareness and support and to identify issues of concern from the Treaty #3 communities at large.  This process served to set the tone for discussions with Ontario and Canada under the chairmanship and recording services of the Indian Commission of Ontario.  At this time ICO was no longer available; all parties have agreed to move forward with the negotiations without their assistance. The overriding principle governing the talks is based on a positive, non-adversarial relationship building process among parties.

After several attempts, based on the issues and concerns of Treaty #3 grassroots, a draft agreement was developed and went through 14th drafts.

The agreement outlines the day to day administration of trapping and is not an attempt to interpret treaty rights or to amend the treaty.

Treaty #3 Draft Trapping Agreement

The Agreement is mainly between Treaty #3 and Ontario (MNR) with some Federal (INAC) involvement.  The objective was to secure Treaty #3 administration of trapping, both on and off reserve.

MNR will continue to manage non-aboriginal trapping.  The Agreement will have a 5 year term with the usual amendment, termination and dispute resolution process.

Each Treaty #3 community will have the right to design its own system of trapping management according to local conditions and keeping with the agreement.

The Agreement will create a Treaty #3 Trapping Resource Centre controlled by Treaty #3 trappers.  The centre will be focussed on trapping.  This capacity will make it difficult for MNR to question the resource allocation decisions of Treaty #3.  In particular, the centre allows Treaty #3 to take a strong stand on activities that have an impact on trapping.

The Agreement creates the opportunity for Treaty #3 and Ontario (MNR) officials to meet on a regular basis to discuss technical issues of mutual concern, such as general conservation guidelines for the setting of harvest levels and seasons at the local communities.

In summary, with regards to structure, the Agreement emphasizes local decision making in the communities.  With the potential for the appointment and training of Compliance Officers and the structure of co-operation it is difficult for MNR to impose new guidelines, rules and regulations in a unilateral way.

The Agreement provides for simple procedure for the settlement of past and present grievances.  The Treaty #3 Resource Centre has a mandate to research identified grievances files.  The Treaty #3 Resource Centre will discuss these files with Ontario (MNR) and will attempt to find resolution for the grievances.

In the future, it will be difficult for Ontario and Canada to avoid clearly established grievances.  There will be early notification requirements for developers that effect trapping and traplines, with consideration for re-allocation, re-training and compensation.

Initially, when the Agreement was first implemented the rules of trapping will be followed for the ease of transition and convenience.  However, it was voluntary only and the system was replaced by Treaty #3 at a pace set by the Elders, the Grand Council and Treaty #3 trappers.

A Trapper’s Education program and curriculum has been developed and continued adjustments are being made to ensure that Treaty #3 harvesting values and traditions are passed on.

During the draft stage of the agreement, numerous First Nation communities and organizations where visited regarding the Treaty #3 Trapping Harmonization Agreement.  Included in the visits were the following communities; Anishinaabeg of Kabapikotawangag Resource Inc., Grassy Narrows, Seine River, Wabaseemoong, Lac Seul, Lac La Croix, and Onegaming.

During the community consultations numerous elders, trappers and community members were in attendance. The grassroots people were better informed on the contents of the Trapping Agreement, and each clause was explained to them along side with what Grand Council Treaty #3 has done since the beginning of the Agreement and how the future will look after the signing of the Agreement. Eg) What the Resource Centre responsibilities will be and what will go into for the construction of a Treaty #3 Trapping Law.  So in conclusion to these information sessions, the response from the grassroots people was definitely positive.

A Press Release regarding the Agreement was put to work along with several trappers’  mail-outs requesting interest for the Trapping  presentation to be held in or around their communities, is still in effect.   A Laymans’ term Trapping Agreement was also distributed through these community consultations and mail-outs.  The interest feedback on these mail-outs has not been as productive as the community visits.

The Treaty #3 Trappers Steering Committee

Before commencing with the Treaty #3 Trapping agreement discussions, a working group of 18 Elders, Chiefs and Trappers met to consider options.

A Trapping Coordinator was hired in September 1992 to conduct community consultation, hold trappers meetings, conferences and bring to the table with MNR and INAC, the issues and concerns of grassroots people upon which the draft trapping agreement is based upon.

From the working group, a Trappers Steering Committee was formed to direct matters in discussions with Ontario (MNR) and Canada (INAC).

At the time the committee consisted of 9 members from First Nations in Treaty #3.

Committee Members in the beginning where Karren Dannenmann, Charlie Fisher, Roy McDonald, Gabe Fobister, Ed Imbeault, Jim Banks, Robert Wayash, Ed Snowball, and James Henderson.

Today, the committee members are Karren Dannenmann, Gabe Fobister, Ed Snowball, James Henderson and Nancy Jones. The Trappers Steering Committee has been very committed, stable and aggressive in striving for the Agreement on trapping that was acceptable to the Chiefs of Treaty #3, the communities and the trappers themselves.

Community Consultations

During the draft stage of the agreement, numerous First Nation communities and organizations where visited regarding the Treaty #3 Trapping Harmonization Agreement.  Included in the visits were the following communities; Anishinaabeg of Kabapikotawangag Resource Inc., Grassy Narrows, Seine River, Wabaseemoong, Lac Seul, Lac La Croix, and Onegaming.

During the community consultations numerous elders, trappers and community members were in attendance. The grassroots people were better informed on the contents of the Trapping Agreement, and each clause was explained to them along side with what Grand Council Treaty #3 has done since the beginning of the Agreement and how the future will look after the signing of the Agreement. Eg) What the Resource Centre responsibilities will be and what will go into for the construction of a Treaty #3 Trapping Law.  So in conclusion to these information sessions, the response from the grassroots people was definitely positive.

Conclusion

As the negotiations drew closer to a final Agreement the Steering Committee has faced some difficulties in the area of transfer and trapline allocations.  The Steering Committee along with the previous Trapping Coordinator and Legal Counsel had come to the conclusion that this is not a Treaty Right or Treaty Amendment exercise.  Therefore, the Agreement should be perceived as an administrative and management exercise only.

Our main goal here at the Treaty #3 Trapping Resource Centre is to advocate for the Treaty #3 people who wish to keep their heritage and customs alive in trapping. We now have a mechanism to reclaim lost trap lines from the past.

Revisions to the MNR’s trap line allocation procedure were necessary to reflect: changes in case law respecting Aboriginal and Treaty rights, commitments made in agreements between the MNR and Provincial Treaty Organizations; and, to provide an option for a head trapper to recommend allocation to a helper trapper on that line.

Key revisions to the procedure include:

  1. Consideration of possible Aboriginal and Treaty rights to trap, and recognition of commitments made in the Trapping Harmonization Agreements with Grand Council Treaty #3 and Union of Ontario Indians, provided an applicant who is qualified to trap in Ontario the opportunity to obtain the trap line when it next becomes available; Sometime during the first month of every year OMNR will provide a list of vacant trap lines or trap line that are eligible for transfer to communities and Grand Council Treaty #3. A FIRST NATION MEMBER WILL HAVE 90 DAYS TO BRING FORWARD AN INTEREST IN A TRAP LINE BY PROVIDING DOCUMENTATION OF  FAMILY CONNECTION TO THE REGISTERED TRAPLINE ELEGABLE FOR TRANSFER
  2. A separate criteria document to be used in relation to commitments contained in the Trapping Harmonization Agreements where prior to the first of every year an Aboriginal trapper wishes to provide detailed information on the nature of his/her significant traditional family connection to a trap line area. THE FIRST NATION MEMBER WILL HAVE UP TO SIX MONTHS TO EXERCISE THEIR RIGHT OF FIRST REFUSAL.