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Native group, Ontario and feds reach agreement in principle on land claim

OTTAWA — The Algonquins of Ontario have signed an agreement in principle with Ontario and the federal government which they say marks a major step towards settlement of a long-standing land claim.

The agreement sets out the main elements of a potential settlement that would see the Algonquins receive $300 million in capital funding from Canada and Ontario and take ownership of more than 47,000 hectares of eastern Ontario land.

The parties say the goal is to clarify the next steps for everyone in the claimed territory, balance the rights and interests of all concerned and create new economic opportunities for the Algonquins and their neighbours.

The governments say no privately owned land will be taken to settle the claim, no one will lose access to their private property and Algonquin Park will remain open to all.

The parties say the agreement was shaped by consultations with the 10 Algonquins of Ontario communities, other indigenous groups and the public.

They say discussions will continue during the negotiations toward a final deal.

In a statement, Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett said the agreement moves all parties closer to finalizing the first modern-day treaty in Ontario.

"We are working together to resolve one of the largest land claims in the country," she said.

David Zimmer, Ontario's minister of indigenous relations and reconciliation, said the deal shows what can be done by working together in a spirit of reconciliation.

"More than a million people share this land with the Algonquins of Ontario, and a modern treaty will clear a path for neighbours to become partners, bringing new economic opportunities to their communities," he said.

Robert Potts, principal negotiator for the Algonquins of Ontario, called Tuesday's announcement a critical step in a process that is 250 years old.

"We believe that together we can work towards reconciliation and securing the long delayed justice that the Algonquin people deserve."

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