Steve Miller, chief of Atikameksheng Anishnawbek (formerly the Whitefish Lake First Nation), is the first to admit that relations between campers’ associations and First Nations in Ontario have not always been the best.
In some cases, negotiations between First Nations and the campers leasing their land have lead to a “long, drawn out” process, he said.
But thankfully, that’s never been the case for Atikameksheng Anishnawbek and the Ojibway Road Campers’ Association, Miller said. The two groups have always approached each other with a spirit of co-operation.
“We’ve always communicated well,” Miller said. “The door has always been open with the chief and council, as well as with their organization. We see how we can help each other out with projects we have on the go.”
After meeting 11 times last fall, the Ojibway Road Campers’ Association and Atikameksheng Anishnawbek inked a new lease deal in mid-December.
“There were times when there were things put on the table that we couldn’t agree to,” Richard Bois, who chaired the negotiation team for the Ojibway Road Campers’ Association, which represents cottagers on 90 lots on the band’s land bordering Lake Penage, said.
“We’d counter that and put something different on the table that would work. You eventually get to something you both can live with.”
Both parties say the new lease deal, retroactive to April 1, 2010, is superior to a previous lease administered by Indian and Northern Affairs Canada.
The new lease sets out clearer terms for rent increases, Bois said.
It uses average Bank of Canada lending rates as the basis for the increases for the first five years of the lease, and after that, average cost of living increases.
The old lease takes into account land value appraisals, which can be unpredictable, when it comes to rent increases, he said.
Leases between campers and First Nations were previously administered by Indian and Northern Affairs Canada.
However, as of 2008, bands are allowed to control their own land, which includes administering leases. The new lease deal worked out between the two parties is for 25 years, but gives the opportunity for two five-year extensions, bringing it to 35 years.
Those campers who wish to do so are allowed to stay under the terms of the old Indian and Northern Affairs Canada lease, which has 17 years left on it, but Bois said his association recommends they sign the new lease with the First Nation.
Working out a new lease agreement was worth it for Bois, who has owned a camp on Lake Penage since 1975.
He said the lake has to be the “best” in the area, given its large size, good water quality, road access and proximity to Sudbury.