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Politics Canada, Ontario and Algonquins sign land claim agreement in principle

Canada's Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett speaks during a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Jan. 26, 2016.

CHRIS WATTIE/REUTERS

The Algonquins of Ontario and the federal and provincial governments have signed an agreement in principle involving lands in eastern Ontario.

The agreement is a step toward resolving a centuries-old land claim that covers an area of 36,000 square kilometres of land.

The Ontario government says the non-binding agreement in principle paves the way for continued negotiations toward a final agreement that will define the ongoing rights of the Algonquins of Ontario to lands and natural resources within the area.

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The Algonquins first petitioned for a treaty in 1772 and negotiations began in 1991, but fell apart a decade later due to Algonquin disunity.

The agreement in principle was announced in June 2015 and the Algonquins voted earlier this year to support the proposal.

The settlement would give the Algonquins of Ontario $300 million in funding from Canada and Ontario and not less than 47,550 hectares of provincial Crown lands would be transferred to Algonquin ownership.

It also specifies that no privately owned land will be taken away from anyone to settle the claim and no one will lose access to their private property.

"The signing of the agreement in principle today marks a critical step forward in a journey that began almost 250 years ago when the first Algonquin petition was submitted to the Crown in 1772," Robert Potts, principal negotiator for the Algonquins of Ontario, said Tuesday in a statement.

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

Federal Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Carolyn Bennett called the signing "a momentous milestone and a significant step forward on renewing Canada's relationship with the Algonquins of Ontario."

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If the negotiators are successful in achieving a final agreement, it will have to be approved by Algonquins of Ontario voters in a ratification vote and then by the Ontario Legislature and Parliament of Canada.

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