First Nations seek to raise Canada’s rent after 150 years of $4 payments

When the fur-trader-turned-politician William Benjamin Robinson pulled up to the shores of the river that links Lake Superior and Lake Huron in 1850, his mission was clear: he was to gain access to as much of the vast territory around him as possible.

Acting on behalf of Queen Victoria, Robinson soon launched into formal negotiations with the indigenous people who lived in what would later become north-eastern Ontario in Canada.

Robinson treated with nearly two dozen communities whose connection to the land stretched back millennia.

Few of them could read, write or speak English fluently, but the two sides eventually struck a deal: in exchange for access to more than 35,700 square miles of land, Robinson offered hunting and fishing rights – and an annual payment equivalent to C$2 (£1.20/$1.60) per person each year.

In 1874, the payment was increased to C$4 a year. Since then, it has remained stagnant.

Now, 167 years after the Robinson Huron Treaty was signed, the document – and its original intent – is at the heart of a landmark legal challenge playing out in Ontario.