Treaties are legally binding documents that outline the relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. The Royal Proclamation of 1763 established the recognition of Aboriginal rights and title in Canada including self-determination setting the stage for treaty negotiations. It forbade the settlement of British colonists on native lands and is enshrined in the Canadian Constitution (1982).

Canada, however, has not always upheld its end of the bargain forcing First Nations to seek remediation through the Canadian legal system. For most of the 20th century, the Canadian policy of assimilation and colonial practices to solve the “Indian Problem” stood in the way of swift resolution. Land claim negotiations continue to this day in areas that were never covered by a treaty.

After the American Revolution there was a growing demand for land, which was granted as a reward for loyalty to the British Crown. The first land grants in Aurora date to 1797 and were issued to William McClellan and Thomas Phillips on the West side of Yonge, and to Charles Fathers, and Frederick Smith on the East side of Yonge. By 1806, most of the land on either side of Yonge Street in Aurora had been claimed.

First Nation Treaty Lands in York Region and Surrounding Areas

A map of York Region and surrounding area that shows Treaty, Municipal, and Regional boundaries. Aurora's boundaries are highlighted

The geospatial data was retrieved from the Office of Land Information Ontario (LIO) within the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry

The Town of Aurora acknowledges that the Anishinaabe lands on which we live and work are the traditional and treaty territory of the Chippewas of Georgina Island, as well as many other Nations whose presence here continues to this day. As the closest First Nation community to Aurora, we recognize the special relationship the Chippewas have with the lands and waters of this territory. They are the water protectors and environmental stewards of these lands, and as a municipality we join them in these responsibilities.

We further acknowledge that Aurora is part of the treaty lands of the Mississaugas and Chippewas, recognized through Treaty #13 as well as the Williams Treaties of 1923.

A shared understanding of the rich cultural heritage that has existed for centuries, and how our collective past brought us to where we are today, will help us walk together into a better future.

Treaty #13, 1805

Mississaugas First Nation 

In 1787, representatives of the Crown met with the Mississaugas of the Credit where land was purportedly ceded to the Crown in an agreement known as the Toronto Purchase. When attempting to survey the land the following year, it became clear that the exact delineation of land boundaries had not been agreed upon. Despite this, in 1793 work began on the extension of Yonge Street from Toronto to Holland Landing. Yonge Street divided present-day Aurora in half, with the western side part of King and the eastern side part of Whitchurch. While dubious at best, the supposed deed covering the sale of the land was not resolved until 1805 when Treaty #13 was signed in exchange for the payment of 10 shillings and fishing rights. This agreement however, only covered the west side of Yonge Street and the front parts of lots on the east side of Yonge.

The Williams Treaties, 1923

Chippewas First Nation

In Aurora, lands to the east of Yonge Street had never been formally surrendered. While the Johnson-Butler Purchase of 1788 covered lands north of Lake Ontario as far as a gunshot could be heard, this was hardly the case for Aurora. This of course was a problem as settlers had already been living on land that they had no clear, legal title to. This was to change in 1923 when representatives of the Crown and the Chippewas of Christian Island, Georgina Island, and Rama signed what is known as the Williams Treaties for a one-time cash payment and what the Chippewas believed were their rights to fish and hunt on the land.

Legal disputes over the matter, however, were not formally resolved until 2018. On November 17, 2018, the Honourable Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations, apologized on behalf of the Government of Canada for the negative impacts of the 1923 Williams Treaties on the Williams Treaties First Nations.

Learn more about Treaties in Ontario