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Two northern Ont. First Nations challenging half billion dollars in legal fees

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Two First Nations communities in northern Ontario will be challenging half a billion dollars in legal fees associated with the Robinson Huron Treaty Litigation Fund.

The chiefs of Atikameksheng Anishnawbek, near Sudbury, and Garden River First Nation, near Sault Ste. Marie, announced that they started a court application to examine if the $510 million charged in legal fees in the case are fair.

Atikameksheng Anishnawbek Chief Craig Nootchtai is part of a court challenge looking into the $510 million in legal fees in the Robinson Huron Treaty case. June 10, 2024 (Amanda Hicks/CTV Northern Ontario)

"This is not in any way, you know, chastising the lawyers in any way," Atikameksheng Anishnawbek Chief Craig Nootchtai.

"We're very happy with the results of the settlement, but as a trustee, I still have a legal obligation to follow all the legal rules."

It was argued that the 21 Robinson Huron treaties have already paid millions of dollars in legal fees throughout the $10 billion settlement.

Garden River First Nation Chief Karen Bell said there was a lack of transparency.

"Why can't you tell us, like, how many lawyers that are in the firm working on this and what their hourly rates are and what work they've been doing to total the amount that you're asking," Bell said.

Garden River First Nation Chief Karen Bell is challenging the Robinson Huron Treaty Litigation Fund for what she says is a lack of transparency in legal fees charged in the case. June 10, 2024 (Amanda Hicks/CTV Northern Ontario)

Both leaders said the additional funds could go to support their communities.

"We realize that we could bring our people home. We could we could create prosperity for them," Bell said.

"We could assist them in going for driving, for driving forwards to independent businesses or to get higher education or, you know, better quality of life or better structural homes."

Nootchtai said they could use the extra money to create an education trust.

"I like to think it's enough … where we could put it into a trust and the money, the interest earned and that would grow every year," he said.

"We could use that interest earned to fund our students, right? And those that's the impact that's going to have on our nation."

This decision won't delay the distribution of the settlement funds set for August 2024, he said.

There are currently no firm court dates, but both First Nations are hoping for a quick resolution.

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