About the flooding claims

Ontario is negotiating with Lake of the Woods, Shoal Lake and Winnipeg River First Nations and Canada to settle the First Nations’ claims that a series of dams built on Lake of the Woods, beginning in 1887 caused the flooding of their reserve lands.

The goal of these negotiations is to conclude fair and final settlements that will bring closure to these longstanding issues and foster reconciliation. The timely resolution of these claims through negotiation, balancing the rights and interests of all concerned, is in everyone’s best interest.

Negotiated settlements will provide the First Nations with fair compensation to right past wrongs and honour outstanding obligations. They will also bring economic benefits and certainty to the First Nations and neighbouring communities, creating economic opportunities and potential new business partnerships in the region.

The First Nations involved in these claims are:

  • Animakee Wa Zhing #37*
  • Anishinaabeg of Naongashiing
  • Big Grassy River*
  • Buffalo Point
  • Iskatewizaagegan #39
  • Ojibways of Onigaming*
  • Naotkamegwanning*
  • Niisaachewan Anishinaabe Nation*
  • Northwest Angle #33*
  • Shoal Lake #40
  • Washagamis Bay*
  • Wauzhushk Onigum Nation*

Together, these First Nations have 41 reserves fronting on Lake of the Woods, Shoal Lake and the Winnipeg River.

*Proposed settlements for these First Nations will potentially be ready for approval in 2022.

Current status

Proposed settlements with eight of the First Nations (identified with an asterisk in the list above) may be ready for approval by the individual First Nations, Canada and Ontario in 2022.

Settlements would include:

  • financial compensation for past losses and damages due to flooding of reserve lands
  • an arrangement to address their continued flooding

Ontario, Canada and Niisaachewan Anishinaabe Nation reached a trilateral settlement agreement of the First Nation’s Flooding claim in 2022. Trilateral settlement agreements have also been reached with Naotkamegwanning, Big Grassy River, Ojibways of Onigaming,  Animakee Wa Zhing #37 and Northwest Angle #33 First Nations. The settlements include financial compensation for:

  • past losses and damages due to flooding of reserve lands resulting from the operation of dams in Kenora
  • the continued flooding of reserve lands

Negotiations overview

Negotiations with most of the First Nations, Canada and Ontario began in 2009.

Negotiation protocol agreements were signed by the negotiating partners between 2011 and 2013. Settlement studies between 2013 and 2017 informed the negotiations.

Surveys were undertaken between 2018 and 2020 to locate the natural, pre-flood water’s edge of the First Nation Reserves. The final surveys will be completed in 2022. The completed surveys confirm that:

  • approximately 5,094 hectares (12,590 acres) of reserve land were impacted by the flooding
  • reserve islands were created where none existed before the flooding

The permanently flooded reserve lands and islands created by the flooding were not recognized as part of the reserves in subsequent years and were, at times, administered by Ontario. Past actions taken by Ontario include:

  • regulating islands as part of the Lake of the Woods Conservation Reserve
  • including islands within the boundaries of allocations for resource harvesting
  • the sale of islands

Ontario is taking steps to address circumstances where First Nation reserve lands have been administered by Ontario. These steps do not trigger any provincial Environmental Assessment (EA) processes.

Public information sharing

In August 2019, Ontario hosted open houses to provide the public with an opportunity to review the information available at the time.

Ontario’s negotiator provided background information on the claims and indicated surveys would be done to provide further clarity around the First Nations flooded reserve lands.

The negotiator noted at that time that Ontario's Class Environmental Assessment processes might be triggered by the proposed settlement of the flooding claims. Ontario’s negotiator also indicated that additional information would be provided when available.

To date, 26 surveys for the eight communities have been completed. The lands indicated on the recent surveys are First Nation reserve lands which are under the administration and control of the federal government. Ontario’s Class Environmental Assessment processes do not apply in respect of those lands and the EA processes are not triggered by the proposed settlement of the flooding claims.

Due to COVID‑19 restrictions, Ontario is currently unable to host in-person meetings. We developed interactive maps to show the flooded areas on each of the First Nation Reserves.

Information for each First Nation’s flooded reserve lands will be available for review for a 45-day period from the date the information is posted.

First Nation and ReservesReview period statusReview start dateClosing date
Animakee Wa Zhing #37
Big Island 37, LOTW 34, LOTW 37, LOTW 37B, NWA 34C & 37B, Shoal Lake 34B1, Shoal Lake 37A, Whitefish Bay 34A
ClosedMarch 30, 2022May 14, 2022
Big Grassy River
Big Grassy 35G, LOTW 35J, Obabikong 35B
ClosedMarch 14, 2022April 28, 2022
Big Grassy River
Naongaashing 35A & 31A
Ojibways of Onigaming Sabaskong
Bay 35C, 35D, 35F and 35H
ClosedMarch 14, 2022April 28, 2022
Naotkamegwanning Sabaskong Bay
32C, Whitefish Bay 32A, Yellowgirl Bay 32B
ClosedDecember 8, 2021January 22, 2022
Niisaachewan Anishinaabe Nation
Dalles 38C
ClosedSeptember 1, 2021October 15, 2021
Northwest Angle #33 
NWA 33B, Whitefish Bay 33A
ClosedMarch 30, 2022May 14, 2022
Washagamis Bay
Rat Portage 38A
Wauzhushk Onigum Nation
Kenora 38B

Interactive maps

Provide feedback or learn more

Read our frequently asked questions (PDF) to learn more.

To provide feedback, request additional information or to arrange for a video or teleconference, contact:

Dianne Woods