Although opinions and government viewpoints toward Native land claims had changed in the latter part of the twentieth century in Canada, the Attorney General of Ontario v. Bear Island Foundation case of 1984 revealed that the position of the courts regarding Native title to the land had not changed significantly since the St. Catharine's Milling case of 1889. The Bear Island people were opposing attempts by the government of Ontario to encourage resource and tourism development of their land. They argued in four months of testimony that they had never given up title to that land in exchange for treaty compensation because their band had not been represented at the negotiation of the Robinson Treaty in 1850. Justice Donald Steel's decision reasoned that Aboriginal rights existed only through the largesse of the Crown in the Royal Proclamation, and that the European powers had been legally entitled to take possession of the land because Native occupation did not give land title. The decision was upheld on appeal because it was ruled that the Bear Island people had been present at the Robinson Treaty negotiations and had received compensation at that time. The fact that this compensation amounted to only $25 did not impair the legality of the transaction.

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