Kawartha Lakes receives plan to regulate rice harvest

Pigeon Lake residents among those frustrated with noisy harvesting practice

NEWS Oct 11, 2021 by Bill Hodgins Kawartha Lakes This Week

KAWARTHA LAKES – Waterfront homeowners on Pigeon, Chemong and Buckhorn Lakes say struggles with navigation, along with the noise coming from airboat rice harvesters, have led to “an ongoing nightmare” for too long now.

They’ve convinced the Township of Selwyn to act. Now Kawartha Lakes is getting in on that too.
Mayor Andy Letham has asked council to support a resolution from Selwyn Township calling for time limits on harvesting, quieter methods to do so, and a ban on carrying out rice harvesting on Sundays. As well, it asks Parks Canada to continue to consider applications on aquatic vegetation removal “to allow waterfront property owners to make use of the waterway.”

This issue isn’t a new one for Pigeon Lake waterfront owners. James Whetung, a First Nations member and owner of Black Duck Wild Rice, has harvested wild rice for more than a quarter century. He harvests and collects the rice, and provides an educational opportunity for those looking to learn more about the process. According to his website, the rice is sold through a small-scale commercial operation.

But some say it affects their time on the water. Pigeon Lake resident Joanna Augustyniak wrote Selwyn Township stating the harvesting is happening seven days a week, six hours a day.
“The situation has been terrible this year and Mr. Whetung is showing no respect for our rights.”

Coun. Heather Stauble spoke in favour of backing the resolutions put forward by Selwyn. Speaking at council on Oct. 10, she said it’s not an issue this council can solve. It needs to be dealt with between the “First Nations” and Parks Canada. But the City’s resolution to back Selwyn Township will help make it clear this is something that they need to address, she said.
by Bill Hodgins

Follow Bill Hodgins on Twitter @bhwrites
Email: bhodgins@mykawartha.com Twitter

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Peterborough Examiner Response

Dear Save Pigeon Lake Supporters

Below you will find a link to the Peterborough Examiner re an article titled Prayers, song for wild rice pulled from the lake. This article is filled with inaccuracies, and a response is in order to clarify statements made. In order to view please click on link below, read and then return to original email and click response.

The consultations between Parks Canada and the First Nations are ongoing but unfortunately, no solutions have been brought forward to date. It is our hope that compromise can be found and solutions agreed to, that will satisfy all Canadians that have a vested interest in the Trent Severn Waterways. Please continue to talk to your neighbors and friends to support the Goals of the Save Pigeon Lake Initiative:-

  1. Seeding (Planting of rice) Not be permitted. 
  2. Harvesting by mechanical means Not be permitted.
  3. To harvest for commercial purposes Not be permitted. 

Harvesting by traditional methods for personal consumption and community purposes as set out in the William’s Treaty Harvesting Guidelines is encouraged.



Response to the article titled: Prayers, song for wild rice pulled from Lake, written by Jessica Nyznik, The Peterborough Examiner – July 25th, 2016

I read this article with interest as I am a resident of Pigeon Lake and well aware of the issues regarding wild rice in the Trent Severn Waterways and especially Pigeon Lake.

I think it is commendable that a group of people feel strongly about their heritage and culture to put on a demonstration and let their presence be known. However, it is also important when doing so that they ensure they are presenting facts. The following are our concerns regarding the statements in the article and our response to them.

CONCERN: The article states that large quantities of wild rice were ripped from the water by homeowners and Mr. Musgrave said he discovered an area of wild rice was missing equaling the size of three Olympic swimming pools. He then goes on to say he witnessed people tugging out more.

RESPONSE: The people he says he witnessed were pulling rice from around their dock. The amount of rice pulled was minor. It is a fact, a lot of wild rice has been ripped from the bottom of the lake floor, but the cause was the high winds and rough water we have experienced in the past week, not human hands. Wild rice is currently in the floating stage of its life cycle, which is when it is most vulnerable to damage.

CONCERN: Mr. Musgrave stated that the permits issued last year to some shoreline owners were revoked and that the permits were not intended for wild rice, but for seaweed-type plants.

RESPONSE: There was one permit that was issued specifically for the removal of wild rice for multiple properties, which the shoreline property owners honoured. The permit was not revoked as the shoreline owners voluntarily suspended cutting, as a sign of good faith in the future consultation between Parks Canada and the First Nations.

CONCERN: Mr. Musgrave’s statement that the agreement with Parks Canada and TSW to clear certain areas was made in good faith to build peaceful relationships.

RESPONSE: It is true that Parks Canada and the First Nations are in consultation and it is encouraging, according to Parks Canada. They advised, in an update of the talks, that progress is being made in finding solutions that will satisfy the needs of all users of the lake.

However, there has been no release of information, to date, that an agreement has been reached to clear certain areas.

COMMENT: There have always been small rice fields in Pigeon Lake, which were not a navigation concern, until Mr. Whetung of Curve Lake admittedly took the liberty of seeding the lake, causing a proliferation of wild rice. He also harvests these newly “planted” fields via a noisy airboat. His commercial operation is in violation of the Williams Treaty Harvesting Guide, which clearly states that the wild rice harvest is to be used for personal and community use.

It is important to note: The original rice beds on Pigeon Lake for more that 70 years were less than 200 acres. Now, because of the thousands of pounds of seed that Mr. Whetung admitted he has planted, the rice on the lake now totals between 1200 and 1500 acres. This new measurement has been documented in a recent study.

The proliferation of rice over the past years has encumbered navigation, lowered property values, restricted recreational activities including swimming, fishing and tourism. The proliferation has also caused and increase in the amount of rice floating into shore which property owners need to remove – and to top it off, a fee is now being charged to take it to the dump.

We have always taken the position of respecting and honouring First Nations rights. We believe in a conciliatory approach, taking the needs of First Nations, shoreline property owners and all Canadians into consideration. Working together, solutions can be found to meet the needs of all users of this once pristine waterway.

I am sure that the demonstration on Sunday, July 24th, 2016 was intended to show loyalty and commitment to their beliefs, which they achieved. However, it is also important to ensure all facts are presented fairly and to understand that we also have a culture, which should be respected as well.

Please visit our website www.savepigeonlake.com for details and a better understanding of the issues.


Larry Wood,
Spokesperson, Save Pigeon Lake Initiative
August 2, 2021

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Update: Wild Rice Consultations – April 27, 2021

Update: Wild Rice Consultations – April 27, 2021

Parks Canada began official consultation with the Williams Treaties First
Nations regarding wild rice harvesting in the fall of 2015. To date, we
have developed a draft Terms of Reference to govern the consultations.
Discussions with the First Nations have been very productive.

Parks Canada is aware that wild rice is present in different areas of the
Trent-Severn Waterway, and therefore the scope of these on-going
discussions could expand to include other parts of the waterway as
necessary. At this time, the lakes being considered include Pigeon Lake,
Rice Lake, Chemong Lake, and Buckhorn Lake.

Through consultation with the First Nations, and open dialogue with
shoreline property owners and communities, Parks Canada hopes to build a
better understanding of the environmental, recreational, and economic
impacts of wild rice and its harvest, including the culturally significant
and spiritual importance to First Nations. Parks Canada appreciates the
on-going support of the Williams Treaties First Nations, the
municipalities, federal and provincial partners, the conservation
authorities and the shoreline property owners, all of whom are working with
us to find a balanced approach to the management of wild rice on the
Trent-Severn Waterway.

A series of regular meetings is scheduled with the Williams Treaties First
Nations (Wild Rice) Working Group throughout the spring. Current focus is
on the environmental aspects of wild rice, and determining if scientific
research is required to support the on-going discussions.

Jewel Cunningham
Director, Ontario Waterways Unit | Directrice de l’Unité des voies
navigables de l’Ontario

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Parks Canada Cancelling Permit

Dear Save Pigeon Lake supporters

As you are aware, Parks Canada and First Nations met on Friday August 28th to discuss the First Nation’s objection that Parks Canada issued a permit without consideration of the First Nation’s rights to be consulted prior to issuing of a permit to cut wild rice. This is a legal obligation and Parks Canada acknowledged they (First Nations) should have been consulted before issuing the permit.

Parks Canada has cancelled the permit. Although you, like myself are disappointed with this result I believe it would be in our best interest to respect the cancellation and cease to do any further cutting this year.

Last week’s meeting resulted in a positive step towards finding solutions to the rice proliferation in the Trent Severn Waterways. I am encouraged that Parks Canada and the First Nations have agreed to further talks. Hopefully, these talks which are to commence as soon as possible will take into consideration the needs of the First Nations and all of the people who have enjoyed the Trent Severn waterways for over a century. Solutions can be found if we all work together.

Thank you for your support and your respectful consideration in honouring the cancellation of the rice cutting permit. You may be assured we will continue to express your concerns to all levels of Government impressing on them their responsibility to find a solution to the deliberate seeding and commercial harvesting in Federal Waterways which is causing irreparable harm to us all. If you have any questions please contact me at savepigeonlake@gmail.com

Larry Wood

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Selwyn Township - Resolution No. 2014 - 200 - Rice Harvesting in Pigeon Lake

Resolution No. 2014 - 200 - Rice Harvesting in Pigeon Lake
Councillor Donna Ballantyne – Councillor Anita Locke -
That the correspondence and information provided by Larry Wood related to mechanical wild rice harvesting be received for information; and

That the Township of Selwyn send correspondence to the Federal Minister of Environment Leona Aglukkaq strongly urging that as noted in the 2012 correspondence sent to Mr. Wood from previous Minister, Peter Kent, a wild rice policy be developed and further that in developing the policy, due regard be given to how mechanical wild rice harvesting and seeding is significantly impacting how residents are able to enjoy our waterways and the quality of these waterways; and

Further that the correspondence also note the need for the Federal and Provincial governments to clearly define their roles and jurisdiction related to harvesting and seeding wild rice as there are disparities in who has jurisdiction over regulating the practice; who is able to issue permits; what types of rice harvesting are permitted (mechanical or by canoe); and for what purpose (cultural, commercial etc…); who is responsible to determine and regulate whether Ergot, reported to be dangerous if eaten, is present in the wild rice which is being sold commercially; who is responsible for laying charges if necessary, related to the current mechanical wild rice harvesting taking place on Pigeon Lake; and

Further that clarification be provided on whether wild rice can be defined as ‘wild’ when it is being mechanically harvested and seeded; and that the Township of Selwyn and Peterborough County O.P.P. Detachment Commander Tim Tatchell be copied on the responses made by the Federal and Provincial governments for information; and that the Federal and Provincial governments be asked to respond by the Spring of 2015 well in advance of the next harvesting season; and

That a copy of this Resolution be sent to Premier Kathleen Wynne, M.P. Dean Del Mastro, M.P.P. Jeff Leal, the Minister of Natural Resources, the Minister of Environment, the presidents of AMO and ROMA, the local Trent Severn Waterway offices, the Warden for the Trent Severn Waterway Enforcement Division and Larry Wood.

Mayor Mary Smith – yes
Councillor Donna Ballantyne – yes
Councillor Anita Locke – yes
Deputy Mayor Andy Mitchell – yes
Councillor Sherry Senis - yes

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Letter to Ms. Jewel Cunningham Director of Trent Severn Waterways

September 22nd, 2014

Ms. Jewel Cunningham

Director Ontario Waterways Unit

Parks Canada Agency

Trent Severn Waterways


Wild Rice Harvesting on Pigeon Lake

Dear Ms. Cunningham

I am writing to you as the spokesperson of concerned residents which reside on the shores of Pigeon Lake, as well as boaters, fishermen, tourists and resort operators of the area. These concerns center on the substantial increase of wild rice in the area from Grenadier Island south to Omemee.

I wrote to Mr. Peter Kent in January 2012 expressing the concern of residents and received a reply (enclosed) stating that the Agency is working towards the development of a wild rice policy. I have searched the internet for this policy but have not been able to find one. Does it exist? This Policy was to provide direction for harvesting guidelines by First Nations and others.

A policy which provides enforceable guidelines is needed and the lack of these guidelines is one of the reason I am contacting you for help. The letter written to Mr Kent, as well as the pictures, provides you with a background of why we have started a Save Pigeon Lake Initiative.

The present condition of Pigeon Lake south of Grenadier Island continues to worsen each year due to the direct seeding of area lakes and the current method of mechanical harvesting in this area by Mr. James Whetung.

The following are concerns of property owners that need to be addressed and hopefully viable solutions found for all parties involved:

  1. James Whetung, on a radio interview admitted he has seeded area lakes. The reason given for seeding the lakes was that the mechanical harvesting method does not allow the rice to replenish itself naturally and therefore seeding is necessary. Unfortunately, the seeding was not restricted to the seeding of original rice fields and this has resulted in rice fields growing in areas where boating was once a pleasure.
  2. He admits during this interview that TSW authority would not issue a permit for mechanical harvesting, but he chose to ignore their position on this matter. The interview can be found on Terrainforma.ca…..Replanting Ontario’s wild rice.
  3. The use of the airboat powered by an engine and airplane propeller is creating a constant roar, which far exceeds an acceptable sound level and does not conform to township bylaws.
  4. Navigation of the waterway has been drastically restricted.
  5. Waterfront access to properties and beaches is being restricted.
  6. Lakefront property value is being affected.

TSW advised us that the mechanical harvesting of rice was illegal and the only approved method was the traditional canoe and paddle method. They also stated that they do not issue permits and neither do the MNR for harvesting rice in the TSW.  Based on these statements councilor Sherry Senis and councillor Donna Ballantyne for Selwyn met with the police services board and forwarded this information to the O.P.P. for support in enforcement of TSW policies, as well as, the enforcement of the township’s noise bylaw.

The O.P.P. contacted Mr. James Whetung and verified that Mr. Whetung does have a permit for harvesting rice issued by the M.N.R.  They also stated to me that if this is a commercial permit they cannot enforce the noise bylaw. I have been advised by the O.P.P., as far as they are concerned there is nothing more they can do, as he has a permit to harvest, using his current method.. It should be noted, the permit issued by the MNR, is for water bodies under the Provincial jurisdiction, not Pigeon Lake. This fact was verified by the T.S.W.  Why did the O.P.P. accept a permit from the MNR even though it did not apply to Pigeon Lake?

I can appreciate and respect the O.P.P position on this matter, as it is confusing as to which government department has jurisdiction.

The fact that the TSW authority is reluctant to request the O.P.P to advise Mr. Whetung that he does not have the right to harvest rice in Pigeon Lake is of great concern and does raise questions that need to be answered, some of which follow:

a. What bodies of government and departments have the authority to issue a permit to harvest rice in the T.S.W.?

b. What bodies of government and departments have the authority to provide a permit for seeding of the lakes in the TSW?

c. Is it permissible to seed the lake and create rice fields that impede the usage of waterfronts without consultation with homeowners whose property value will be affected?

d. Is it permissible to harvest the rice in such a manner that will spread the seed spillage to other parts of the lake?

e. Is it permissible to create an environment that is affecting the quality of life of area residents? e. Noise levels during harvesting and the encroachment of rice fields on the shorelines which need to be removed in order to get access to the main waterway.


Your assistance in obtaining answers to the above would be appreciated by all   people affected. This would include property owners, tourists, resort operators, fishermen and recreational boaters.

It is our objective to be understanding of all views regarding this issue and develop solutions that will be acceptable to all concerned. The first step in achieving this objective is to stop mechanical harvesting and the seeding of the lakes by anyone until a policy is written providing enforceable guidelines. We would be pleased to work with a committee to assist in developing these guidelines.

Thank you, in advance, for your assistance. I look forward to receiving your   reply.

Larry Wood


  1. Letter to Mr. Kent
  2. Pictures sent to Mr. Kent.
  3. Reply from Mr. Kent.
  4. Email to councillor Sherry Senis (Selwyn) from councillor Donna Ballantyne re process to follow when filing a complaint.
  5. Email from Jason Postma stating the OPP position regarding this matter.
  6. Comments from Pigeon Lake residents.
  7. Pictures to illustrate the rapid growth of rice which is choking the waterways.
  8. Copy of flyer mailed to lakefront property owners.
Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather