TRI-LAKES COMMUNITY MEETING SATURDAY NOVEMBER 2 ,2018
We would like to thank all in attendance today. This turnout clearly shows your passion to find solutions which will hopefully lead to a harmonious relationship with our neighbours. There is no argument that the First Nations have the right to harvest and for those First Nations in attendance today, we sincerely want you to know, we respect and honour your rights. For those here today, who are not familiar with the Curve Lake Harvesting Guidelines, they are, as follows;
First Nations have traditionally harvested for medicine, food, social and ceremonial purposes, including but not limited to harvesting of manomin-wild rice, birch bark, berries, medicinal plants and maple syrup. The harvesters of the Williams Treaty First Nations recognize the importance of conservation and protection and will only harvest for personal and community use.” We want the First Nation’s community to understand our issue is not with your rights.
However, how these rights are being executed by one individual is a matter of great concern and that is why our communities have chosen to bring this matter forward. There is a great fear that the issue of seeding and commercial harvesting in areas where the lake never existed until the flooding, will result in unrest between the First Nations and our communities.
This was supposed to be the year of reconciliation, but in order for that to happen, it is going to take compromise on both sides. We will today, put forth suggestions of what could be the first concrete step forward in finding a solution to this complex issue.
Please write down questions you would like answered during the question period ror possible solutions you may have. This meeting is not about us and them. It is about the need to correct an injustice, that has developed, due to the aggressive over seeding of the Tri Lakes
Prior to 2011 people on the lakes were noticing the large amount of wild rice growing in our lakes. I say our lakes, as both the First Nations and fellow Canadians considered it as such and rightly so.
For example my family purchased shoreline property in 1947 in the area of Pigeon Lake which was flooded when the Buckhorn dam was built. Brenda Jeff’s family purchased property in the same area in 1962. Our families are still on the lake as we decided to make this area our home, along with hundreds of others who fell in love with these waters. Flood’s landing Trailer park was here in the early 1950’s. Eagan Marine and Happy days House boat rental started up. Then there was Gannons Narrows Marina, Tourist camps like Fees Landing. These are only a few of the businesses who are now concerned about the proliferation of rice. These businesses bring in Thousands of Tourism dollars which help support our growing communities. They, along with permanent residents and seasonal residents surrounding the Tri Lakes make up a large portion of the Township’s tax base, which is in jeopardy, if solutions are not found.
We contacted the Ministry of Natural Resources about the harvesting with an air boat and they lead us to believe that the individual had a permit and he was entitled to harvest in this manner. We then contacted the Trent Severn Waterways who Informed us they did not, nor does it, issue permits to harvest rice. Harvesting is allowed as long as it is in the traditional method. This was good news we thought!!!
In 2012 we learned that the increase in rice beds was not natural. On the radio show Terra InForma, the harvester clearly stated he has seeded the lakes with thousands of
pounds of rice. He also said quote ” that the Federal Government has asked him not to, gather nor plant wild rice but I did not let that stop me” end quote.
The lakes before the intentional seeding were pristine waterways ideal for recreational enjoyment, including canoeing, kayaking, swimming, and looking out at natures beauty. The area of Pigeon Lake where major seeding has taken place had no rice except in specific areas just north of Grenadier Island. This rice bed would come up every year and go through it’s annual cycle. Interestingly enough, in the 70 plus years I have spent on this lake the rice bed always, maintained it’s foot print. Simply because the seeds from the plant sink quickly and stayed within itself. There was no airboat to cast seeds wherever it went. No intentional seeding by persons dumping thousands of pounds of rice seeds in front of shoreline properties.
As stated in 2011 we became concerned about the increase in rice beds and wrote to Mr Peter Kent, Minister of the Environment.
His response was quote… the agency recognizes and understands the concerns shoreline landowners have in utilizing their waterfronts for recreational purposes and is WORKING towards the development of a Wild Rice policy. Unquote. This response was dated March 26, 2012.
We waited patiently for some indication that progress was being made, but nothing happened. We contacted TSW again, who advised us to contact them if we see this person harvesting with the use of an airboat and they will attempt to contact a Parks Canada warden.
We then had a conversation with the law enforcement branch of Parks Canada and We were informed that there was nothing they were prepared to do at this time due to the sensitivity of the issue.
In 2014 We wrote to
Dean Del Mastro ….M.P. Peterborough Conservative Member of Parliament
Jeff Leal ….M.P.P Peterborough Minister of Agriculture
Who assisted in bringing this issue to the attention of The TSW.
We also wrote to Jewel Cunningham ..Director of Ontario Waterways.
In the fall of 2014 we contacted the O.P.P. who talked with the commercial harvester and he, in turn presented a commercial license issued by the MNR. The O.P.P accepted The harvester’s explanation even though the MNR has no authority over the management of Federal Waters. The O.P.P wrote us to say they are prepared to do whatever they are requested to do, as long as the request originates from TSW or the MNR. In other words do not bother calling us!
We also wrote to:
Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s office who passed it on to
The Federal Minister of the Environment, who wrote back and stated the obvious “we are WORKING on a Wild Rice policy.”
Next we contacted Selwyn Council who created a resolution requesting an update on the Federal Government’s wild rice policy. And followed up with another resolution in March 2015? The response was very similar to the one written in 2011. “Were WORKING on a solution.”
We have also written to
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau
The Federal Minister of Environment Catherine McKenna
The Federal Minister of Aboriginal affairs and
M.P. Maryam Monsef
In July 2015 we met with Jewel Cunningham and provided information that substantiated our claim that intentional seeding and commercial harvesting by airboat was taking place in Federal waters!
Trent Severn Waterways then issued us an Aquatic permit to remove rice for approximately 10,000 ft of shoreline and three channels that would give us access to navigable waterways.
First Nations took exception to the permit being issued as the TSW had failed to use the DUTY TO CONSULT RULING. We in turn honoured the request from TSW to temporarily stop the cutting.
Talks were supposed to result in a Terms of Reference being established in order to move forward. This agreement took two years to complete but we still are not privy to the contents of this document, nor are we privy to any progress.
In 2016 and 2017 we had several meetings with TSW, but unfortunately the response never did change. We are still WORKING on it. We are still working on it, Things are progressing, We are still working on it. Things are progressing. People wrote to the Premier of Ontario and received the same message “NONE”!
Whoa!!! When is our Government and the First Nations going to realize the stand off between them is causing much anxiety with the people who are paying the price. It is obvious that all governing parties are not agreeing on a path to resolve this issue.
More than seven years has passed since a cry for help was sent to our Government. We are NOT prepared to wait another seven years and that is why we are here today.
The where and how the harvesting is taking place is of great concern. The seeding of open water where rice never grew before and the method of harvesting are causing much hardship within our communities.
In 2009-2012 there was a project funded by Plenty Canada to RESTORE the rice beds in the Treaty 20 Territory. In 2013 this project continued and was funded by the MNR.
We understand the restoration project was designed to restore the rice beds. I do NOT believe the intention was to seed all waters in the Tri Lakes!
The areas being seeded as stated earlier are adjacent to high residential areas which include Permanent homes, cottages, trailer parks, tourist camps, marinas, houseboat rentals, and many others businesses that are dependent on navigable waterways. This aggressive seeding has created many hardships. I.e
Values of Homes
This seeding has caused the values of our homes to drop substantially.. This in turn will mean the taxes of every home owner in our communities will face an increase in their taxes to make up for the shortfall in tax revenues caused by decreasing values of homes and businesses surrounding the shores of the Tri lakes. This will affect almost everyone in this room.
Tourism revenue dollars will decrease because of the lack of access to open water and traditional fishing spots, as well, rental properties in these areas will no longer be a holiday destination.
For those who reside in communities surrounding the lakes you will have to traverse through channels to get too navigable waters. These channels are not safe during the height of the growing season, as the stalks are above your head and it would be easy for two boats to collide. It is an accident waiting to happen.
The traditional activities for recreational use are no longer possible.
You may not be aware that according to some - when the rice grows abundantly it means a good water source. The unfortunate facts are - it starts out that way but over time, if left unchecked will turn into a wetland or a swamp. Under natural conditions this probably would not happen, however nature did not count on man’s interference in this process. In 2013 Jeff Beaver stated that Pigeon lake had about 200 acres of Rice stands. In 2015 Kawartha Conservation wrote that there were between 1500 to 1800 acres. You may hear that water clarity due to zebra mussels is a factor. This may be a factor, but I hasten to point out it would be a very small factor, as the original rice stand in the middle of Pigeon lake has not changed its foot print over the same time period.
Managing the rice and debris
The increase in the amount of rice has created problems for all of us, most especially our elderly. The Rice is an annual plant and every year it goes thru it’s cycle and dies. Most of the stalks stay within the rice bed, sink to the bottom and turn into sedimentation. The rest is torn up from strong winds, wave action etc and then comes to rest on the shores. These stalks have to be cleaned up as they will rot and stink as they go through the process. Some of you have spent many hours cleaning up this mess. It may have been bearable when there was a few hundred acres but now, with over 1500 acres it’s beyond overwhelming!
I’m sure by now it’s evident why we are here and why we are upset with our government. The lack of action & failure to offer any kind of solution, has resulted in tension between First Nations and our communities.
Our issue is not with the First Nations as a whole, our issue is with one individual. We fail to understand why he is aggressively seeding within a few feet of our docks and in waters where rice never existed. We fail to understand why he is giving us rude and aggressive gestures while seeding. We fail to understand why he continues to seed when he has publicly stated that he has more Rice to harvest than he is able. Since he started seeding he has taken the stand with TSW of confrontation, deliberately not following the guidelines. He is acting without any consideration of the affects the seeding is having on the quality of life of his neighbours. He has already made statements that he plans to seed the Kawartha Lakes and Rice lake. He demonstrates his contempt for our communities at every opportunity. Hopefully, today might bring an end to this behaviour.
We are respectfully asking the First Nations to talk with us directly and with the TSW. We suggest that Lake Management Plans be developed, whereby wild rice harvesting areas be determined and rice currently overtaking the residential and tourist areas be removed.
In closing, it is our hope that respect & appreciation for each other’s well being , and the willingness of each other, regardless of the current political environment, will allow us to define a policy of mutual agreement that will demonstrate the desire by both the First Nations and our communities to proceed with finding solutions, resulting in a friendly and just RECONCILIATION.
Thanks for listening!
Closing for Meeting
We have waited seven years for a solution to the aggressive seeding and harvesting which is having a harmful affect on our communities. The meeting today was refreshing as there was open dialogue which is required if a solution is to be found. This dialogue truly made the point we want to get along with our neighbours, we want a solution that will enable the First Nations harvesters to gather wild rice and use it for the purpose it was intended. As well, we want a solution that will allow the market value of our properties to be competitive, our tourism dollars to grow and allow us, once again to enjoy waterfront activities while at the same time, meeting the needs of our Indigenous neighbours.
We have presented a solution that could work if we all proceed with an open mind. It really does not matter what has happened in the past. What matters today is for all of us to come together and make decisions that will ensure a true reconciliation. We all should respect each other and do whatever is necessary not to cause harm to our neighbours.
We extend our willingness to help find a solution, in turn we would like Parks Canada and the First Nations to treat this issue as a priority. Establish a schedule of meetings and an end date of negotiations. Allow representation of our communities at these meeting. Let’s make a policy agreement and get on with Reconciliation.
Hon. Maryam Monsef, Jewel Cunningham and Lorenzo Whetung we sincerely thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule. Your attendance today illustrates a willingness to join together and iron out a solution to this serious problem. We look forward to a positive outcome for everyone.
Of interest I have one closing question for our distinguished guests today
Hon Maryam Monsef, Councillor Lorenzo Whetung, Ms. Jewel Cunningham Director of Ontario Waterways DO YOU AFTER HEARING THE CONCERNS OF THE PEOPLE AND THE WILLINGNESS OF THE PEOPLE TO FIND A SOLUTION TO THE ISSUE DISCUSSED TODAY,FORESEE A WORKING GROUP BEING ESTABLISH WHICH WILL INCLUDE THE FIRST NATIONS, PARKS CANADA and the Representation of STAKE HOLDERS surrounding the Tri Lakes.?
Dear Residents of Selwyn, City of Kawartha Lakes and The Tri-Lakes
Thank you all for your attendance at our Community Meeting. My apologies to anyone who was unable to get in, due to the room being overcapacity. We did not anticipate the number of people who came out to show their passion and support to find a resolution to this very serious issue. For those who were unable to get in to the meeting, you may rest assured your voice was heard through the concerned stakeholders present. The fact that you showed up, helped to emphasize the need for a solution to be found.
The purpose of our meeting, was to get together, to understand each other’s concerns and work towards a solution. Although no solution was found the point was made, that regardless of the political environment, that there is a need for our governments to find a solution to satisfy the needs of the First Nations and the stakeholders residing in our communities.
We left the meeting with the following commitment from MP Maryam Monsef, Curve Lake Councillor, Lorenzo Whetung, Director of Ontario Waterways, Jewel Cunningham and Selwyn Mayor-Elect Andy Mitchell:
“We are proposing a two track discussion. One acknowledging the nation to nation relationship between the Crown and First Nation. And another made up of community members which would be an Advisory Committee that would ensure greater input into the conversation toward a solution. We are going to try and do this over the next 3 months and report back to the community with what came out of the conversation and what next steps we have come up with. “
The meeting did demonstrate our need to increase our level of organization. Efforts, thus far, which have been extensive, have been undertaken by a small group of community volunteers. Do you or someone in your family have experience in communications, social media, fundraising etc? We need your help! There are many things that can be done to support our cause and as we know, many hands make light work. Please think of contributing a bit of your time to help bring about a favorable resolution. Please respond to this email if you are interested in attending future committee meetings or offering some assistance.
Again we thank all of you for the constructive dialogue. We are in this together and a resolution will only be found if we all work together toward a solution that will meet everyone’s needs.
Spokesperson Save the Tri-Lakesby