The Chippewas of Nawash and Saugeen have a right to be consulted over development on the Bruce Peninsula and a vast area beyond and they intend to assert that right, newly elected Nawash Chief Ralph Akiwenzie said Tuesday.
“The amount of development that is taking place on the Bruce Peninsula is astounding,” he said, noting subdivisions and wind energy proposals. “My concern is dealing with the environment . . . This is our big role that we have to play.”
He said his community welcomes development on the peninsula “where we have been consulted.”
Voters returned Akiwenzie to the council post Friday, replacing Paul Nadjiwan, who unseated Akiwenzie two years ago. Just three people who sat with the last council were returned when all the votes were counted early Saturday morning.
Akiwenzie’s inauguration is to take place today in Cake Croker Indian Park. Next Tuesday the new council is scheduled to meet.
Akiwenzie stressed a significant Supreme Court of Canada ruling concerning British Columbia two years ago and others since requiring governments to consult natives when their rights might be impacted.
Akiwenzie said he wants to make sure “if there’s any development within the Saugeen Ojibwa nation territory, that we advocate consultation at the highest level on a government-to-government basis.”
The traditional Saugeen Ojibwa territory includes the Bruce Peninsula and another two million acres (800,000 hectares) of land, stretching roughly from Goderich to Shelburne and to Wasaga Beach, bounded by the Maitland and Nottawasaga rivers.
He said that means if someone is building a dock along the shoreline in Collingwood or building on an unopened road allowance claimed by the band anywhere in its traditional territory, his community should be consulted. It’s up to the government to do so, he said.
Wind energy and the deep nuclear storage vault proposed to be put beside Bruce Power, water source protection and shoreline development are areas of interest to his community, Akiwenzie said.
He said economic issues are important too. “And if there is going to be an economy around that (project which impacts on native rights), that our people are going to benefit from that.”
He said if their concerns aren’t accommodated, they’ll raise them with the appropriate government minister before pursuing “other options.”
Both local Saugeen and Nawash bands have hired David McLaren to head a new environmental department to help assert the bands’ rights to be consulted. Three more staff will be hired shortly to handle an expected increase in notification to consult, McLaren said.
McLaren said his office has raised concerns about a quarry expansion in the former Keppel Township, which he said will involved an unopened road allowance that is claimed by the band and which “could be quite environmentally important for a number of species, both flora and fauna.”
He cited possible other concerns, including water table depletion and the potential presence of ancient native artifacts which requires more study to determine.
“That’s a good example of folks not checking with the first nation before they go ahead with plans,” McLaren said.
“The law is pretty clear. The Supreme Court decisions have been out there for two years and the government is obliged to read the law into the way it does business.”
Environmental concerns about wind turbines have produced talks with a wind farm proponent but not yet with the government.
The concern there involves the rights to hunt for ceremonial food in traditional territories, McLaren said. He said about 1,000 turbines are projected to be put along the Lake Huron shoreline, but no one has studied if wind farms impact animals.
“A lot of foxes and coyotes, they often hunt with their ears, especially in the wintertime.
So they hear the movement of mice and moles underneath the snow. Now is the constant hum of the turbines going to interrupt that relationship? We don’t know.”
Following is the list of band members elected in last week’s election as supplied by electoral officer Elizabeth Redsky:
Chief: Ralph Akiwenzie
Council: Ralph Akiwenzie, Arthur “Butch” Elliott, Joyce Johnston-Nadjiwon, Kathy A.L. Jones, Paul Jones, Gail Nadjiwon, Martha Pedoniquotte, Veronice “Cha Cha” Smith, Frank Solomon.
By Scott Dunn
1 August 2007
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