The Saugeen Ojibway Nation has concerns about the cumulative effects of aggregate extraction and wind turbines, said Randall Kahgee, Chief of Saugeen First Nation.
“We have huge concerns especially on water, fisheries and our overall claims,” Kahgee said during a presentation to Grey Highlands council on Monday.
Kahgee was accompanied by Scott Lee, interim chief of Chippewas of Nawash along with some band officials. The two First Nations constitute the Saugeen Ojibway Nation
Kahgee gave a brief history of treaties in the area, signed between the British Crown and First Nations up to 1854.
“Sadly we have a long legacy of broken promises across the country . . . treaties are agreements between nations,” Kahgee stressed.
He noted that First Nations, with the support of a recent Supreme Court ruling, are seeking ways to be consulted and involved in projects that affect their interests.
He praised efforts by Bruce County Warden Mike Smith to develop a protocol between the county and the Saugeen Ojibway Nation and he noted the close working relationship that has developed with Saugeen Shores in recent years.
He said he looked forward to closer relationships with Grey County council.
Kahgee stressed the concerns that are shared by First Nations communities and their neighbours, such as cumulative effects of aggregate extraction, which is a concern of Grey Highlands council, as well as the cumulative effects of wind energy projects and the effect of the new Bruce to Milton hydro corridor.
“It’s easy to see the impacts of one project, but some parts of the province are being saturated,” Kahgee said of wind energy projects.
Lee said in a later interview that so far wind energy developers are living up to the need to consult as they make their way through the planning process.
“They meet with our chiefs and a consultation team. We have some of our own peer reviews that we want done, especially the archeological aspect. Sometimes that’s just a completely botched process. We have developed our own specific SON archeological specifications for that work and that’s where we’re going,” said Lee.
Kahgee was critical of the provincial Ministry of Culture for giving approval to “shoddy archeological work” done on First Nations cultural sites through the provision of “concurrences” with reports provided by archeological consultants for developers.
He charged the ministry with running roughshod over very important First Nations interests by not being more protective of burial and cultural sites.
“It’s a form of cultural genocide. Once they are gone they are lost forever,” he said.
Deputy-mayor Paul McQueen noted that the chiefs were echoing similar concerns being voiced by council.
Mayor Wayne Fitzgerald said he looked forward to future cooperation between Grey County and the First Nations.
Kahgee expected the meeting would be a private one between the mayor and council to elaborate on the procedure that the First Nations expect municipalities to follow in the consultation and accommodation process when it comes to projects that affect traditional Indian lands.
But as it turned out the chiefs became a delegation to the open council.
“You have to start the dialogue somewhere. I thought initially we were to have a face to face but that’s fine . . . I think it’s a great opportunity to educate the council but also the public as well. I was very pleased with some of the follow up by some of the constituents sitting in the audience who asked questions later,” Kahgee said.
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