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Natives weigh in on wind turbines

PORT DOVER – Natives from Six Nations have weighed in on the issue of wind turbines in Port Ryerse.

Seven natives in traditional garb attended an open house in Port Dover Tuesday where they expressed concern about the impact the turbines might have on their traditional hunting rights.

“When you erect these towers, how can our people come out and hunt?” asked Bill Montour, who also identified himself by his traditional name, Karihwanoran. “These towers drive all the creatures away.”

Montour and his colleagues brought with them a copy of the Nanfan Treaty of 1701, an understanding between First Nations and the Crown that allegedly grants aboriginals universal hunting and fishing rights in this part of Ontario.

The natives weren’t the only ones with concerns. A large contingent from Port Ryerse also attended at the Lions Community Centre on St. George Street. Many were surprised and disgusted to see four security guards from the firm Romex in the banquet hall. A security presence like this is unusual for an open house of this sort.

“Look at them,” said Heather Walters of Port Ryerse, a spokesperson for concerned residents of the hamlet. “There’s one in every corner of the room. And they’ve installed security cameras. Someone must have told them that this was going to be a hostile meeting. And you know what? They were right.”

James Cowan of the Raptor Conservancy west of Port Ryerse said the heavy security was “embarrassing.”

“I’ve been in the House of Commons and I never saw so much security,” he said.

Cowan’s mother, Beverly, of Port Dover, added that the strong security presence “is an insult to the people of Port Dover and Port Ryerse. It shows that they expect us to be unruly.”

At issue are four wind turbines that the Nanticoke firm UDI Recyclables plans to install in the agricultural zone between the hamlet of Port Ryerse and Radical Road west of Port Dover. Tuesday’s meeting was the first of two open houses that UDI will hold. The next is scheduled for October 2012.

Last night’s meeting was organized on behalf of UDI by Martin Ince, an engineer and principal of M.K. Ince & Associates of Dundas. Ince said security guards were present to respond to “hazards” should any arise.

“It’s a fairly common practice to make sure there are no hazards,” Ince said. “Fire code (as it relates to crowding) is a big issue. As you can see, there are a lot of people here, although it is unusual to see First Nations representatives in headdress.”

Walters has collected nearly 600 signatures on petitions calling on Norfolk County to lobby the province to return planning authority for the situating of wind turbines to the local level. A second petition calls on the province to increase the residential setback for wind turbines from 550 metres to somewhere between 1,200 and 2,000 metres.

“I am concerned that they are able to do this to us and not with us,” Walters said. “These are massive industrial machines 45 storeys tall. These are not pretty windmills, and we have been left with no voice here. There are a million reasons why these things should be in an industrial park and not behind our homes and cottages.”

The residents Walters represents worry that the four turbines are only the first of many. They are also worried about reports that industrial wind turbines make some people ill and that turbines might dramatically affect their property values.