We have put together the following background information on the Wiiky Lands Claim
Efforts Continue to Reach Wiiky Agreement – GBA Update – Vol 28, No. 1, Spring 2018 – John McMullen, Past President, GBA
Since we last reported in the Fall issue of UPDATE, the Northern Georgian Bay Association and the GBA have continued in their efforts to finalize an agreement with
Wiikwemkoong First Nation that addresses our concerns and proposed solutions as they pertain to the Province of Ontario’s proposed settlement of the Wiikwemkoong Islands Boundary Land Claim.
Throughout this process the NGBA/GBA goal remains unchanged; namely, to support a settlement of the Islands Boundary Land Claim that is fair and equitable to all stakeholders, Wiiky and non-Wiiky alike. Furthermore, and with regard to the proposed side agreement between the Wiiky and NGBA/GBA, our goal is to reach an agreement that satisfactorily addressees NGBA/GBA concerns; an agreement that is based on the development of constructive dialogue, an enduring relationship, and mutual respect.
In the Fall issue of UPDATE we reported GBA’s dissatisfaction with the Province’s Draft Environmental Study Report (ESR) on the proposed settlement. NGBA and GBA met again with representatives of the Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation (MIRR) and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) in November. We again voiced our objections to the Draft ESR and, subsequent to this meeting, advised the Government in writing that it is essential that:
≥ The Wiiky/NGBA/GBA agreement must be in place before the Province issues its Final ESR. (They advised that this would not be early in the New Year as previously indicated, but likely towards the end of March.)
≥ The Wiiky/NGBA/GBA agreement and its terms must be included or directly referenced in the eventual Wiiky- Province land claim settlement (and any later Federal
agreement with the Wiiky).
We advised the Province that enforceability of our agreement with the Wiiky depends on directly tying it to the Provincial settlement agreement and any subsequent
Federal agreements. Failure to meet the above points would be considered deal-breakers by NGBA and GBA, and would therefore necessitate consideration of a request for a Part II Order (aka a “bump up”) for a more stringent Class D Environmental Assessment.
Also in late November, NGBA and GBA representatives met with Ogimma (Chief) Duke Peltier to review the latest iteration of our draft Wiiky/NGBA/GBA agreement. Based on that meeting we made further, but seemingly minor, revisions to the agreement and forwarded it to Ogimma Peltier, who in turn provided it to his Council. At the time of writing, we are waiting to hear back from Ogimma Peltier. We are hopeful that this latest draft has met with approval and will be the final agreement.
There has been much talk of the need to preserve the pristine lands included in the proposed land claim settlement and the logic of an eco-wilderness park, perhaps co-managed by the Wiiky and the Province. The Wiiky are disinclined to commit to such a park until a settlement is in fact reached and they have conducted a feasibility study. The NGBA and GBA have urged the Province to provide the funds required to carry out such a study. Failure on the part of the Province to do so would, in our view, indicate a lack of commitment to a park concept and run counter to the Province’s long-standing intent for the area in question. Come the Summer issue of UPDATE we hope we will be in a position to report on progress and favourable outcomes.
See www.georgianbayassociation.com/wiikwemkoongislandsboundaryclaim for further information.)
GBA Seeks Changes to Environmental Study on Land Claim – GBA Update – Vol 27, No. 3, Fall 2017 – John McMullen, Past President, GBA
My task was to write a brief update of the Wiikwemkoong land claim, but given the complex and ever-evolving nature of this claim, brevity is a
challenge. For background details and further information, please see www.georgianbayassociation.com/wiikwemkoongislandsboundaryclaim/
To start, we must reiterate that the GBA supports the need for a settlement of the subject claim that is fair and equitable to all. We also maintain that it is essential that we continue to develop a constructive dialogue and an enduring relationship with the Wiikwemkoong that is based on mutual respect. Some feel that we are being too accommodating in our approach to the proposed settlement. Others feel that we are being heavy-handed and raising the spectra of adverse consequences if the claim goes through. Let me assure you that the NGBA and GBA have weighed each decision and action very carefully.
Agreement with Property Owners
The NGBA and GBA met with Chief Duke Peltier and band representatives several times as we strive to reach an agreement in principle with Wiikwemkoong that addresses NGBA members’ concerns and proposed solutions on preserving access to recreational lands and other matters. By early summer, we were close to a final agreement and although not finalized, it was presented to NGBA members at their August AGM in Killarney. There was not unanimous agreement on all points, so the agreement will likely undergo more tweaking. Ultimately, it will need to be ratified by the Wiiky, NGBA members and the GBA Board before it becomes binding. The important point in this process is that the stakeholders impacted, most
notably property owners in the NGBA association area, have been left to their own devices to negotiate with the Wiiky, with little or no support from the Province.
Province’s Draft ESR
GBA’s main objective is to preserve the pristine condition and freedom of access to lands that NGBA members and many other stakeholders have enjoyed for over 100 years. With that in mind, we are disappointed with the way that the Environmental Assessment (EA) process has been carried out and with the results reported in the Draft Environmental Study Report (ESR) released by the Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation (MIRR) in early June. Overall, the Draft ESR provided only limited information on impacts to NGBA members and other stakeholders who are interested in and have concerns for the area, and offered no solutions or mitigating measures to address those impacts.
Here is an abbreviated list of our primary concerns with the Draft ESR:
≥ Only two alternatives were provided: accept the proposed settlement as presented or reject it. Consequently, any opposition by us to the ESR alternatives would be interpreted as opposition to the claim itself, which GBA and NGBA want to avoid.
≥ Fitzwilliam Island is one of the 41 Fishing Islands that were the basis of the original claim. The Province never made a concerted effort to negotiate a purchase price with the island’s private owner but instead, without public notice, substituted the Philip Edward Island archipelago plus other parcels of onshore land (taken together, the “Alternative Lands”).
≥ It now appears that Fitzwilliam Island is available for sale; the Province must consider this option to buy Fitzwilliam, regardless of current progress towards a claim settlement.
≥ Despite our urging, the Draft ESR was released prematurely. By not addressing concerns raised by NGBA and GBA and by not considering other alternatives it has had the effect of sending a message that the settlement is a done deal politically, fostering cynicism and discouraging further input.
≥ Outreach by the Province to others (campers, canoeists, kayakers, boaters), was insufficient, an issue that the NGBA and GBA have attempted to address. NGBA’s and GBA’s goal is to reach a separate and binding side agreement with Wiikwemkoong. We maintain that this must occur before the release of the Final ESR in early 2018 so that the Province can fulfill its obligations under the EA Act. Furthermore, it is essential that our final and binding agreement is clearly referenced and appended to the Final ESR, and ultimately referenced and appended to the Settlement Agreement between the Province and Wiikwemkoong and any subsequent agreements with the Federal government.
Need for a Commitment to a Park
All parties recognize the unique and vulnerable features of the pristine lands included in the proposed settlement and the need to preserve them. Furthermore, all appear to accept that the best solution is to make certain defined areas (from our perspective, lands encompassed by Ontario Policy P189 boundaries and George Island – see web site) into a provincial wilderness park co-managed by the Wiiky and the Province. For years, the Province has earmarked these lands for a park. The commitment to a sizable and contiguous park along Georgian Bay’s eastern shore, for use by all people for all time, cannot be fulfilled anywhere else along the coast. This opportunity will be lost forever if commitments are not made now to ensure that this area is preserved by the establishment of a park. However, achieving a written and binding commitment to the creation of a park has proved impossible so far, even though having the Wiiky co-manage a park of this size, as GBA has suggested, would provide employment and training opportunities for them.
There are two land claims in play: Wiikwemkoong’s current central or interim claim that is the focus of this article, and once this is settled, a larger claim by Wiikwemkoong on all Crown islands from Sault Ste. Marie south to O’Donnell Point. The GBA believes that this interim claim should be the full and final settlement with Wiikwemkoong, and this should be reflected in a Treaty document between the Crown and Wiikwemkoong. This will avoid a continuation of land claims on Crown islands along shorelines in Georgian Bay that have been used extensively by the public for over 150 years. It will also help to ensure that ongoing relations between Wiikwemkoong, other First Nation bands on Georgian Bay and all other stakeholders continue to improve and strengthen for the benefit of all. One solution would be to enshrine the existing moratorium on future sales of Georgian Bay Crown Land in an agreement, with Wiikwemkoong, other First Nation bands, and Georgian Bay based organizations and individuals working together with the Province on a permanent “Living Legacy” style guardianship plan for those lands.
The GBA and NGBA will not cease to contest claim-related matters that we believe are unacceptable and not in the best interests of all stakeholders. We will strive to identify and explore solutions to this land claim that address the needs and interests of both Wiikwemkoong and other stakeholders.
We want to thank the many who took time to write to the Province, expressing their wishes for a satisfactory settlement and their disappointment in the Draft ESR and approach taken to date.
October 18, 2017 – Vice Media Article
September 13, 2017 – GBA Members ESR Response
June 12, 2017 – Wiiky Land Claim Environmental Assessment
As part of the ongoing negotiations of the Wiiky Land Claim the Ontario Government has conducted an Environmental Assessment. It has just released a draft Environmental Study Report which is now available for public review and comment. Comments need to be submitted to the government by August 11 2017
Sept 28, 2016 – Wiiky Lands Claim Settlement
As part of continuing efforts to develop a dialogue with the Wiikwemkoong First Nation regarding their lands claim, a second meeting was held in Toronto, April 7th. Attending were Chief Duke Peltier, Chris Pheasant, a band Elder, Rob Nairn and Bill Riat of Northern Georgian Bay Association, John McMullen, Georgian Bay Association, and Richard Aniol, Ontario Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs (renamed the Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation (MIRR) as of June 2016).
The objective of the meeting was to further understand the intentions of the Wiikwemkoong for the future of the northern Georgian Bay coast and specifically as it applies to the boundaries of the NGBA from the western end of Lansdowne Channel to Pointe Grondine and including George Island and the Philip Edward Island archipelago. Any such understanding gained provides the basis for ongoing development of solutions to concerns of the seasonal residents of the area associated with the land claim.
Building on the two meetings to date with Chief Peltier, a non-binding draft proposal was developed by the NGBA which identified concerns and possible solutions for further discussion. This document was submitted to Chief Peltier who indicated that he would in turn table it with his Elders and Elected Council before responding to the NGBA. Discussions of the proposal were on hold through the summer due to the Wiiky election on 20 August.
Throughout this process we have discovered that the Wiikwemkoong, NGBA and GBA share a strong and unwavering commitment for the preservation and protection of the pristine condition of one of the most beautiful archipelagos in the world. Equally important, however, it is to be reiterated that the suggestions presented in the aforementioned document are preliminary in nature and are for consideration by both the Wiikwemkoong and the wider NGBA membership. No commitment on the specifics is made or implied by either party at this time.
The outcome of the August elections is that Duke Peltier was re-elected Chief. We believe that this is good news, for it means that the NGBA, and GBA, can build upon the already constructive dialogue that has been developed, rather than start afresh with a new Chief and Council. A further meeting with Chief Peltier is in the process of being scheduled for mid-Fall, 2016.
While the NGBA respect the Wiikwemkoong position, based on available evidence they remain adamantly opposed to the inclusion of George Island and Philip Edward Island and its archipelago as part of the Wiikwemkoong Boundary Claim and the Province’s proposed substitution of the Philip Edward Island archipelago (the so-called “Alternate lands”) for Fitzwilliam Island as part of a negotiated settlement of the Wiikwemkoong Claim. That said, it is also the intention of the NGBA to work with the Wiikwemkoong and the Province to ensure continued and well-managed access, use and enjoyment of those lands for all people through time, in the event these islands are included in the final Claim.
Earlier this year, we were advised that as part of the prescribed MNRF Environmental Assessment process, a draft Environmental Study Report (ESR) of the proposed settlement would be released in late September. This would be followed by a 30-day review period that would provide the all-important opportunity for public input with regard to both the environmental and social impacts of the proposed claim settlement. It was also projected that the Final ESR was targeted for the end of the year, also with a 30-day review period. These timelines have obviously not materialized. We are now advised that MNRF and the newly re-named MIRR are discussing which EA Class should be followed; MAA stated originally that it would fall under either EA Class B or C but the NGBA has been pushing for a more stringent and comprehensive Class D. Furthermore, we have been told that the draft ESR is now scheduled, optimistically we suggest, for February 2017. Regardless, the GBA will strive to ensure that all interested parties are made aware of when the reports in question are in fact to be released and how organizations and individuals may respond to them.
April 14, 2016 – Wiky Lands Claim Settlement – an update
With the objective of further developing a dialogue with the Wiikwemkoong First Nation (“Wiky”), Rob Nairn, President, Northern Georgian Bay Association, Bill Riat, NGBA Director, and GBA’s President John McMullen met with Chief Duke Peltier November 24, 2015. All parties agreed that the meeting was a worthwhile occasion for NGBA to table its concerns regarding the proposed Wiikwemkoong Islands Boundary Claim Settlement (aka the Central Lands Claim). It was also agreed that additional meetings are required to further discuss issues and concerns and to explore possible solutions.
GBA met with representatives of the Office of the Attorney General and the Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs March 9, 2016. Our objective was to further familiarize the AG and MAA with the GBA and in particular its interests and concerns with both the Central Claim (above) and the Wiky’s larger claim to Crown islands from Sault St. Marie to Penetang. In the context of Ontario’s Statement of Defence to the Wiky claims, AG representatives emphasized that it is the government’s preference to negotiate settlements, rather than deal with the matter through the courts, as court decisions are uncertain and potentially unpalatable.
MAA has advised that they are still processing the significant input received from the public as part of the Environmental Assessment process. Indications are that negotiations and arriving at a settlement will be a lengthy process.
GBA’s efforts will remain focussed on supporting the NGBA in their dealings with the Wiky FN in regard to the proposed Central Lands Claim to the best of its ability. While it is our wish that whatever settlement is reached is full and final, we will however remain equally attentive to the interests and concerns of our other member associations and to the larger claim, should that larger claim gain traction. Overall, our goal is to assist in the development of a settlement that is fair and equitable to all stakeholders who have an interest in, and value, the Bay, including the First Nations.
- Access to pristine Georgian Bay island at stake in First Nations deal – Toronto Star – Sept 10th, 2015
- Wiikwemkoong Islands Boundary Claim Historical Information
Still in development….