Hundreds turn out to learn about First Nation land claim


August 7, 2014


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Sauble Community Centre ...

Wiarton Arena

Emotions ran high as hundreds gathered at the Sauble Community Centre on Wednesday morning (Aug. 6/14) and then again in the afternoon at Wiarton Arena to learn about the Saugeen First Nation land claim at Sauble Beach.

Gary Penner, lawyer with the Department of Justice, said that Saugeen First Nation has a very credible claim on the beach at Sauble, that dates back to Treaty 72 established between Saugeen First  Nation and The Crown in 1854.  In exchange for most of the Bruce Peninsula and surrounding lands, the Saugeen First Nation, that then numbered approximately 500 people, agreed to two reserves of land ... Saugeen and Nawash at Cape Croker.

Lawyer Gary Penner

In 1855-56, Crown Surveyor Charles Rankin measured and established the boundaries of the Saugeen First Nation reserve and Crown lands which were later to be sold to European settlers with the proceeds being held in trust for the First Nation.

Penner explained to the audience that the First Nation's claim was supported with documents that included Rankin's survey map and hand-written survey notations.  In the documents, Rankin set out a survey marker at Lot 31 - near 6th Street as the "northern boundary of the Reserve" which today includes the northern section of beach at Sauble.

Sounding Chart that shows Rankin's N.E. marker was one of the documents

Dissatisfaction with the Treaty goes back to 1890 and the matter again came to light in 1995 when the Chippewas of Saugeen First Nation first started litigation against the Township of Amabel, now known as the Town of South Bruce Peninsula (TSBP) after amalgamation.  The First Nation claimed that not all of the land intended to be reserved for them, according to the Treaty and Rankin's survey, was in fact reserved.  Instead of the approximate 9.5 miles, they only received eight miles of beach.

In order to avoid a lengthy and costly litigation process in court, the TSBP  has been participating in mediation talks that include the Federal Government, Ontario Provincial Government and the Saugeen First Nation.

The mediation process is attempting to reach an agreement that satisfies all four parties and that guarantees continued public access and Town involvement in the management of the Beach.

Supreme Court of Canada Justice (ret'd), Ian Binnie, also at the two public forums, has been acting as mediator for the past 18 months.

A proposed offer that requires the approval of the Federal and Provincial Governments, is now on the table.

"In the proposed agreement," said Gary Penner, "there are four major points for consideration."

  • First Nation Reserve along Sauble Beach would extend to Sixth Street with a survey to confirm the exact distance

  • Federal and Provincial Governments would compensate the Town with $5 million to offset its share of the cost for continued management of the Beach

  • The Town and First Nation would jointly manage the Beach through a joint Management Board consisting of three Saugeen First Nation members, three appointed Town members and the Chair to be one of the Saugeen members

  • The First Nation would accept the land "as is"

Click the orange arrow to read the second column

He also explained that, should the agreement not be accepted by all four parties, the matter could go to litigation which would be a very "risky" move and the costs would be substantial.

Town's Lawyer Greg Stewart

The Town's lawyer, Greg Stewart of Donnelly Murphy Law firm, also pointed out that should the matter go to court there are other implications. 

"If the Town is successful then Sauble Beach from Main Street north would remain under municipal ownership.  If, however, the Town is unsuccessful, the Beach from Main Street to sixth street would become part of the First Nation Reserve and the Town would no have input regarding public access or management of the beach.  In addition, the Town would incur all legal costs involved which could result in a tax increase of some 90 per cent.

In addition, according to Penner, it is likely that Saugeen First Nation will also ask for monetary damages for loss of use of the land.  He also pointed out that if it weren't for the First Nation signing the original Treaty, everyone who now lives in the area would not be there today.

Town of South Bruce Peninsula wants to hear from residents by August 21 and written submissions can be emailed to: tsbpadministrator@bmts.com or mailed to Town of South Bruce Peninsula, P.O. Box 31, Wiarton, ON N0H 2T0 or dropped off at the Town Hall at 315 George St., Wiarton.

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Thursday, August 07, 2014