Saugeen Ojibway Nation (SON) and Bruce Power Agreement

A handshake for a job well done

(L to R) Chief Ralph Akiwenzie of Chippewa Nawash Unceded First Nation, Bruce Power CEO Duncan Hawthorne, Saugeen First Nation Chief, Randall Kaghee

Under a canopy of trees, on Saugeen First Nation, a unique and historical agreement was signed Friday between Saugeen Ojibway Nation (SON) and Bruce Power.

The first of its kind, the agreement ensures that SON has full and meaningful participation in the ongoing Environmental Assessment and regulatory process of the Bruce New Build Project'.

The Saugeen Ojibway Nation is made up of the Saugeen First Nation and the Chippewa of Nawash Unceded First Nation.  Their traditional lands include some two million acres, east from Lake Huron to the Nottawasaga River and south from the tip of the Bruce Peninsula to the Maitland River system  The traditional waters around these lands include the lakebed of Lake Huron from the shore to the U.S. border and the lakebed of Georgian Bay to the halfway point.

Saugeen First Nation Chief, Randall Kaghee signs historic agreement

Chief Randall Kaghee, Chief of the Saugeen First Nation, said that, "This work has been the due to the efforts of our two communities that share a long and proud history and who have worked for many years together.  A Joint Consultation Committee was set up to undertake negotiations and report through Council and Joint Council.

This is a very critical step for both the SON and Bruce Power.  We have had some uphill climbs but we've been able to meet those and find a favourable path forward.

SON came to these issues from a different way.  We felt these projects required our participation in a very meaningful way that would allow our people to make informed decisions  We wanted our involvement to be independent and without prejudice to any position taken by our communities.  As First Nations, we must protect the land for future generations.

Bruce Power has recognized that our communities must be involved.  It is a very serious action when Bruce Power acknowledges not only our existence but our right to be involved.  It's a big, positive step and we are very proud of this agreement.  I've been doing this work for a long time at different places throughout our country and I'm very proud of the work done by both of our communities and the Consultation Committee.  This has put us on solid ground and I am confident we can work together to move forward."

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Chief Ralph Akiwenzie of Chippewa Nawash Unceded First Nation signs agreement

Chief Ralph Akiwenzie of the Chippewas of Nawash Unceded First Nation added that, "The end product is the culmination of a lot of hard work but this has been a meeting of minds and it's a very important first step.  The entire process has been unique.  Both Nawash and Saugeen working together through negotiations have established a model.

We have to maintain our peoples.  We have a vast territory and a lot of changes are occurring.  In the SON, we don't know our future but, from things we regard in daily life from Nature, is where we get our identity.   This territory  has been our home for thousands of years and, if we are to thrive for another thousand years,  we must be certain our rights and claims and way of life are protected. We consider it our duty to protect the environment."

Bruce Power CEO Duncan Hawthorne signs ground-breaking agreement

Duncan Hawthorne, CEO of Bruce Power, said that, "I feel very honoured and humbled that everyone involved has spent so much time and effort and it's a very important moment and marks a very significant part of our relationship.  I know that we have come with ideas but we are very mindful of the SON, the relationship with nature and this territory.  We would like to believe that we can progress with respect at the heart of the relationship.   We understand that we have imposed greatly and the two chiefs have given much of their time to help us with this very historical moment.

This is the beginning of the work between us but I take a lot of comfort from the good way we work through our challenges.  I like to think that Bruce Power is a community based company and there is no more important community than the First Nations.   This is a clear recognition of our working together and we look forward to continuing that work."

At the conclusion of the ceremonies, that also included honourary drumming by Saugeen First Nation, the tradition of a gift exchange was carried out.  Duncan Hawthorne explained that he had chosen crystal paperweights for each of the Chiefs.  "I wanted these to be symbolic of the solidness of our relationship and, at the same time, the transparency of the crystal is indicative of the way we want our relationship to move forward."

Joyce Johnston of Nawash Unceded Nation summed up the event at the end when she said that, "It takes courage to sit down with people you do not know and do not know what the outcome will be.  Sometimes, we have to get involved in activities that require courage and respect. We are very proud of our Chiefs and what they have accomplished here today."