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
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
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."
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
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."