MANITOULIN— The fate of Michael’s Bay remains in question with negotiations between the federal government and Wikwemikong ongoing, but local activist Doug Tracy insists that the Township of Tehkummah should be pressuring the federal government to take steps to ensure the cemeteries and townsite do not deteriorate any further.
“The legislation is very clear to me,” said Mr. Tracy. “There are two statements that have been sent to many people in government, Public Works Canada, the Tehkummah council amongst others. I think it is very important that the people of Manitoulin, whose ancestors are buried at Michael’s Bay, should be aware of.”
The first “statement” cited by Mr. Tracy is taken from the Ontario provincial statutes and is contained in the Municipal Act, 2001, S.O. 2001, c. 25, regarding federal Crown land, to wit: “366. (1) If the Crown in right of Canada owns or has an interest in land, the Crown may, with the consent of the municipality, pay to the municipality an amount in lieu of taxes or charges for specific municipal services which a tenant or user of the land would otherwise be required to pay.”
On agreements with the federal government, Mr. Tracy cites the Act as reading: “the Province acknowledges that a municipality has the authority to enter into agreements with the Crown in right of Canada with respect to matters within the municipality’s jurisdiction. 2006, c. 32, Schedule A, section 3.”
“It’s right there in black and white, the municipality should be going after the federal government to get these cemeteries looked after properly,” said Mr. Tracy. Mr. Tracy maintains that he has legal opinion that “may” in these instances equate to “must.” “My lawyer said that in legal documents like these the words have different meanings than they do to you or I,” said Mr. Tracy. “They should be getting these payments in lieu at the very least. There is a lot of tax money being lost here.”
“Maybe Mr. Tracy has an inside lane that we don’t,” said Tehkummah Reeve Eric Russell. “We have been in contact with the federal government a number of times, they have not gotten back to us.”
Mr. Russell said that he had contacted Algoma-Manitoulin-Kapuskasing MP Carol Hughes to ask for her assistance. “I talked to Carol about six weeks ago,” he said. “She said that she would get right back to me, but she didn’t. I stopped by her booth at the Manitoulin Trade Fair but it was obvious she didn’t want to talk to me (about Michael’s Bay), so I let it go.”
“I also called (Algoma-Manitoulin MPP) Mike Mantha and he hasn’t gotten back to me either,” said Reeve Russell. “It’s like they don’t want to talk about it or something. It’s very frustrating.”
Mr. Mantha responded that the questions around Michael’s Bay involve outstanding tax collections. “Questions of dollars are hard to get information or response on from the Ministry of Finance,” he said when contacted by The Expositor about the issue. “I’ll follow up with the mayor.”
Mr. Tracy said that he has also been in contact with Ms. Hughes and Mr. Mantha and that he had found them to be very supportive.
Messages were sent seeking a response from Ms. Hughes but her response had not arrived by press time Monday.
Mr. Tracy freely admits that he is no longer associated with the Michael’s Bay Historical Society. “They don’t like the way I operate,” he said, suggesting that his head on approach does not sit well with that organization. “I do what I do,” continued Mr. Tracy. “If they don’t like it, maybe they should get off their behinds and get something done.”