Planning Board asks municipalities give approval for new Official Plan

Northeast Town votes against motion

GORE BAY—In a recorded vote, members of the Manitoulin Planning Board (MPB), all except for the Town of Northeastern Manitoulin and the Islands (NEMI), have voted in favour of recommending all Manitoulin municipalities pass a bylaw to forward the Manitoulin Official Plan to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing (MMAH) for its final approval.

“The good news is that we held our new draft Official Plan public meeting on Wednesday of last week,” said MPB secretary-treasurer Elva Carter at a MPB meeting last week. “About six members of our board were at the meeting (and Gregory Bender of the MMM Group) made the presentation of the Official Plan.”

Ms. Carter pointed out that before the Official Plan can be forwarded to the MMAH, at least 50 percent of municipalities are required to pass a bylaw approving the plan and having it forwarded to the ministry for its approval.

“NEMI is not going to be voting in favour of the new Official Plan,” stated Melissa Peters, NEMI representative. She noted the MPB has received a letter of concerns relayed by the United Chiefs and Councils of M’Nidoo M’Nissing. “It is one of the problems I have with accepting the plan. NEMI had identified a number of concerns which have not been addressed by the board and the UCCMM letter and concerns have not been addressed by the board as well. The plan goes into every aspect of the municipality.”

“That is not correct,” stated Ms. Carter, who noted the board has responded to every concern raised by NEMI, both in meetings and in correspondence. As for the UCCMM concerns, they are not within the mandate of the Official Plan and will need to be addressed by MMAH.

Ms. Peters in a letter to the MPB after last week’s meeting outlined, “NEMI opposing MPB draft plan: that UCCMM letter of concerns has not been addressed with regards to MPP draft OP; that very few concerns of NEMI were addressed by the planners/MPB; and that this plan exceeds the role of MPB into municipality governance. It is more regulatory rather than positive planning.”

At last week’s MPB meeting Ms. Peters requested that a recorded vote be taken. On behalf of NEMI she was the lone dissenting vote to the motion (to request municipalities pass a bylaw in favour of the OP, with board members Ian Anderson, Lee Hayden, Dan Osborne, Paul Moffatt, Eric Russell, Austin Hunt and Ken Noland voting in favour.

As well, Ms. Carter noted that a motion would need to be passed by the board, on behalf of both the unorganized townships of Robinson and Dawson. Again, Ms. Peters requested a recorded vote and was the lone MPB member voting in opposition to the MPB draft Official Plan being passed.

In regards to the UCCMM letter, Ms. Carter said, “we had received a similar letter from the UCCMM in 2013 and we had advised them that the concerns were not within the mandate of the OP and the letter would be forwarded to the MMAH. We attended meetings with the UCCMM on concerns raised in their letter,” said Ms. Carter. “In my discussion today with Matt Alexander of the MMAH I indicated I would be forwarding the UCCMM letter to him for response. He agreed the concerns raised are not within the OP mandate.” However, she also noted, “we (MPB) are prepared to review any recommendations made by the ministry and consider any modifications that are recommended from the MMAH to us.”

In the UCCMM letter dated June 20 (which has also been sent to the Premier of Ontario, Bill Mauro, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing and the MPB), Tribal Chair Patsy Corbiere wrote in part:

“Manitoulin Official Plan, failure to consider First Nations rights and title. On behalf of the six First Nations of Mnidoo Mnising, we are writing to remind you that as we never gave up the land and that any land use on Manitoulin, Barrie, or Cockburn Islands or any of the islands within the 1836 Treaty Area must be approved by us, as it remains unsurrendered aboriginal title land. As you know, we have an ongoing court case (Ontario Superior Court of Justice Court File #CV-13-481339) which seeks the vindication and protection of our aboriginal title to the waterbeds surrounding Mnidoo Mnising as well as rights to our reserve lands under the 1836 Bond Head Treaty.”

“Any plan or regime that does not recognize our inherent, aboriginal and treaty rights and jurisdiction over these lands and waters contravenes our rights,” Ms. Corbiere wrote. “However, we are aware that Ontario, and by extension the Manitoulin Planning Board, believe that they have lawful jurisdiction over the area encompassed by the district. We therefore are also providing specific comments regarding the Manitoulin Planning Board’s Official Plan.”

“First, we note that the Official Plan has entirely failed to consider First Nation rights and interests, in spite of the clear direction in the Provincial Policy Statement. The failure to include explicit protections for our rights and interests is also a breach of the duty to consult and accommodate,” continues the UCCMM letter. “The Official Plan does not even recognize the contributions of our communities to the life and economy of the islands; not only are our rights ignored, our very existence is barely acknowledged.”

“The Official Plan states in section A.2.1. that it is ‘the principal land use planning document that the district uses to express its goals and objectives for development or redevelopment and to create healthy, livable, sustainable and safe communities.’ How this can be achieved without involving the First Nations of the district is inexplicable to us? We are members of these communities and we are rights holders in relation to these lands. The draft must be revised to reflect this,” the UCCMM letter states.

“There are many sections of the Official Plan which contemplate decisions to be made regarding land and land use in the future. These sections need to reference the fact that consultation with local First Nations is required and that accommodation may also be required. Specific instances of this are discussed below. Specific instances of plan components in breach of First Nation rights: The following official plan sections must be revised to include a statement that consultation with and accommodation of the six UCCM first Nations will be required in relation to decisions contemplated in these sections,” the UCCMM letter continues. These include: general policies, land use policies, environment and resource policies, transportation and servicing policies and implementation.

“In conclusion, given the nature of the rights in issue, the sections of the Official Plan referred to above must be revised to include the requirement to consult deeply and accommodate the First Nations in relation to the decisions contemplated. In several cases, First Nation consent is required for changes in land use or development, as indicated in this letter,” the UCCMM continues. “In addition, the Crown has not yet consulted the First Nations in relation to the Official Pan itself, and it is required to do so.”