Planning Board Official Plan could contravene First Nation rights, say Island United Chiefs

GORE BAY—Concerns raised by the United Chiefs and Councils of Mnidoo M’Nising are not in the mandate of the Manitoulin Planning Board (MPB) and its Official Plan process. While members of the planning board indicated they appreciate the interest and input that has been provided by the UCCMM on the Official Plan process, they say the concerns raised are not part of their jurisdiction.

Elva Carter, secretary of the MPB, informed the board members at a meeting last week she had received a letter from the UCCMM prior to a recent public meeting in Mindemoya, and met with the UCCMM board where the concerns were again brought out. The concerns, “relate to the aboriginal claims on reserve lands water beds on Manitoulin. I felt it was important to attend the UCCMM meeting, so I went to Zhiibaahaasing and it was a very enlightening meeting. It comes down to the UCCMM wanting a response on their letter which states with the court action-claims, the Official Plan may infringe on their rights. I explained the Official Plan was proposing changes that would add the provincial policy statements.”

“While we may be happy with what we currently have, the province has said we have to add new policies into a new Official Plan,” said Ms. Carter. “Kevin Mossip (a Zhiibaahaasing First Nation councillor) said at the meeting ‘the province treats you (planning board and municipalities) like the feds treat us,’ with us being told what we have to include in the Official Plan.”

UCCMM board member Art Jacko had asked for the planning board to respond to the UCCMM letter, and Ms. Carter had indicated at that meeting she would table it in front of the planning board, and that the letter would be sent to the provincial ministry for review.

“It is really good to see the UCCMM take an interest in the Official Plan,” said Gary Brown.

“What Kevin (Mossip) said is quite true,” said Brent St. Denis.

“However, when they are talking about treaties and land claims, this is not under our jurisdiction,” said Mr. Brown.

Mr. St. Denis agreed with Ms. Carter that the UCCMM letter should be sent to the provincial ministry authorities, and to the UCCMM, indicating the planning board mandate does not allow it to deal with the type of issues raised by the UCCMM in regards to the Official Plan.

One planning board member said, “I think it’s probably the feeling of everyone that the issues raised by the UCCMM need to be settled.”

“We need to send a letter to the UCCMM saying that we genuinely appreciate their letter and input, but this in reality is not in the planning board jurisdiction,” said Mr. St. Denis.

In a letter to the planning board, Tribal Chair Joe Hare, on behalf of the UCCMM board, “I am writing on behalf of all of the UCCMM First Nations. As you may know, the UCCMM First Nations have launched an historic court case to secure rights that we as Anishinabek people never gave up. Our court case covers all most all of the purported jurisdiction of the Manitoulin Planning Board, including Mnidoo Mnising and the surrounding islands and water.”

“Our court case (Ontario Superior Court of Justice Court File #CV-13-481339) 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,” wrote Mr. Hare.

Mr. Hare continued, “In 1836, our ancestors signed a treaty with the Crown in which the Crown agreed to protect our rights and ownership in our shared title lands including Mnidoo Mnising and all of the surrounding islands.”

“We have never relinquished these rights,” wrote Mr. Hare. “Not through the Treaty of 1862, which is invalid, nor through any other means. Even if the Treaty of 1862 were valid, it did not include any of the islands beyond Manitoulin, Barrie and Cockburn Islands.”

“Any plans or regime that does not recognize our inherent rights and jurisdiction over these lands and waters contravenes our rights,” wrote Chief Hare. “As we never gave up the land, any land use on Manitoulin, Barrie or Cockburn Islands or any of the islands within the 1836 Treaty Area must be approved by us.”

Tom Sasvari