Tehkummah council gets update on the status of the Michael’s Bay townsite from federal government

Tehkummah Council photo by Michael Erskine

TEHKUMMAH—Tehkummah council received correspondence from Public Services and Government Services Canada last month regarding the seized properties at Michael’s Bay and the government’s future plans for the contentious parcels of land.

The lands were seized along with the Royal Michael’s Bay Resort when the European developer  was convicted of charges and the Manitoulin property was deemed to have been purchased and partially developed using the proceeds of a proven crime. The property was seized by the Belgian government which enlisted the Canadian government to help in disposing of it. The property includes the historic Michael’s Bay townsite with its pioneer cemeteries.

The letter from Danielle Pilon, case officer with the Seized Property Management Directorate (SPMD), addressed to Reeve Eric Russell, stated “Previously, the SPMD stated that we would keep stakeholders and interested parties updated throughout the disposal process for our properties on Manitoulin Island.

“Currently four of the five parcels of land are being considered by both the federal government and the Wikwemikong Band as part of a land claim. The fifth parcel of land (100+ acres of grazing land in Central Manitoulin on Blue Road) is currently being used for grazing. It will not be required as part of the Wikwemikong land claim and thus be available for public sale.

“SPMD will list the (Central Manitoulin) property for public sale with a local realtor. It is anticipated that the property will be listed on the MLS and available for offers by the end of November 2017.”

“We can apply for payment in lieu (from the federal government for back taxes), but if (the Michael’s Bay property is) given to Wiky, we might not get the tax money,” explained Clerk-Treasurer Karen Gerrard.

“So the registered cemetery that’s back there means nothing then?” asked Councillor Paul Bowerman, questioning how the government could just give land up without addressing the cemetery.

The reeve suggested trying to register all the cemeteries there. According to the Michael’s Bay Historical Society, five cemeteries have been identified including a Methodist cemetery (43 burials), a Presbyterian cemetery (four burials), an Odawa cemetery (eight burials), an Anglican cemetery (four burials) and a Baptist cemetery (eight burials).

“We can’t,” Councillor Bowerman responded. “This township doesn’t have the gonads.”

Reeve Russell acknowledged that the cemeteries should have been registered a long time ago.

Council agreed to pen Ms. Pilon a letter, reminding the federal government of the burial sites.

The Expositor contacted Wiikwemkoong Chief Duke Peltier for comment following the meeting.

“I don’t know that it would be characterized as a claim,” he said in reference to the letter from the federal government. “We expressed an interest, considering it is federal property.”

The chief referenced the 1997 court case that stated that any lands held by the Crown on Manitoulin are under court-ordered caution.

“I haven’t heard from them lately,” Chief Peltier said of the SPMD, “but I do know they (the government) were out touring and assessing the sites.”

Chief Peltier said it would be “paramount” to work with Tehkummah council.

The chief said there are no specific plans yet and that Wiikwemkoong is still in discussion status with the federal government.

“Nothing has been determined on how the lands could be managed, but it would definitely be in collaboration with Tehkummah and the Michael’s Bay Historical Society,” he stated.