A lost opportunity in relations with First Nations

I have a clear memory of sitting across from the late Chief James Mason in his office at the Saugeen First Nation Band Office at Chippawa Hill more than 30 years ago. It may not have been the first time, or the last time. I had several such meetings/interviews with him. My beat as an Owen Sound Sun Times reporter at the time included Aboriginal Affairs and the various issues affecting the two First Nations in Ontario’s Grey-Bruce area, the other being the Chippewas of Nawash at Cape Croker.

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An Aboriginal fisherman leaves food for thought

A few weeks ago a well-used pick-up truck pulled into our driveway on the Bruce Peninsula. A man who looked like he might be in his mid-30s got out and said he and his fisherman partner had some freshly caught Georgian Bay fish for sale and did I want some.

They were from nearby Cape Croker, home of the Chippewas of Nawash First Nation, and they were doing what people from there have been doing for hundreds, perhaps thousands of years, trading and bartering the fish they catch, in this case nowadays, for cash. That traditional and vital use of the fishery around what  used to be called the Saugeen Peninsula, for food and trade, was recognized and re-affirmed by an Ontario court decision in 1993, that ruled First Nation people in this area were entitled to “priority” use of the fishery in local waters.

At the time most large-scale commercial fishers in Lake Huron and Georgian Bay waters in this area were non-Aboriginal. That court decision began a process of change, leading to the predominantly First Nation fishery that exists today. But the initial reaction of many people in the local non-Aboriginal community was angry and confrontational.

For a while downtown Owen Sound was not a friendly or even safe place for First Nation people to be. One night two young men from Cape Croker were attacked with knives by a group of thugs and badly injured. Continue reading

No Nets in Colpoy’s Bay

It boggles the mind. Where to begin? There are so many things wrong with the-affair-of-the-commercial-nets-in-Colpoy’s-Bay-last-weekend-that-weren’t-there-after-all that I’m tempted to say it sounds like the proverbial “comedy of errors,” starting with a couple of members of the Bruce Peninsula Sportsmen’s Association jumping to the conclusion that a First Nation fishing tug going slow on its way to the Colpoy’s Bay government dock must have been setting nets. Continue reading

Aboriginal Commercial Fishers

There’s nothing like the annual Owen Sound Salmon Spectacular, in its present format at least, to highlight the polarized tribal nature of race relations in Owen Sound-Grey-Bruce. The Caledonia situation, with its at times irresponsible behaviour on both sides has no doubt done great harm to relations between the Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities in that area and the country generally. No such angry, violent and otherwise unpleasant confrontations happened in Owen Sound during the recent Salmon Spectacular, attended, as this newspaper reported, by “thousands” of sports fishers and their families from here and far away.  Continue reading

Hearing Set for Residential Development Near Native Burial Sites

A long-simmering dispute on the Bruce Peninsula over residential development on private property in the vicinity of native burial sites is the subject of a lengthy hearing set to begin this coming Tuesday before the Ontario government’s new Environmental Review Tribunal.

At issue specifically is the Niagara Escarpment Commission’s refusal last fall to approve development permits for two lots of record in a provincially approved subdivision. That was despite a staff report recommending approval, and despite the fact the NEC two years earlier permitted development on two other lots in the same subdivision. The people whose applications were denied appealed. Continue reading