No Public Consultations on the Consequence of Land Settlements

March 24, 2021

For over a century now, Algonquins have been pursuing claims over unceded lands in the Ottawa Valley.  In 1983, the Algonquins of Golden Lake and nine other Algonquin communities came together to advance these claims.

The most recent attempts to resolve the issue began in 2012, and by 2017 an Agreement-in-Principle was created.  

Local residents of East Ferris living near the Algonquins of Ontario land claim that settlements were kept out of the loop by their local municipal government.  It was their hope to be a part of the dialogue when discussing the privatization of crown land - a move that could lead to unrestricted development of that land.  

Residents are concerned that any future development of the aforementioned land will not meet the Municipalities concerns as to how they affect adjacent neighbourhoods. The projected negative impact of Stormwater runoff as a result of development remains a growing concern.

In a somewhat half hearted move to placate the concerned public, a new “Supplemental Evaluation” document was created and released in the fall of 2020.  This was an attempt to explain the 2017 “Agreement-in-Principle” to concerned neighbourhood associations.  This document revealed the governments offer to increase the amount of money and land being added to the potential settlement package.  This would include a payment of $300 million and the transfer of no less than 117,500 acres of Provincial Crown Land to the Algonquins.

Public consultation towards this matter has been minimal to nearly non-existent.  In fact, East Ferris residents only found out about details of a potential agreement by communicating with other residents and from Trout Lake Conservation Association (TLCA) communications:

TLCA News - Winter 2021

TLCA News - Spring 2021

The Ontario government's position on this transfer of land has not been made public. This lack of transparency has left affected residents entirely in the dark.  A meeting on February 2nd, 2021 with Ontario’s chief negotiator and the East Ferris Council showcased how the residents concerns about development issues were being ignored.

At Earthroots, we have been following the situation closely as it raises serious provincial and municipal land use planning concerns which are core to Earthroots’ ongoing activities. Most significant of these, is how the changes proposed are not yet, but should be, subject to substantive municipal government and general public consultation and meaningful participation. If Provincial Park land is to be taken out of the park system that is an abrogation of a Lands for Life settlement, then that must be addressed. Similarly, if lands adjacent to Trout Lake are to be extensively developed into residential lots, the impacts of that development has to be considered within the planning system of the two municipalities encompassing the watershed and their residents.

Unfortunately, ignoring public consultation is becoming a recurring practice of the current Ontario government. Major changes in forest management planning processes have been made without public input. An example of this is the changes made to the environmental assessment procedures under Bill 197 without consultation that led Earthroots (with others) to take the government to court for a judicial review of the decision. And just days ago, the Ontario government announced that it is removing the requirement for Minister’s Zoning Orders (MZOs) to respect the Provincial Policy Statement. MZOs are a blunt force tool used by the Minister of Municipal Affairs (formerly only rarely, now frequently) to override municipal planning decisions like protecting provincially significant wetlands. Not only is this change in the planning process apparently being done without consultation, but it is being snuck into Schedule 3 of Bill 257 which has the misleading title “Supporting Broadband and Infrastructure Expansion Act, 2021.

The behaviour of changing provincial land use without public consultation, as apparently is the intent in the AOO land claim settlement, is a larger more extensive problem that Earthroots pursues on multiple fronts.  Earthroots is looking forward to a successful resolution in the Trout Lake situation. We propose that the City of North Bay be more motivated to question what is going on as well even though their land base is not directly involved. Results of the land claim settlement will undoubtedly have long term effects on their watersheds.

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