Toronto – Skandatut is an internationally significant Huron-Wendat cultural heritage site that is currently being destroyed with the permission of the Government of Ontario.  Multiple calls to halt digging at the site have gone unanswered.
The site is located in Block 59 of Ontario’s Greenbelt.  As far back as 2007, the Ontario Greenbelt Alliance listed Skandatut as a Greenbelt “Top Ten Hot-Spot” needing protection.   
“Environmentalists recognize and respect the need to protect First Nation’s spiritual and cultural heritage sites equally with natural heritage features, in fact the two go hand-in-hand”, said Dr. Rick Smith, Executive Director of Environmental Defence.
“We’re very disappointed in Minister of Culture Michael Chan for ignoring this devastation of a very important part of the Greenbelt and East arm of the Humber, a national heritage river”, said Deb Schulte, an original member of the McGuinty government’s Greenbelt Taskforce.
“Tragically, the City of Vaughan just passed its new Official Plan calling for preservation of Skandatut, so why is the provincial government dragging its feet?”, she asked.
A developer has contracted Mr. Keith Powers, an archaeologist, to excavate the site against the wishes of First Nations’ people.  In fact, neither the Huron-Wendat Nation nor any other First Nation has been consulted regarding this destruction.
The scraping of the site, often by use of heavy machinery, is an affront to the sensibilities of all Canadians and is a violation of the Ontario Heritage Act (“OHT”).
Work is occurring with the approval of the Ontario Ministry of Culture. 
The Huron-Wendat Nation has called on the Minister to suspend the license of the archaeologist under the provision of section 51 of the OHT:  “where in the Minister’s opinion it is necessary to do so for the immediate protection and preservation of a property or an artifact for the purposes of this Part or where the continuation of archaeological fieldwork under the licence is in the Minister’s opinion an immediate threat to the public’s interest.” 
Skandatut is a late sixteenth-century site, representing the latest in a series of major villages located along the Humber River north of Woodbridge in the City of Vaughan. The Humber River is a designated Heritage River due to its historic function as part of the Carrying Place Trail between Lake Ontario and Georgian Bay made famous by European travellers such as Etienne Brule and Governor Simcoe, but used by Aboriginal peoples for thousands of years beforehand.
The site is spectacularly located on a high, steep-sided promontory overlooking the Humber valley and the former location of an ossuary (mass gravesite), which was regrettably excavated in the 1970s without the knowledge of the Huron-Wendat.  Skandatut was a cosmopolitan town that attracted goods, including European trade items, as well as people from many parts of Ontario and as far away as the St Lawrence River valley and New York State.
The people who inhabited the site lived at a pivotal moment in the history of Iroquoian-speaking peoples who went on to establish the Huron (Wendat) Confederacy in Huronia in today’s Simcoe County.
Dr. Neil Ferris, President of the Ontario Archaeological Society, has written the archaeologist destroying the site with an appeal:
Preservation of Skandatut and surrounding area has been the strong view expressed by the municipality, the archaeological community, and multiple First Nations. Moreover, the landowner had previously committed directly to the Huron that the site would not be excavated.
According to experts, if construction is not halted, the site will be gone in a matter of weeks.  A previous visit to court to seek an injunction was thwarted when no judge could be located to hear the application.
“Skandatut’s destruction is a profound loss for our Nation and yours that is hard to believe in a generous society like Ontario, which welcomes new cultures so readily”, said Chief Gaeten Sioui of the Huron-Wendat Nation.
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For more information, or to arrange interviews, please contact:
David Donnelly, Donnelly Law, (416) 722-0220
Louise Pilfold, Environmental Defence (416) 323-9521 ext. 228