Toronto, Ontario – The Huron-Wendat Nation has filed a rare, urgent application for judicial review with the Ontario Superior Court to shut down the controversial Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) hearing regarding the proposed mega-marina at Big Bay Point in Simcoe County, Ontario.
“The Huron-Wendat Nation does not want to stop all development but we also don’t want developers and complicit municipalities making unilateral decisions about our history and rights either,” said Luc Lainé, cultural heritage liaison for the Huron-Wendat in Ontario. “The destruction of so many of our sites without even the same notice afforded to utilities and ratepayers is a great tragedy for all First Nations that can be so easily corrected.”
The Court is asked to review the actions of the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, the Ministry of Culture, the Ontario Municipal Board, the County of Simcoe, and the Town of Innisfil. All of these parties had a copy of an archaeological report as early as 2004 disclosing the presence of First Nations cultural artifacts and potential aboriginal burials on the site of the proposed development at Big Bay Point.
Despite this knowledge, no notice of the findings was given to First Nations, and no First Nation consultation occurred with regards to the development. In a letter written by Grand Chief Max <> Gros Louis to The Honorable John Gerretson, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, Grand Chief Gros Louis outlined Ontario’s shameful history of destroying literally thousands of significant and sacred sites, stating, “[w]e draw the line at Huronia”.

The Huron-Wendat Nation alleges that the proponent meticulously notified and consulted a broad range of stakeholders about the development, including Canada Post and Rogers Cable.

“Early notice and consultation with First Nations and environmental groups in Seaton – a new development in Pickering, Ontario –  has resulted in significant improvements, both with respect to planning and environmental protection,” said Dr. Rick Smith, Executive Director, Environmental Defence. “It is up to Courts to end the troublesome double standard illustrated at Big Bay Point in land use planning that grants full rights to commercial interests like Rogers Cable but excludes interested First Nations.”

In the Big Bay Point development, the Provincial Facilitator convened negotiations between the Ministry of Municipal Affairs, the Ministry of Culture, the Ontario Municipal Board, the County of Simcoe, the Town of Innisfil, and Kimvar Enterprises Inc. (the developer). The parties entered into a binding agreement supporting the development and promising not to oppose or assist any others in opposing the development. No notice was given of these negotiations to First Nations.

“Residents have known about First Nations use and occupation of Big Bay Point for over a century,” said Don Avery, president of the Innisfil District Association. “Contacting First Nations is a very important responsibility. When this responsibility is not fulfilled, it endangers the entire process.”

The Ontario Municipal Board hearing for the Big Bay Point development started on Tuesday, August 21, 2007 without formal notice to First Nations.

The Huron-Wendat Nation is asking the Ontario Superior Court to find that these government actors violated their constitutional and common law administrative duty to notify and consult with First Nations when considering actions that may infringe their aboriginal rights. The Supreme Court has clearly stated that the Crown’s duty to consult with First Nations is broad and based on the honour of the Crown. The duty arises when the Crown contemplates conduct that may affect aboriginal rights. The court is being asked to stop the Ontario Municipal Board hearing, quash the minutes of settlement resulting from the negotiations between the parties, and order that First Nations be afforded formal notice and consulted.

The Big Bay Point development calls for 1,600 resort units (fractional ownership), 400 hotel units, a 1,000 slip marina on a man-made bay, and an 18-hole golf course. Groups around the Lake, including Campaign Lake Simcoe, support the argument that the project should not be permitted at this scale and should be subject to the proposed Lake Simcoe Protection Act.

The specific applicable Regulations to the Planning Act require formal notice to First Nations Reserves within 1 km of the site of the proposed development. The Huron-Wendat Nation is located in Wendake, Quebec. The law effectively states that proponents will never need to notify the Huron-Wendat Nation, despite the fact that thousands of ancestral Huron cultural heritage and sacred sites lie in the path of development.

The Ontario Municipal Board hearing into the proposed Big Bay Point development resumes on Wednesday, September 5, 2007 at the Nottawasaga Inn in Alliston, Ontario at 10:00 a.m.
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For more information, or to arrange interviews, please contact:
Jennifer Foulds, Environmental Defence, (416) 323-9521 ext. 232; (647) 280-9521
Don Avery, President, Innisfil District Association, (416) 997-7836
Luc Lainé, Huron-Wendat Nation, (418) 580-6205