May 4th, 2018
Planning Division &
City of Niagara Falls
4310 Queen Street, PO Box 1023
Niagara Falls, Ontario, L2E 6X5
Dear City Officials,
I wish to express my opposition to the Riverfront Community Official Plan Amendment as currently proposed as an act of bad faith that ignores Canada’s obligation to act as good faith Treaty partners. I am mindful while making these comments that it is challenging to find a route to fulfill the Crown’s Duty to Consult through the means available to the City. While my opposition includes these grounds my opposition also extends to concerns about the OPA outside of these concerns. I will outline why I think that this OPA must be opposed at this time in this letter.
The Duty to Consult has not been fulfilled:
My perspective is guided by the letter of Infringement from August of 2016 issued by the Haudenosaunee Development Institute and the letter issuing a warning from the Haudenosaunee Environmental Task Force to Justin Trudeau on March 8th of 2017, both of which are attached. These letters have been delivered to the planning department in and around the dates specified.
The letters were drafted in reference to the Thundering Waters Secondary Plan amendment but the core elements of the current OPA still do not address the concerns in the letters. Because the concerns in the letters have not been addressed the opposition to the project stated in each letter is applicable to the OPA in its current form.
All of the descendants of Katsistyawaks of the Ow^tsa’tha family of the On^yote:aka are united in their opposition to this OPA. The Men’s Fire of Six Nations expressed opposition. Several local Indigenous Niagara families maintain their opposition. I have been in contact with the Mississaugas of the New Credit and Six Nations of the Grand River who have not been properly contacted for input. The Ow^tsa’tha family letter issued is attached.
I do want to commend Kenneth L Beaman and the City Planning department for personally addressing myself and other community members who had expressed concern about Treaty Rights in a courteous and professional manner. I have no doubt that the Planning and Legal departments have tried their best to address these requests within their abilities. The concerns still stand unresolved however.
I might highlight some portions of the letter of Infringement to show why the concerns still stand:
“At this time, and on a preliminary basis, we confirm that the Project will interfere, impair, and infringe upon Haudenosaunee title, rights and interests as guaranteed and recognized by the Nanfan Treaty of 1701, the position of Crown via the Lords of Trade and Plantations as to Haudenosaunee title as recognized and affirmed by the Mitchell map of 1755, the August Treaty of 1764 and the Treaty of Fort Stanwix of 1768…
“As we have indicated, the Project will impair treaty rights and at a minimum will have the affect of extinguishing harvesting rights on the subject lands. The Supreme Court of Canada has recently clarified that treaty rights may only be impaired and/or infringed where consent has been provided and/or the infringement has been justified. We confirm that the justification process involves the discharge of fiduciary duties and as discussed fiduciary duties may not be delegated without the consent of the fiduciary. We confirm that consent as to the delegation of fiduciary duties has not occurred.
“We also confirm our discussion in relation to the consultation and accommodation framework that was first discussed by the Supreme Court of Canada in the Haida and Taku decisions. We have expressly stated that this is an inappropriate approach as those cases dealt with asserted but unproven rights whereas the rights in question on this matter are established and recognized in Canadian law by section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982. If we did assume the applicability of the consultation and accommodation framework (which is expressly denied) then the delegation from Ontario to Niagara Falls would only be lawful where Ontario undertook a prima facie assessment of the rights and interests which would then structure the nature and scope of consultation. As you indicated it does not appear that any such assessment has been undertaken by Ontario and/or Niagara Falls and as such the delegation is unlawful on this basis.
“Going forward we would ask that entirety of the process for advancing the amendments to the Official Plan be placed on hold until such time as Ontario has discharged its obligations. As discussed, if Niagara Falls proceeds it may suggest bad faith and a bias as to outcomes…
“Please also accept this correspondence as official opposition to the Project for the purposes of section 17 of the Planning Act.”
– Haudenosaunee Development Institute letter of Infringement – August 20th, 2016
I have the utmost respect for City Staff and Council but a realistic gap between the kind of Treaty partner Canada wants to be versus the kind of Treaty partner Canada is exists. I am sympathetic to the perspective that the City has neither the mandate nor the capacity to properly address these concerns yet I maintain hope that asking, acting, and thinking kindly can help perpetuate the ways of thankfulness. Further to that, sooner or later the discrepancies between the principles of the Treaty agreements and the ways of growth must be resolved. I am hopeful that that path exists within the frameworks that generations of leaders have crafted into your most current laws.
The Spirit of the Treaty Agreements Could be met through Good Stewardship
We have important covenants like the Dish with One Spoon, the Two Row Wampum, the Friendship Belts and other wampum belts that guide us and bind our will towards virtue. You have a Federal Constitution, a Provincial Planning Act, and the City’s Official Plan to help bind your judgement and guide your decency.
I would hope that the cautionary words of Henry Lickers speaking on behalf of the Haudenosaunee Environmental Task Force will shape your thinking on this important decision to be made. Here is an excerpt:
“They say the development of the forest part will not impact the wetlands. We know this not to be true because this land is all intricate, complex and woven together. They cannot be separated. One is dependent on the other just like humans are dependent on nature. All the environmental studies do not take into consideration the history of the land and the cultural resources it possesses…
“All of the wildlife is important to the Haudenosaunee, over the past years we have seen many of our brothers and sisters disappear from this earth and have mourned their passing. Canada and the United States have enacted “Species at Risk” legislation to protect various species that are endangered of extinction. This area has many such species…we remind you of your obligation under the Two Row treaty that we have with you to warn you when we see danger in the river life that that could harm us both. Your obligations under your own legislation must be clear to you.”
HETF March 13th, 2017
The obligation to follow the Planning Act and the Official Plan of Niagara Falls are the guidelines I tried to use to understand how Council should proceed. My understanding is that this decision should follow the Cities Official Plan which follows the principles of the Provincial Policy Statement as set by the Provincial Planning Act. The Act aims to balance the following interests:
- the efficient use and management of land and infrastructure
- protection of the environment and resources
- ensuring appropriate opportunities for employment and residential development, including support for a mix of uses
What makes this complicated is that the last two points can come into conflict with one another.
It is important to create opportunities like the one promised to the developer who hopes to invest in our community. It is also important to protect and preserve environmental features like wetlands, wildlife habitat, and core heritage features. My understanding is that the ladder argument carries more weight in this instance if the Official Plan and the PPS are being followed.
Special Policy Area 56 in the Official Plan of the City of Niagara Falls was set as an area for growth within the urban boundary. This was set several decades ago though when the science on wetland protection wasn’t as advanced as it is now. I would suggest that if the planners in the 70’s had the knowledge we have now about the ecological richness of this area they might not have set it for growth and development.
When the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry re-evaluated the area in 2010 they increased the protections in the area after recognizing its value. In 2016 they evaluated an ever further need for protection. I imagine that when Council went on tours of the area as agreed to in August of 2016 that it was easy to see the natural wonder of the environmental features in the wetlands, the meadows, the forests, the thickets and even some of the areas with recent disturbance that are regenerating.
It is being mindful of these studies and your own observations of the area that I hope guide your judgement when considering how to interpret the policy around this area:
- According the Official Plan a Secondary Plan amendment was to be sought for SPA 56 to develop this area. Currently an exception is being asked for and only an Official Plan Amendment is now being sought. Will this result in less refinement of environmental and residential designations? Will the proper completion of setbacks and linkages to core heritage features be set? Will MNRF recommendations be incorporated properly into the City Plan with an OPA vs. a Secondary Plan Amendment?
- Amendments are to be granted on the grounds that the proper environmental studies have been completed. Another exception is being asked for as the bat studies have not been completed.
- Protected species need the strongest possible protection. There are amphibian breeding habitats inside of the OPA boundary. How can this not negatively effect the snapping turtles, spring peepers, chorus frogs, leopard frogs, tree frogs, wood frogs, American toads, blue spotted salamandars, acadian flycathchers and barn swallows?
- The proponents work indicates that they are seeking re-evaluation of some of the wetlands and environmental features later this summer. This is an indication that the studies are ongoing. An amendment should not be considered until all of the studying is completed.
- Development on lands adjacent to protected lands shall not be altered “unless the ecological function of the adjacent lands has been evaluated and it has been demonstrated that there will be no negative impacts on the natural features or their ecological functions”. If this development proceeds there will be a net loss of ecological function in the core heritage features by virtually eliminating the adjacent Environmental Conservation Areas.
- The OPA consists of mostly Environmental Conservation Area. Areas that aren’t ECA are actually strictly protected EPA’s in multiple places (see next bullet point). Even the non-ECA areas are host to pollinator meadows that include important plants such as the dense blazing star and milkweed – the only plant that can sustain the monarch butterfly a species of special concern.
- Environmental Protection Areas are not to be altered. There are multiple wetlands within the proposed boundary. While the proponent seeks to have the wetlands downgraded this has not happened. Both the City Plan and the Provincial Policy indicate that altering an EPA is strictly not allowed.
I do not possess the complete expertise to explore each of these concerns in detail but it seems fair to argue that there are questions not about whether there will or won’t be a negative impact, but rather how extensive the negative impact will be. There are wetlands within the OPA proposal. There are studies yet to be completed. There will be hectares of woodlot to be removed. Even the disturbance areas look beautiful to the common person. The City can stop it by following its own policies and planning guidelines.
The Mayor was well intentioned in seeking ways to advance our community. I commend the project proponent for their patience while the important process of environmental stewardship plays out. I am grateful to live in a city that is clearly working hard to find the balance between preserving natural heritage and attracting the right kinds of development to share our neighbourhoods.
The development is a great idea. This location isn’t ready for this development at this time though.
I urge the City to be mindful of the importance of the timeless principles embodied in the wampum agreements. I think that the way to do that is not to approve this amendment.
If you want to learn all about Thundering Waters Forest and don’t like reading then this is the podcast for you. We unpack a lot of important ideas about ecology, development, balance and even pack in some cool historical info about Treaties and the principles of stewardship…also TREVOR HAS HIS FIRST TRAVELING THOUGHT!! The cosmic balance of the universe might be out of flux now…we saved a good one for our quarter century mark on the One Mic.
Check it out the STWF PODCAST BY CLICKING THESE WORDS!
It’s hard to put into words the emotions I feel over the Colten Boushie case. Although I cannot help but feeling that we’ve been here before, this time is different. With Colten, I see me. I see my friends. I see any youth who walked the fine line between right and wrong. If we evaluate this case at face value and remove race, the facts are simple. Gerald Stanley is responsible for the death of Colten Boushie. Mr. Stanley intentionally armed himself and he intentionally put the bullets into the gun. Mr. Stanley admittedly pointed the gun at the back of Colten’s head. The trigger was pulled and anything and everything that Colten could have been will never be. Mr. Stanley is responsible for that; Colten’s death is on his hands.
When we add Colten’s indigeneity to the equation, it only complicates the situation that much more. I want to make this clear, I believe that racism was the determining factor in whether Colten lived or died. I believe that racism was the determining factor in how the RCMP handled the case. I also believe that racism was the determining factor in the verdict. Canada has a racism problem. It is hidden in society’s veil of ignorance. Veil, in this case, refers to Canada’s claim to diversity. While Canadians may be diverse in skin colour and country of origin, that diversity could be a burden when understanding racism and its relationship with Indigenous people. How can an individual understand racism when they don’t know the subtleties of it? How can an individual understand Canadian racism when they don’t know the history of it? Citizens have been conditioned to view Indigenous people as less than long before 1867. Those views have been reaffirmed by racist and restrictive policy and reinforced by laws. Look no further than the evolution of the Indian Act.
My first experience of racism occurred when I was six years old. I was raised in an urban environment in a relatively big city. In a class discussion, the teacher proposed the question, “What are you going to be when you grow up?”. All students responded with obvious answers like a teacher, doctor, or police officer and my response was relatively similar. However, after informing the classmates and teacher of my career choice, her response was simple and her view of me was clear. She said, “You’ll probably drink lots”. I was six years old. While I laughed it off, it left me puzzled. Her view of me and who I would be, has stuck with me all this time. It wasn’t until much later that I realized what she meant. It wasn’t until I became aware of the struggle some indigenous people have with substance abuse that it all became clear. It hit me like a ton of bricks. After that realization, I began to experience racism on a regular basis. Instead of talking it out, fists became my words and anger was my story.
Racism as a societal construct of bias has always been a part our narrative. It is those lived experiences that have shaped our realities. It is those racist or discriminatory subtleties that often go missed. However, it is also those experiences that have united us. Our stories are unique and Colten is the mirror of many images I have encountered in my life. Colten is my son; young, careless, and free. He wore his indigeneity like a badge of honour. However, what an indigenous person interprets as an honour society often mistakes it for a target.
His name was Colten. He was 22 years of age. Gerald Stanley took his life, but racism killed him. So as the Boushie family grieves for the loss of their son, I want them to know that history will remember his name. Colten will be the catalyst for change.
David vs. Goliath.
Ali vs. Foreman.
Marvel vs. DC.
Timmies vs. Starbucks.
Quirk vs. the World?
The NPCA has lately been oft embattled. Is it because they are picking fights instead of solving problems?
- They were asked to do an independent audit. They resisted with all their might.
- Bill Hodgson was becoming critical of the actions of the authority. He was publicly censured.
- The public asked the NPCA to support broader environmental protection. The chair made it clear they aren’t a protection agency.
- People concerned about one of only two large remaining forests in Niagara Falls urban boundary being under threat due to a Chinese backed development in the City asked for the NPCA to share information to help protect the forest and adjacent pollinating meadow. The co-chair of the NPCA used his public facing platforms to try to discredit residents concerned about the Thundering Waters development.
- Ed Smith – a retired armed serviceperson trying to improve his community through dedicated volunteerism – wrote a comprehensive report connecting a lot of dots of impropriety to one another. They denied it with all their might. They sued him.
- The NPCA’s lawsuit was ruled to have no merit to proceed. The NPCA dug in as part of their “obligation and duty to protect their reputation.”
Within moments of a local judge ruling that a letter issued by the agency was like an “Opening Salvo in a war,” Tony Quirk of the NPCA board was engaging in a twitter fight side by side with the official NPCA tweeter. Perhaps the tweeter was one of the new communications people enlisted to replace the environmentalists they’ve been discharging.
If the NPCA has any money left after all the taxpayer dollars they wasted suing Smith – an amount they refuse to disclose – they might want to draft some of the reporters from the Standard who have been doing great work exposing some of the flaws of the NPCA kingdom’s adversarial thinking. Maybe they’ll need to use some of the money from the Department of Defense training happening on NPCA grounds for their war on scrutiny.
Is this thinking unique to the NPCA or does it extend to the various entities and corporations its board members, such as Niagara Falls mayor Jim Diodati- sit on?
If this is the climate within which the disagreement over how to resolve the controversial Thundering Waters development dispute will be resolved then the tri-color bats better head for cover.
There are questions about the Region. There are questions about the NPCA. There are questions about Niagara Falls and the threatened Thundering Waters Forest and pollinator meadow.
Ed asked for a call to accountability not a call to duty – something he knows more about than anybody on the NPCA board.
Are those seeking the truth in the Niagara of 2017 dealing with people clouded by the fog of a meaningless war declared on public criticism?
Most people want answers, not a fight, but most people apparently aren’t like the special brand of people running the NPCA at the moment.
In just a couple of hours the annual Deer Hunt at Short Hills Provincial Park will begin. This year, like years previous, will be highly controversial. The controversy you ask, well the hunt is being held at a provincial park and the only people allowed to hunt are those who are members of the Six Nations community.
Since inception the hunt has received backlash from animal rights groups, hunters and concerned citizens. These protestors show up by the dozens and make their presence known.
Seems simple enough, right? Well unfortunately it’s not. Co Host of One Dish, One Mic and Co Chair of the Niagara Anti-Racism Coalition Karl Dockstader, has penned a letter that states, “Opposition to the Haudenosaunee Deer Hunt in Shorthillls Park cannot be separated from racism. Opposing the deer hunt by indigenous hunters, whether intended to do so or not, is supporting the worst parts of Canada’s racist legacy and perpetuates policies of assimilation. Antagonizing a group of people because you believe that your group’s views are superior is the very definition of racism.” This letter has stirred up a fair amount of controversy over the implication of the protestors being racist. Protestors refute the claim. Now, if you look at the scenario at face value, I could understand one’s hesitation to use the term. What people fail to acknowledge is that this issue is bigger than just a hunt. There is more to this then the protections of animals, the park and neighbourhoods. While the protestor’s intent might be good, their actions are the same actions of those people who use to protest the very existence of indigenous people.
The history of Indigenous people and the Country of Canada is horrific at best. Legislatively speaking, indigenous people were not considered people under the Indian Act. Indigenous people could not pursue higher education without loosing their rights. They also couldn’t higher lawyers, or even vote. Canada has not been kind. Nor has its citizens.
While the Indian Act was being developed and policies were implemented, the Canadian government also signed treaties with its Indian Allies (Indian being the preferred noun of the time). The treaties guaranteed certain inalienable rights; the right to hunt on traditional grounds being one of them.
Given that it was the 1700’s you need to understand how important that right was and still is today. There was no Wal-Mart or Costco; there was no corner store. There was only hunting, fishing and farming. Hunting was not done for sport or bragging rights, it was done to survive. First Nations would base their life off of the location of the animals. If they moved, we would follow. Hunting was also more than food too. Every aspect of the animal that was killed was used. The hide was used for clothes and blankets. Bones were utilized for tools and weapons, etc. In the 1700’s, a successful hunt meant a successful life.
Decades after Confederation though, pro-enfranchisement policies became the norm. The Government was so hell-bent on solving the Indian problem that their answer was to systematically remove our rights. So when it comes to people protesting the deer hunt, it is reminiscent of those policies. You have to understand that you are protesting more than just the act. You are protesting my very existence. Your Protest, like Karl Dockstader said, “…whether intended to do so or not, is supporting the worst parts of Canada’s racist legacy and perpetuates policies of assimilation.”
While you might not see the correlation between the protest and racism, I can assure you that it is there. It is no different than individuals protesting our language or our culture. You cannot separate the hunt from who we are as a people. Hunting is intertwined with our cultural identity. It is intertwined with us.
I am not from Six Nations of the Grand River. That is not my community. I am not afforded the right to hunt in Short Hills Provincial Park, but I still stand in solidarity with my indigenous brothers and sisters. I will attend the counter protest to ensure that people who view our way of life as inferior do not undermine our inalienable rights.
“Indigenous peoples and individuals are free and equal to all other peoples and individuals and have the right to be free from any kind of discrimination, in the exercise of their rights, in particular that based on their indigenous origin or identity.”
If you stand in solidarity, I would encourage you to come out in support.
I’ve wanted to write about the #MeToo campaign for some time now. But for the sake of not stepping on anyone’s feet, I decided to let the dust settle on the interwebs. Now that its been about two weeks, here we go:
For those who aren’t familiar, female survivors of sexual assault and harassment have been urged to use the Hashtag MeToo to inform the world that this problem is bigger than we think. Although the hashtag was coined by a female activist in 2006, Tarana Burke, it really caught the wind when actress Alyssa Milano tweeted it out.
I was shocked at the mount of #MeToo’s I was seeing on my social media platforms. A rough estimate of my network places it at about 70 percent of all of my female friends and followers. But was even more shocking was the response. The more researched I did, the more disgusted I became with society.
I want to make this as clear as possible, WE HAVE A PROBLEM! I am afraid to say it, but in my humblest of opinion, this issue is bigger than any race or religious issue out there. The only constant in societies around the world since evolution, is how men have treated women.
I do not proclaim to be an expert or hold the secret answer to how to effectively change society and society’s views on women. But I have some suggestions:
1) Change starts with us – Gentlemen, we need to do better. We need to be better. It going to be an uphill climb, but the only way to overcome is with that first step. Sexual assault and harassment is NEVER OK. I do not care how much you have had to drink or who you were with or whatever bullshit excuses you can come up with. Harassment and assault is not justifiable. Women are never asking for nor do they ever deserve it.
2) Forget about what you see in the movies or read in books. Very rarely does Hollywood get it right.
3) In order to effectively change, we need to redefine what it means to be a man. Do not give into gender stereotypes. DO NOT teach your children about gender stereotypes. Should you be fortunate to have a young daughter, do not teach her that if a man a boy picks on her, he likes her. Should you be fortunate to have a young boy, teach him about respect.
4) This may be the biggest one of all, call it out when you see it. Tell whoever it is who that is doing it, that it is unacceptable. This will be the toughest one of all. You may lose some friends and you might even make some enemies, but the world will be a better place for it
By no means will this put an end to sexual assault and harassment but it is a start and it is my pledge to all women.
To the women who took the time to share #MeToo. I thank you for your bravery, I thank you for your honesty and I believe you.
I’ve always questioned Canada and the values of Canadians.
It was almost exactly a year ago when I caught a glimpse of the high bar of what I thought Canadians could be though. Given the greatest spotlight he could ever have, Gord Downie chose to tell one of the most important stories in the history of his country. He told the story of Chanie Wenjack and released the “Secret Path” exactly one year ago.
“Chanie haunts me. His story is Canada’s story. This is about Canada. We are not the country we thought we were. History will be re-written. We are all accountable,” said Downie on the website for this important story.
Now a year later the news that he has passed on has been shared by his family.
I believe that we came from the cosmos as a people, and that the stars are our celestial ancestors. I think we are made of star stuff. It’s something I thought about on the day that the Assembly of First Nations gave Gord Downie an Indigenous name: “Wicapi Omani” which is Lakota for “He Walks Among the Stars”. I wondered if the Lakota people shared the connection to our greater galactic selves and if his name was a link to the idea that we need to reach for the stars when setting our own aspirational standards.
In the summer of 2016 the Tragically Hip ended a nation changing run as the band of Canada. Given the attention of the nation, the Prime Minister, and people everywhere Gord Downie used the platform to talk about the issue at the heart of what Canada is or isn’t. He talked about relations with First Nations people and demanded a different result.
“It’s going to take us 100 years to figure out what the hell went on up there,” said Gord Downie that final night of the Tragically Hip’s final concert ever referring to the suicide and water crises in Northern and remote First Nations communities, “but it isn’t cool and everybody knows that. It’s really, really bad, but we’re going to figure it out, you’re going to figure it out.”
He was talking to the Prime Minister, but I think in his patriotism he was talking to the people of Canada who he thought the PM embodied.
“You’re going to figure it out.”
Learn about the dark ongoing legacy of Canada. Be aware but don’t be idle. Be emboldened to be the kind of Canadian the Hip’s frontman was. If you think that being Canadian is being like Gord Downie then set your goals as high as the cosmos and honour his legacy by being great.
A Canada full of Canadians like that is a place that everybody on this part of the continent could value.
Unions, OPSEU, the CEC, Deadlines, and of course… The Strike. If you’re a follower of the news, these are headlines and key phrases that you’ve probably noticed in the paper and on social media over the past couple of weeks. Notice anything missing? Anything at all? Well let me help you out, It’s called the students. My description when talking about them is the Forgotten Majority.
So let me break it down for you;
OPSEU (Ontario Public Service Employee Union) and the CEC (College Employer Council) were in negotiations. OPSEU proposed a new agreement, the CEC declined and blah blah blah. Now before you start sending in your hate about my anti-union views, there is no need. I AM PRO UNION.
My issue lies with the lack of consultation and consideration for the forgotten majority, the students. People often forget that there is an unwilling participant in this battle. As a result, the students and their education are the casualty.
While this labour dispute will eventually end and both sides will declare victory, I can’t help but feel for my fellow cohorts. When will the administration and the faculty consider our needs? As it currently stands they are looking out for their own interest. But have we forgotten that if there is no student then there is no need for them?
This is call out to all of my fellow students, now is the time to have your voices heard. Now is the time to do something. This is a battle that we didn’t choose, but if we must fight, fight we will.
I would implore all students, regardless of the institution, to have your voices heard. If there is a petition going around, sign it. If writing is your passion, write it. If your’re one to brave the cold, go to the picket line and remind the faculty of their obligation to us, then make your way in and let the administration know too.
It is time to redesign the Collective Bargaining process. We need to be inclusive of all of the parties involved, both willing and unwilling.
Student Number – Irrelevant
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One Dish, One Mic is designed to be an interactive Podcast. Hosts Karl Dockstader and Sean Vanderklis provide critical analysis from an urban indigenous perspective on any and all issues.