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Wanipigow and surrounding communities face many challenges, social, political, and economic. The news summaries below, organised by topic, reflect that reality. The rationale behind their inclusion is the belief that the school and its students need to be aware of local challenges and add their voices to discussion on how best to address them. In order to contribute, however, students need to be critical thinkers, able to sift through information and make sense of it. Therefore, the following news summaries are designed to model critical thinking through analysis. Each article has been reviewed and summarised with the following questions in mind. How informative is it? Does it clarify issues? Does the writer display bias? Are any questions left unanswered? What new information is revealed? How does it add to the topic at hand? Is the reader left hanging?
The Blockade, Fall 2007
Journalist Meghan Hurley’s article outlined the issues behind a threatened third road block on Highway 304 near Hollow Water. It all started when the province announced a lot draw allowing people to bid on parts of a Manitoba Conservation cottage subdivision located between Manigotagan and Seymourville. This is land traditionally used by Hollow Water First Nation, and it retaliated by setting up two blockades [September 15] that delayed or prevented cottagers and landowners from getting to or from their properties “for days.” About ten permanent and sixty seasonal residences were affected by the blockade. Hollow Water justified its actions on the grounds that it had not been consulted regarding the draw. The government protested that “it made several attempts to contact Chief Bushie about the development of two cottage subdivisions in 2006,” but it didn’t get a response until early September of 2007. It had also made an offer to Hollow Water on September 17 to remove the cottage lots from the fall draw and “assign a Hollow Water representative to take part in funded negotiations with the province.” This was rejected. According to the article, Chief Rod Bushie said,
Hurley’s article left many questions unanswered. For instance, wasn’t the land in question surrendered long ago by Hollow Water through the treaty process? If so, doesn’t it belong to the people of Canada now? Since the government is the legal representative of the people, doesn’t it have jurisdiction to distribute cottage lots as it sees fit? What exactly is traditional land, and what rights are associated with it? Is Hollow Water entitled to be consulted regarding proposed land use changes on land that it has used traditionally? Perhaps as the issues unfold, we’ll get answers to these many puzzling questions. For the present, we wait.
Mary Agnes Welch’s article shed some light the questions raised by Hurley’s earlier article. Nothing had been resolved as far as the blockades were concerned. They were still up, the lots had not been distributed, and the existing cottagers were still being inconvenienced. Negotiations were at a standstill, and the RCMP was unwilling to get involved. Worse yet, there was rumour that the blockade could escalate to include a provincial highway and the village of Bissett.
Welch pointed out that the blockade was symptomatic of not one, but many unresolved issues on the east side of Lake Winnipeg. Welch listed them, “Clean hydro power, aboriginal poverty, traditional land rights, the logging and mining industries, eco-tourism and the conservation of one of the last intact parcels of boreal forest on the continent.” As for aboriginal poverty, Welch said, “The east side is home to some of the poorest and most isolated aboriginal reserves in the province, many without running water, proper schools or even year-round road access.”
So the reader might ask: Why doesn’t the government run the Hydro transmission line down the east side instead of opting for a more expensive route (by more than $400 million more) down the west side? Wouldn’t a line down the east side bring economic opportunities to the region, as Chief George Kemp of Berens River suggested in 2007? Yes, most people would agree. A transmission line and an all-weather highway should spark development and employment opportunities. So, why then, did the government opt for the more expensive western route and deny the east side an economic boost?
It may be mere speculation, but Welch suggested that the western route allowed “Hydro to sidestep what could be years of tortured negotiations with the 16 First Nations on the east side.” She also suggested that Premier Doer and “a handful of First Nation chiefs” were in favour of a UNESCO World Heritage designation for the boreal forest on the east side and Doer said that such a heritage site would be at odds with a hydro line.
However, if this is true, why did the government sign the Wabanong Nakaygum Okimwin (WNO) in April?
According to Welch, this accord was signed by Premier Doer, Grand Chief Phil Fontaine, and almost all of the sixteen chiefs from the east side, and was designed “to guarantee First Nations more control over their traditional lands, not just their tiny reserves.” It mandated that “each First Nation will create its own development plan for its traditional lands, deciding where logging or housing or any other development can and cannot go.”
Now perhaps the root of the problem is revealed! Could this be why Hollow Water is so upset? It had been promised input on the cottage lots, but hadn’t been consulted. At least that’s the story from Hollow Water. In fairness to government representatives, they said they tried.
As Welch explained it, Conservation Minister Stan Struthers’ office released “an almost comical log listing nearly 20 attempts since March of 2006 to get Hollow Water’s input on the cottage lots … phone calls, requests for meetings by phone, letters and in-person visits.” Whatever the case, the WNO did not seem to be working. Chief George Kemp said, “It’s in tatters.” As Welch reported it, “Kemp said the province failed to genuinely work with First Nations before it put the cottage lots up for grabs or before it made the call to run the power line down the west side.” In response to this claim, Welch reported that several bands were “dead set against the power line,” while others, “including Berens River and Bloodvein, saw it as a chance to reap some of the millions in annual profits from the line, perhaps through a joint-ownership or management deal.”
So maybe there is some truth to the contention that the government opted for the west side because it saw years of negotiations before anything happened. After all, if all the bands had to be consulted “in a meaningful way,” as is claimed, what happens if they do not agree among themselves on what should be done?
For men like Bloodvein Chief Craig Cook, the real issue is “control over land aboriginal people inhabited for thousands of years. University of Manitoba native studies professor Peter Kulchyski claimed this issue went back to the treaties, which “recognized a band’s right to continue to maintain its traditional economies and practices, including the use of unoccupied Crown land.” For a number of years now, the courts had “interpreted aboriginal rights broadly and generously,” although “governments have failed to follow suit.”
So there we have it. The central issue appears to be over control of land, crown land in the eyes of the government, and traditional land in the eyes of First Nations. Or maybe we still don’t have the full story! As of 29 September 2007, the issue was unresolved.
Journalist Colleen Simard, who has roots in Hollow Water and Manigotagan, interviewed Conservation Minister Stan Struthers about the Hollow Water blockade and, like Hurley, wrote an article that begs for analysis. For instance, she noted that Chief Ian Bushie “told the media he wasn’t consulted” about the provincial cottage lot lottery, then tacitly suggested that in fact attempts were made to contact him. However, instead of questioning why an elected leader did not respond to repeated inquiries, she suggested that the government should have known “that a lack of contact with Chief Bushie would have meant a certain degree of disagreement.” On the contrary, it could have meant that he agreed wholeheartedly. Without communication, no one knows for sure. It should go without saying that we elect our leaders to represent our interests, and they don’t do that by keeping their mouths closed. As a journalist, Simard has an obligation to challenge the behaviour of political figures, not to excuse them. The other weakness of this article is that it revealed that Berens River, Little Black River, and Hollow Water had not joined the WNO (something that Welch missed in her September 29 article), but didn’t explain why. An interview with Chief Bushie was in order.
On the other hand, Ms. Simard did provide us with a most interesting piece of information. The town of Manigotagan had been opposed to the cottage development plans since 2001, its council passed a resolution on the matter, and a letter was written to Struthers as well. We don’t know when the letter was written (an essential detail), but if it was before the blockade, Struthers could not say with a straight face that he was unaware of any problems with the lottery.
Simard ended her article with the suggestion that the decision to put the transmission line on the west side meant that there was a “new agenda on the horizon.” She saw “cottage country expansion, eco-tourism and forestry development” as the likely plan for the east side. This was an interesting observation and certainly raised a few questions. For instance, how was the prospect of a world heritage site for the east side received at Hollow Water? How did its leadership feel about the loss of the transmission line? What was its objection to the WNO? And so on. A follow-up article would be helpful to provide possible answers.
This editorial represented the viewpoint of the Winnipeg Free Press as of October 4. From the newspaper’s perspective, the rights of the cottage owners had been violated, and it blamed both the Hollow Water First Nation and the NDP government for the blockade that had put the planned cottage lot development on hold. Hollow Water through its chief Ian Bushie had violated the spirit of the Supreme Court of Canada ruling about the meaningful consultation that is to take place between governments and First Nations in “developing lands within traditional territories.” In the words of the editorial, the chief’s lack of response to repeated government attempts to involve Hollow Water in the consultation process indicated that he “had decided to throw that legal decision to the wind.” The editorial also blamed the NDP government because it “decided 16 bands along the East Side of Lake Winnipeg would help determine when and what kind of development happens on Crown land there,” the implication being that the government had gone well beyond the intent of the Supreme Court ruling concerning “meaningful consultation.”
The editorial clearly reflected the view that the negotiating process set up by the NDP government would be long and involved, as “The bands, understandably, are pushing for the broadest possible terms to lay claim to resources and any revenues that might flow.” That is why the government opted for the west side of Lake Winnipeg for the new line. To underscore this point, the editorial added that, “Some East Side chiefs insisted Manitoba Hydro stay off their territory, but others are angry they weren’t consulted before the decision to push the line west was made.”
The Winnipeg Free Press editorial concluded that “it is unlikely that real development will take place on the East Side any time soon,” and that “What has evolved on the East Side may spill over into discussions on Crown land development across Manitoba.” The editorial is clear on the stand it takes on that possibility. “Traditional users of Crown lands have a legal and moral right to help guide development, but those rights are constrained and must balance with the broader interests of all Manitobans.” From the paper’s perspective the government and Hollow Water had to get together and resolve the outstanding issues, because “Delay can only end in police action.”
This editorial raises a number of interesting questions. It can be argued that the NDP government attempted a “meaningful” negotiating process with Hollow Water, but did that mean its decision to move the new Hydro line to the west side followed meaningful negotiations? Was the NDP government ever fully committed to “meaningful negotiations”? This editorial barely touched on that point. Also, did the internal disagreements among the sixteen chiefs weaken their negotiating position? Would those internal disagreements delay development on the east side indefinitely? Which of the chiefs were happy that the line would not be on the east side, and what are their alternative solutions for the poverty of their region? Who was pushing a world heritage site in the region? Was this a home grown movement, or was it a push from outside the region? Who in the NDP government could be supporting this cause? As for the cottage owners already in the Hollow Water area, what are their rights? Why should this issue be of concern to Manitobans in general?
The focus of Mia Rabson article was in part Conservative leader Hugh McFadyen’s strong stand on the current impasse at Wanipigow, where he has demanded “the government direct police to dismantle the ‘illegal’ blockade erected by the Hollow Water First Nation.” However, her main thrust was the bigger issue concerning who decided the economic future of the East Side. On this McFadyen had been clear. The existing NDP government had given “aboriginals too much influence over what to do with land on the east side of Lake Winnipeg, particularly as it related to the decision not to build a hydro transmission line there.” In fact, the WNO “gave the chiefs a veto,” and in McFadyen’s view, that was “wrong.” As quoted by Rabson, the Conservative leader said in question period at the legislature, “This is a government that is elected to safeguard the Crown lands on behalf of all Manitobans,” but what Premier Doer “did on April 3 was give a veto to 16 select Manitobans, over one-seventh of the territory of Manitoba, without a mandate, without a debate in the legislature.” McFadyen believed “in the need to consult with aboriginals but said consultation doesn’t mean only the aboriginal viewpoint prevails.” Grand Chief Ron Evans of the Manitoba Assembly of Chiefs demanded an apology, saying he feared “the comments may have dismantled years of work to develop trust between the Conservative party and Aboriginals in Manitoba. An unrepentant McFadyen said, “I don’t believe I owe (Evans) an apology for voicing the concern of future generations of Manitobans who don’t want to have a half-billion dollars of debt left to them needlessly.” Rabson’s article went on to discuss the implications of McFadyen’s strong position on the government’s stand on the east side, including the possibility of its becoming an election issue in a forthcoming election.
Rabson’s article was focused on the Conservative position and its implications, making it a worthwhile piece of information about that party’s stand. Nevertheless, some niggling questions remained. Why was it assumed that the sixteen chiefs on the east side had veto power concerning development, when the government could unilaterally decide to build the hydro line on the west side? Wasn't that what angered people like Chief George Kemp of Berens River? Where was his veto power? Also, why was there no mention of those absentee environmentalists who were promoting world heritage sites everywhere but in their own backyard? What impact did they have? Finally, it had been alleged that Premier Doer favoured a park on the East Side. Did he make the final decision? If so, how could he justify the cost?
Mary Agnes Welch began her article with the question, “How do you consult people who don’t return phone calls?” This was a direct reference to the charge that Hollow Water Chief Ian Bushie did not respond to repeated efforts by the government to meet regarding the auction of cottage lots prior to his setting up road blocks to protest them. Colleen Simard had adroitly side-stepped this issue in her October 1 article, perhaps because it involved too direct a question to ask of an authority figure from her home community. Welch, on the other hand, was more removed from the situation, which gave her greater latitude. She added that the Ministry of Conservation even sent one of its officials to Hollow Water, the “16th attempt” by the province to talk with the chief, but he had to “give up and go home.” It is worth noting that there are always two sides to a story, and you need them both in order to do a complete assessment. Apparently, the Winnipeg Free Press did attempt to contact Chief Bushie for his comments, but he had not responded.
Welch pointed out that the future of the east side dominated debate in the legislature for most of the previous a week, and one of the arguments was about “how the government should respect First Nations’ traditional land rights and how far the ‘duty to consult’ concept laid out by the Supreme Court goes.” The Conservatives, in keeping with their name, took a “fairly conservative interpretation” of the consultation process. According to Welch, Tory leader Hugh McFadyen believed “the provincial government should talk to First Nations, try to accommodate concerns, and agree on compensation where traditional lands are damaged,” but he didn’t believe the government should “allow First Nations to hold progress hostage.” He also felt the government “should not hesitate to ask the RCMP to remove illegal blockades.” McFadyen said that the NDP government has handed over too much authority to Wabanong Nakaygum Okimawin [WNO] and gone “way beyond the Supreme Court of Canada’s rulings,” which mandated governments to hold “meaningful consultations and accommodate reasonable concerns.”
According to Welch, the NDP position on the WNO was that First Nations were “partners at the table, charged with defining the boundaries of their own traditional lands and planning what ought or ought not be done there, with the provinces’ ultimate approval.” She suggested this was a broader interpretation, “arguably, more progressive and forward-thinking,” but, “it’s not working.” The rest of her text made it quite clear where she laid the blame for that problem. Welch pointed out that the government “held more than 80 community meetings with residents up and down the east side a few years ago,” although she didn’t specify in any detail what those meetings were designed to accomplish. However, the implication was that the government made the best effort, a viewpoint reinforced by her next sentence, After all, “It’s tough to make long-term plans for the vast area when there’s serious disagreement among the 16 chiefs and when a new chief with different views could be elected every two years.”
This was the first mention of “serious disagreement” among the chiefs, with nothing added to explain its nature or importance. The reader was simply left to speculate. There was also the implication that the government could not negotiate because the political situation was so unstable. By taking this stance, Welch took the government off the hook.
Although Welch acknowledged that the First Nations were angry about the government’s unilateral decision to locate the transmission line on the west side “before any real horse-trading and deal-making could happen,” she trivialised that anger by focusing on the apparent disagreement among the chiefs and generalising the actions of one to the entire sixteen chiefs. In other words, it was their own fault.
Many questions remain unanswered. The WNO was only signed in April 2007, something that Welch knew, because she mentioned it in her September 29 article. How would mentioning that fact here have modified reader impression? Only five months had elapsed since that historic agreement, including two which are usually holiday time in this province. Could one say that the WNO was not working when it had only been in force for five months? In fairness, is that enough time for consultation? Were the chiefs not justified in their anger that a decision was made unilaterally? Should the Manitoba electorate be angry that it will cost each of us another $400,000 to build the line on the west side? Finally, is it becoming clear why you have to read more than one source and analyse text carefully to get the real story, or at least to be able to ask the right questions?
Sid Green, Winnipeg lawyer and former DNP cabinet minister, began his article on the blockade at Wanipigow by posing a provocative question. “If cottage owners who have been refused access to their property because of the blockade of a provincial road by First Nations residents decided, in protest, to set up a roadblock preventing access to the reserve, how long would this blockade last?” Green’s answer was that it would be “only as long as it takes for law enforcement officers to attend at the scene, end the roadblock and arrest any perpetrators who resisted.” Green wrote that a double standard had been applied where aboriginal people in Canada were concerned. In his view, governments were promoting the idea that “First Nations are entitled to considerations beyond those afforded to other citizens.” “First Nations spokesmen, many of whom are hired professional lawyers, consultants and academics, argue that aboriginals have special rights to Canadian territory.” They claim that treaties did not redress the grievances of aboriginal people and that First Nations have “a continuing claim of an unspecified nature that gives them the right to defy laws and make demands for retribution.” They also claim to be separate governments rather than Canadian citizens in their dealings with the Canadian government.
In Green’s view, this all went back to a “vague reference to continuing aboriginal rights in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms,” which Pierre Trudeau thought was “harmless because he was certain that there were no legal rights to be continued.” However, when something is written into a statute, “as sure as night follows day some court will say that it must mean something.” And so the Supreme Court of Canada “invented a new concept – a legal requirement to consult.”
Green asserted that this only opened Pandora’s box. Governments “must make a stand.” First Nations must be recognized and treated as equal citizens, whose children will be entitled to the “same opportunities as are available to the children of other citizens.” However, the condition is that they “accept the status and responsibilities of citizens of this country.” Green said in conclusion that if First Nations “persist in the notion that they are a people of a separate and sovereign nation, they must be made to realize that Canada deals differently with its citizens than it deals with other nationals.”
For critical comments, see the October 18 response to Green by Chief Morris Shannacappo.
According to Mary Agnes Welch, the province had offered to buy back “about 28 provincial cottage lots” at Blueberry Point and Driftwood Beach that had been sold “over the last couple of years in the annual cottage lot draw.” So far, only one had taken the province up on its offer. In the meantime, the province would help cottagers get access to their cottages, perhaps involving “RCMP escort through the barricades.” There had been no meetings between Hollow Water and the Province over the blockade that Hollow Water initiated over a month previously in protest over the latest sales of cottage lots.
Why would the government decision to buy back the lots be seen by opponents as appeasement? What is appeasement? Argue the case for and against this procedure in negotiations.
By way of clarification, Berens River Chief George Kemp wrote that the Wabanong Nakaygum Okimawin (WNO) Accord was “first drafted to be a legal document,” but Manitoba Conservation “pulled out of this process” and the result was a “political” accord that “is nothing more than a glorified memorandum of understanding.” Even though it “has no legal teeth,” it was intended as “a protocol” for settling land use issues on the east side.
The WNO Accord was signed in March 2007, and “the Minister of Conservation was supposed to put “all new initiatives through the WNO for approval before proceeding.” Chief Kemp argued that the new cottage lot draws were supposed to be handled in this way, but the province did not do it, so Hollow Water was understandably upset. The WNO protocol was also not followed in the case of the World Heritage Park proposal. In this case, Manitoba Conservation was going to submit the proposal to the United Nations, even though it included traditional lands of Berens River and Bloodvein, First Nations that were opposed to the designation. Kemp promised that they will fight the proposal.
Kemp next turned to the Consultation on Sustainable Development Implementation for Manitoba (COSDI). This document states that a “wide area land use plan” needs to be done “before any new major development projects are undertaken in the province.” This was being applied to the east side, but Kemp asked why it was not being applied “for the recent and future Hydro developments in the north, and now, the west side Bi-pole line.” He noted that the Promises to Keep document contained seven recommendations that spoke to the “east side First Nations wanting the transmission line project based on revenue sharing and other benefits.” In Kemp’s view, the government has not honoured the recommendations of the WNO and COSDI, but has reacted instead to “fear mongering by U.S. environmentalists” like Robert Kennedy Jr. The only alternative for east side First Nations wanting a say under COSDI or the WNO was the road blockade.
Did this article shed any light on the blockade at Wanipigow? According to Chief Kemp the government had violated the spirit of both the WNO and the COSDI. What evidence did he cite and how strong was it? What could the government argue in its defence? Do you feel more or less sympathetic with Chief Bushie of Wanipigow, after reading Kemp’s viewpoint?
On the issue of land claims concerning traditional lands, Kemp argued that “Berens River First Nation owns the traditional lands all the way from Wrong Lake on the Poplar River to Charron Lake where the Manitoba boundary makes a sharp turn to the northeast.” Is it a fact that Berens River “owns” this land, or is it a claim that may need to be resolved in a court of law? Remember, as a critical reader, you need to separate fact from fiction on all sides.
Mary Agnes Welch reported on Berens River Chief Kemp’s determination to stop the UNESCO World Heritage Site that was proposed for the east side, based in part on the claim that a “significant chunk of land claimed by the Poplar River First Nation is in fact traditional Berens River land.” Chief Kemp had been at odds for some time with Poplar River First Nation, which favoured the UNESCO designation and opposed the power line that Berens River First Nation supported.
Ray Rabliaukas, Poplar River’s land management co-ordinator, said that “the band had tried to be sensitive to the traditional lands of its neighbour when drawing up the proposed boundaries of the UNESCO site,” basing its map on the band’s’ traplines and the advice of its elders. Conservation Minister Stan Struthers did not dispute Berens River’s right to object to the resulting map, but hoped that the parties could work it out “either through the east side planning initiative” that involved all 16 east side bands or “directly with the three First Nations (Poplar River, Little Grand Rapids, and Pauingassi) that backed the UNESCO bid.
Chief Kemp believed that that the UNESCO designation would scuttle the construction of the Hydro power line and the all-weather road that would accompany it, thereby stopping “development on the east side” for years to come, a fear that the government confirmed in September 2007, when it “announced it was building a new line on the west side of the province, in part to preserve the integrity of the boreal forest on the east.” Kemp was unconvinced by the government claim that ecotourism would develop after a UNESCO designation. As proof, he points to Atikaki Provincial Park, a protected area on the east side for years that had brought few hikers or paddlers to the region. From Chief Kemp’s perspective, the government proposal was “a complete disaster for the east side.”
This was a new twist to the struggle on the east side. Before the province could make a proposal to UNESCO to designate a heritage park for the east side, land use plans had to be in place. In view of Kemp’s determination to challenge the existing boundaries of the proposed park, how long do you think that process could take? What impact could this and other potential disputes have on economic development? Who was responsible for this turn of events? The First Nations or the Government?
George Kemp praised the Island Lake Tribal Council for coming out in favour of the east side line route and concluded that “it demonstrated that" the decision by Premier Doer pointed "more and more to a personal vision for the east side” than it did for the wishes of the people living there. Kemp found it troubling that the premier refused “to recognize the authority of the east side chiefs as representing the majority voice for their communities and region.”
Kemp revealed that the east side chiefs, including Ian Bushie, had requested a meeting with Premier Doer, but he had refused. Moreover, the Manitoba Highways Department had also refused to meet with them concerning winter road construction, “citing the Hollow Water blockade as the reason.”
Kemp argued that the only bands that needed to agree on power line proposal were the nine bands, whose traditional lands would be directly affected by the line. He pointed out that Poplar River First Nation, which was opposed to the power line, was not one of those bands.
Kemp also challenged the government to follow the precedent of Wuskwatim and Conawapa regarding “sharing revenue and ownership” on the east side. The alternative was “continued poverty and isolation and billions lost for all Manitobans,” if the west side option stood.
A legitimate question for the government based on this report might be: If there can be “shared revenue and ownership” for the Wuskwatim and Conawapa Projects, why does the precedent not apply on the east side?
Morris J. Swan Shannacappo, Grand Chief of the Southern Chief’s Organization, responded to Sidney Green’s article of October 14th. Shannacappo noted that Green’s thinking had not changed since he was minister for Manitoba Hydro forty years ago. At that time, he opposed “the Northern Flood Agreement because “he thought Ottawa was going too far in its willingness to negotiate with Indian bands and provide for compensation.” Shannacappo did not respond directly to Green’s claim that First Nations were acting as independent governments and not as Canadian citizens, but his wording suggested that there was some truth to Green’s assertion. For instance, he claimed that “the treaties never provided for assimilation.” Instead, they represented a “perpetual plan for how generations of Indians would live after Canada was allowed to acquire specific types of jurisdiction over land.” He pointed out that “treaty rights have been interpreted through court decisions and will continue to broaden as the courts force Canada to live up to its obligations.”
Shannacappo pointed out that blockades were usually over “the issues of treaty rights and resource use.” He claimed that “Indians never surrendered the resources” and that the transfer of control over resources from the federal to provincial governments in 1930 was in violation of the treaties. The usual way of resolving issues over treaty rights and resources was through political action and the courts. The first was ineffective because Indian reserves are scattered, thereby preventing First Nations “from having significant, concentrated voting blocks” and “very little Indian representation in legislatures or Parliament.” The courts were “very expensive and agonizingly slow.” Consequently, blockades occur.
Shannacappo urged readers to learn more about the treaties through the Manitoba Treaty Relations Commission, which was “set up last year to help educate both Indians and the public at large about treaties,” adding that “education is the perfect antidote to the messages of people like Mr. Green.”
The website for Manitoba Treaty Relations Commission can be found at http://www.trcm.ca/faqs.html. The wary reader might ask: Who created this site? Who is responsible for maintaining it? Is it “neutral” as claimed, or is it promoting a particular point of view? Why is Chief Shannacappo recommending this particular site?
A useful task for the critical reader is to compare the positions of Sidney Green and Morris Shannacappo. How much of what they are saying is factual, and how much is interpretation? What do you have to know to be able to make an informed judgement?
Mia Rabson reported that Manitoba Conservation would ferry cottagers around the road blockade that Hollow Water First Nation had set up to protest the sale of the cottage lots. Conservation Stan Struthers said that it was necessary, so that the cottagers could winterise their properties, action which met mixed feelings. Cottagers appreciated being able to reach their lots, but they also felt that the government should have done more to end the blockade. Gerald Hawranik, Conservative justice critic in the legislature had urged the government to call in the police to remove the blockade by force, noting that he had been told the band had charged some hunters $20 to go through. The government feared direct action because it did not want a repeat of the Ipperwash incident in Ontario back in September 1995, when Dudley George was shot and killed by police who were clearing Native protesters from a park.
Consider the government options. If they called in the police, hostility could increase and people could be hurt or even killed. On the other hand, if they didn’t act, they could be perceived as weak. A lack of firm action could result in more blockades. Not acting could also cost them support from the cottagers and other Manitobans, who ultimately had to pay for the standoff. If you were Struthers, what would you do?
A brief report, author unknown, indicated that Manitoba Conservation had ferried 35 cottages to their cottages on the weekend. According to Earl Simmons, chief natural resource officer for the eastern region, people were appreciative. They went from Manigotagan to properties at Pelican Harbour, Ayer’s Cover, and Blueberry Point, bypassing the blockade that Wanipiogw First Nation had set up between Manigotagan and Seymourville. The intervention of Manitoba Conservation came after negotiations broke down with Chief Rod Bushie to allow the cottagers access, so that they could winterize their properties.
Here are some questions to consider. Why do you think the government provided the ferry service? Rumour had it that government was contemplating a winter road from Poplar River to Norway House. Why would it be doing this? What appeared to be the strategy that Struthers and the government were using? What could Hollow Water, Bloodvein, and Berens River do to counteract government strategy?
Ever since 2004, the provincial government has had an annual draw for cottage lots in Crown land near or along lakes and rivers. The lots are announced, people put down a $100 dollar deposit, and visit the lots prior to the draw, which determines who gets to choose first. More than 1000 lots had been put up for sale by 2007 with 58% being sold. However, there is no sale this year, and journalist Mary Agnes Welch tells us why.
Even though the Doer government made an election promise to make 1,000 more lots available for sale, the cottage lot draw was postponed in 2008. Nobody knew why and the government didn’t explain the delay. However, Dave Crabb, President of the Manitoba Association of Cottage Owners thought it may have been a result of “problems with First Nations following the 2007 blockade near the Hollow Water reserve.” At issue seemed to be control of Crown land, some of which was now being described “by First Nations as traditional or treaty land that shouldn’t be sold without consultation and revenue-sharing.” For instance, “Sagkeeng First Nation Chief Donavan Fontaine said his band asked the province in early summer of 2008 to remove three proposed cottage lot developments that were slated to be included in this year’s draw” because they “were on or near the band’s traditional land.” The province agreed to withdraw them. Fontaine also added that the province had “not reached a final deal with nearby Hollow Water First Nation on a revenue-sharing agreement for the cottage development that sparked last year’s blockade.”
Welch noted that the 2007 confrontation stemmed from a plan “to develop a series of cottage lots on Lake Winnipeg just northwest of Manigotagan,” a move that antagonised band members from Hollow Water “already frustrated by private cottage incursions onto their traditional lands.” This resulted in the government’s suspension of “most of the cottage lot draw on the east side of the province” in 2007.”
Welch has written an informative article that raises all kinds of unanswered questions. For instance, what is the extent of the lands claimed by Hollow Water First Nation? Is there a map showing those traditional lands? Is control of the Crown lands, previously held in trust for the entire province, being transferred, as Gerald Flood feared, to any aboriginal band that can justify a traditional land claim? Or will control of Crown lands remain with the government, but include a revenue-sharing agreement with bands legitimately claiming them as traditional lands? What are the pros and cons of either course?
Power lines continue to cause controversy on the East Side. In November Journalist Bruce Owen wrote that a feud was developing among cottagers at the North end of Nopiming Provincial Park over a proposed power line from Great Falls to Bissett that would electrify 156 cottages on Long Lake and Beresford Lake with about half of them connected up by 2010. Supporters of the proposed line, The North Nopiming Electrical Project Inc. (NNEPI), wanted to have 60% support among the cottagers to get the project underway, and its president Dave Senkow said the goal was “to end the reliance of Long Lake and Beresford cottagers on non-renewable fossil fuels such as gasoline for generators and propane for lights, cooking and refrigeration.” This project has opposition. Cottager Brian Gudmundson argued that the line would “destroy acres of wilderness for the right-of-way and lead to increased pollution in what’s supposed to be a protected area.” He also said it violated “the spirit of the Doer government’s recent ban on commercial logging in provincial parks.”
According to Owen, Manitoba and Ontario signed a deal in July 2008 “to protect a 9,400-square-kilometre swath of wilderness” along the border between the two provinces. Natural Resources Minister Stan Struthers said it was “a significant step towards nominating the area as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.” It is a big area including “Woodland Caribou Provincial Park and the Eagle-Snowshoe Conservation Reserve in Ontario and Atikaki Provincial Park and parts of Nopiming Provincial Park in Manitoba.” Both provinces would have joint management of “mining and other development” in the wilderness area, and First nations in the region were also “to be involved in development proposals.”
Discussion: How does one balance the need for some cottagers to be as far from “civilisation” as possible with the needs of others to have “all the comforts of home”? If the province bans all forestry in provincial parks, which seem to be expanding in number and size, and power lines and forestry are banned in all proposed UNESCO parklands, what is left for aboriginal economic development?
Bill Redekop wrote an interesting article that appeared in the Winnipeg Free Press, 5 March 2007, A4. Evidently, ecotourism had arrived in Hollow Water First Nation. Gabriel Hall, who ran the Animos Ogima Kennel, had 70 sled dogs that were ready to give clients a taste of “wilderness therapy” by connecting them to the fresh air and pristine beauty of Manitoba’s great outdoors. Mushing (dogsledding) initially started as a wilderness skills program and in 2007 had expanded to include over 400 people, the majority of them students. They also learned snowshoeing, hiking, outdoor cooking, and reading animal tracks. When the program started, there wasn’t one person in Hollow Water that ran sled dogs anymore, but now the community boasted twelve mushers who raced competitively at such venues as The Pas Trappers’ Festival and Festival du Voyageur. They were not winning any races, but they were learning. Hall believed the best mushers were from Cross Lake, where “some families have been racing and breeding race dogs for many generations.” However, he felt that Wanipigow had a chance in the future. It was important for him, as he had his own tradition to uphold. He’s a grandson of Frances and Abel Hall of Wabowden. Those familiar with Frontier School Division remember that Frances worked for many years as a nutrition health advisor, counsellor, and later board member. Her husband Abel, was a capable dogsledder, for whom the Abel Hall Memorial Race at Wabowden is named. He’s Gabriel’s inspiration.
Dogs are very important in racing. According to Redekop, “The most common sled dog is a cross between an Alaskan husky and an English or German Pointer.” The huskies are noted for their “strength and hardiness,” the pointers have “deep chests with great lung capacity that gives more energy to their muscles when running.” Hall also had a female half-wolf named Chili, who had produced some excellent sled dogs. His dogs loved sledding and were always ready for a run. The business was in its initial stages. People are expected to pay about $50 each for a half-day, which included a campfire lunch, a real bargain by any standard. Hall was not advertising until more young mushers were trained, but he would take clients on request.
For more information call 1-204-363-7241, if you want a truly unique wilderness experience.
BiPole III and the East Side Option
Journalist Helen Fallding, who had been publicizing the acute problems caused by the lack of running water in the Island Lake District of North-eastern Manitoba, next turned her attention to a lobbying effort by local leaders. Chiefs from Wasagamack, St. Theresa Point, Garden Hill, and Red Sucker Lake flew to Winnipeg in November 2010 for a news conference at the Island Lake Tribal Council office. They wanted to speed up construction of a $1.4-billion all-weather road from Norway House to Island Lake, so that they could get running water in the community. “All plumbing and construction supplies now have to be brought in via an ice road that was open for less than four weeks this year.”
Grand Chief Ron Evans, also at the news conference, said that the province told them it would take thirty years to build the road. However, he estimated that it would take “less than ten years,” if there were federal money provided. So far, none has been promised.
Ten years was a long time to wait for communities that already had a water crisis like the one in Island Lake. Cheaper transportation would lower the cost of bringing in plumbing and construction materials that came in during 2010 on a winter road that was only open for a few weeks.
Indian Affairs should have taken the lead regarding such matters. Instead, it passed on a Free Press inquiry about the road to Infrastructure Canada. This latter government department replied that it had not received “a formal request from the Manitoba government for funding for new all-weather roads for the Island Lake region,” although it promised that such a request would be “examined in the context of available funding.”
NDP MP Niki Ashton, who represented Northern Manitoba in the federal House of Commons, “raised the issue of roads to northeastern Manitoba numerous times” in the House. She questioned the federal government’s annual expenditure “on ice-road maintenance, flying in emergency supplies and medivacs,” rather than making a “long-term commitment to an all-weather road.”
Discussion: At one point in her article, Helen Fallding mentioned that the East Side Road Authority had a week earlier [9 November 2010] made a news release about the “east-west route” from Norway House to the Island Lake District.
Right after making that statement, Fallding added that “A previous proposal for a road all the way up the east side of Lake Winnipeg was rejected because it would have been 168 kilometres longer.” In fact, the “east side/west side” debate over the location of BiPole III had clearly established that the east side route was shorter than the west side route.
So what does the report really say? Here is a direct quotation from the news release.
Of course, the east-west route touted by the East Side Road Authority is going to be “shorter”, because it only goes to Norway House! The calculation (see map of route on page 4 of the news release) is based on the distance to PR 357 “the nearest provincial road”, which is at Norway House! It is still 810 km by road from Norway House to Winnipeg, the main distribution centre of Manitoba.
The route down the east side to PR 304 is naturally longer than the distance to Norway House, but the junction of PR 304 and the route north to Berens River is only 200 km away from Winnipeg.
See why it is wise to check the fine print? The news release was disingenuous at best, but Fallding apparently fell for it. The East Side Road Authority is an arm of the Manitoba government and as such supports the longer west-side route for BiPole III. Do you suppose that could explain why there is this reference to a “shorter” east-west route? You be the judge!
The response to Helen Fallding’s article was not long in coming. In his letter to the Winnipeg Free Press, Chief George Kemp of Berens River First Nation stated,
Chief Kemp corrected the impression left by Helen Falldring that the east-side route was “longer.”
Chief Kemp concluded his letter in this way.
Discussion: Chief Kemp set the record straight. The north-south route down the east side of Lake Winnipeg is the shorter and more economical route. Fallding’s article gave the impression that it was otherwise, based on a superficial reading of the news release by the East Side Road Authority.
Is Chief Kemp a lone wolf on this issue? And, is he right in concluding that the abandonment of the east side option for BiPole III will be so damaging?
Click on the footnote number to return to the text
 It still didn ’t take Simard off the hook, because the job of a journalist is to ask the hard questions of our leaders. That’s one way we keep them honest and on task. Nevertheless, it helped to explain why she may have been reticent. It also provided a reason why it is wise to have more than one journalist cover a story. By comparing the various perspectives, the reader has a better chance to weigh the evidence and make reasoned judgments on events.
 Who did this suggest was to blame for the decision to move the hydro line to the west side?
 Welch reinforced this view by ending the piece, rather incoherently, with the sentence, “As much as the government has a duty to consult, First Nations also have, in the words of the Supreme Court, a responsibility not to frustrate the good-faith attempts of the government to consult.”
 What is ecotourism? Check the Internet to find what communities can do to promote ecotourism and increase local employment opportunities.
 Why do city people need “wilderness therapy”? What is there about city living that motivates people to find the wilderness attractive?
 Wanipigow can be considered part of “Manitoba’s Great Outdoors.” What other economic activities could people introduce or develop to capitalize on Wanipigow’s “local fresh air and pristine beauty”?
 Just establishing a business doesn’t insure its success. What are some things that Gabriel Hall could do to ensure that he gets paying customers? Where is his market? How does he get the word out? How does he make the wilderness experience so fulfilling that people will tell their friends and come back again themselves?