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Canadian Publications Agreement No. 40727545

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Selwyn council hears wild rice concerns

 

September 29, 2017

 

BY TERRY GILLIS

 

In spite of an unusually thin agenda, all the seats in Selwyn’s council chambers were occupied Tuesday night.

Council was also somewhat thinned out as Councillor Herron was not in attendance and Mayor Smith left after about twenty minutes to attend another obligation.

The issue that approximately thirty people attended the meeting for was not on the agenda, but was included after the document was sent out: wild rice.

Angela Chittick, Manager of Community & Corporate Services/Clerk told Council and attendees that beginning Friday afternoon and continuing throughout the weekend, Selwyn staff received a number of letters from shoreline property owners on and around Pigeon Lake concerned about wild rice harvesting.

To accommodate the property owners, staff added the wild rice harvesting correspondences under ‘New Business’ and drafted a resolution for Council’s consideration. The resolution stated that a letter be sent to the federal government working with the First Nations Working Committee working on a management plan for wild rice harvesting requesting, on behalf of the people, to advance their concerns about the mechanical harvesting of wild rice and that it is disturbing their enjoyment of their property. Additionally, the resolution stated that MP Maryam Monsef be requested to advance this on behalf of residents and a copy be sent to neighbouring townships.

Councillor Ballantyne said that the issue of wild rice growth and commercial harvesting is not new to her. She has been dealing with it for about ten years.

Ballantyne said that, “as it stands right now, First Nations people seem to hold all the power and the shoreline property owners have a serious issue affecting property values and quality of life.”

“The federal government needs to see the repercussions associated with their legislation for all Canadians concerned, therefore, I whole-heartedly support this motion,” Ballantyne said.

Before taking the position of Chair, Deputy Mayor Senis told the group of property owners that she was “very sorry that we’re here again dealing with this issue after so many years of not being resolved.”

“Many residents feel that our township should have the ability to affect change. If it is an issue under our jurisdiction, we do act quickly to find a solution. However, as Donna has said and as our motion states, this issue, with regards to wild rice growth and commercial harvesting and seeding is under the umbrella of the federal government,” Senis said.

Deputy Mayor Senis said that, “both Parks Canada and our MP seemed to have dropped the ball quite badly because this has gone on for far too  many years.”

“I support the motion today as well and I believe each individual in this room should send an email to your MP and to Trent Severn Waterway to let them know how you’re affected by this. We will send our motion and it’ll come from our township. But I believe, in order for them to understand the magnitude of what’s happening on Pigeon Lake, Chemong Lake and Buckhorn Lake will only be felt if they receive emails from you. I support this motion whole-heartedly,” Senis commented.

Councillor Locke said she echoed what Sherry and Donna said and that, “it’s a long-standing issue and it’s really impacting your enjoyment and value of your homes. I’m really hoping that our MP and Trent Severn Waterway and Parks Canada will seriously look at this issue because I’m sure that it’s not just here. I hope we can get to the bottom of this.”

Councillor Locke also said she supported the motion.

Mayor Smith said she thought that the point is a good one, “that your personal stories are important about how this affects you.” She told the property owners that she thought the appropriate level of government that has any authority is the federal government.

Councillor Ballantyne called for a recorded vote which resulted in a unanimous vote in support of sending a letter requesting that MP Monsef  advance the property owners concerns regarding wild rice growth and mechanical harvesting on behalf of residents to the Working Committee and the federal government.

Mayor Smith opened the floor to questions and Pigeon Lake resident Gary White asked to have seeding added to the motion. He said “it is very important to get rid of it.”

Mayor Smith replied that the immediate meeting was to discuss mechanical harvesting and the noise issue.

Another Pigeon Lake property owner, identified only as Mr. Wood, told Council that he had received a number of emails from people complaining that they were unable to attend the meeting and unable to speak their minds so an email/petition was crafted that basically said, “we need your help to save Pigeon Lake from becoming a permanent commercial rice farm. The intentional seeding and commercial harvesting of rice in public waters is causing unbearable condition [sic] which is impeding the waterway, affecting our quality of life and the value of our homes “

Mr. Wood told Council that within twenty-four hours he received over eighty signatures. He provided the Clerk with a copy of the petition for the public record.

Mr. Wood also requested that “in order to show the seriousness of this issue that the township should go out beyond their scope and say enough is enough and just show, you as a township, are as concerned about this as we are. And I would like to propose that we consider the closing down of the boat ramp on September 1  part through the harvesting season and then open it again.”

Mr. Wood said that this would send “a big message that the township of Selwyn is not in favour of this kind of activity“

Deputy Mayor Senis, asked that a copy of the petition be included with their motion.

Councillor Ballantyne made the motion to support the recommended resolution and Deputy Mayor Senis seconded it.