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Elliot Lake site culturally significant for Serpent River First Nation

Tuesday, June 11, 2013   by: Staff




First Nation duty to consult before the courts

SERPENT RIVER FIRST NATION ( June 11, 2013) - Serpent River First Nation have pressed talks with the City of Elliot Lake and the province of Ontario, after initiating a judicial review court action in May 2012.

The First Nation is seeking to overturn a decision by the City, which took unilateral action on a site of cultural significance located on Spine Road in Elliot Lake.

The First Nation has asserted that these actions were taken without properly ensuring archaeological fieldwork was formally completed.

The central legal issue facing the parties is whether the City of Elliot Lake or the province had a duty to consult Serpent River First Nation over a proposed subdivision development near the city’s hospital.

The City approved this development in December 13, 2010 but failed to consult this First Nation on issues that directly impact them.

Serpent River First Nation has always maintained that the area in question contains a high degree of cultural value to the First Nation, as it is a location historically inhabited by their people; both pre and post contact.

Initially, the First Nation was not overly concerned with the proposed development.

The community relied on the application of the rule-of-law which governs the ‘duty to consult and accommodate’.

This did not happen.

An archeologist hired by the developer determined features on the land were characteristic of mounds, with potential archeological values.

The developer notified the First Nation of this finding.

The problem was, the archeological report’s findings were highly questionable and the process was conducted in a hasty fashion without a clear objective.

This same report’s findings remain at issue for the province as they have sought additional information from the archaeologist.

After learning of these mounds from the same archaeologist, the City declared that the mounds had a ‘potential’ of containing a burial site and confined their findings to a single lot, stating that there were no other potential values on any other part of the proposed development.

After this conclusion, the City approved the draft plan subdivision. In an unusual move, the City reached this decision behind closed doors and without input from the First Nation.

Later, the City failed to notify the First Nation of their decision.

The City is the current owner of the segregated lot, however the First Nation maintains that this does not resolve a long list of concerns that they expect to assert in a fair and transparent judicial process.

During the months that culminated within this dispute, the City never approached the First Nation.

Despite First Nation attempts to discuss the matter, declaring that they wished to resolve outstanding questions about the process, it remains undisputed that they were not consulted as required by Canada’s Constitution.

Two and a half years after this ill-fated development was approved by the City, it remains subject to two court challenges by the First Nation.

It was recently revealed to the City and the First Nation that the archaeologist’s work was never completed and was not in compliance with Ontario’s standards that govern the work of archeologists.

The First Nation maintains that as the party that approved of the project, the City has the responsibility to exercise all aspects of due diligence within law and the regulations that guide the full and fair application of the duty to consult and accommodate First Nation interests.

This did not occur.

It is also now revealed the City did not ensure it had a complete archaeological report in hand when making its decision that there was potential archeological values located of that site.

In fact, the archaeological fieldwork remains incomplete, with the province seeking additional information from the archaeologist.

The First Nation insists it is the duty of the City, as the approver, to ensure that their decisions are based on accurate and sound information.

The First Nation is dismayed about the time, money and impact on community relations that have been disregarded as a result of a legal duty being side-stepped, first within the City’s decision-making process and now by refusing to acknowledge their legal errors.

“Serpent River First Nation only expects to be granted what is due – a fair approach to consultation. The lack of accommodating our interests in this process has proven to be an unnecessary infringement against our community. What strikes deeply here for us is the lack of respect and understanding for our customs and history, as well as a disregard for constitutionally protected Aboriginal and treaty rights. Perhaps its time to apply the full extent of the law – our requests have certainly not been heard,” says Chief Isadore Day [shown in file photo] of Serpent River First Nation.

Talks between the province, the City, the First Nation are expected to resume in the near future.

If the matter cannot be settled, the First Nation’s application to overturn the City’s decision will be heard in the fall of 2013.

The First Nation is not only seeking to reconcile losses, it intends to have Ontario take this opportunity to clean up its policies relating to issues surrounding overlapping First Nation jurisdictional concerns.


Note: Comments that appear on the site are not the opinion of If you see an abusive post, please click the link beside the post to report it.
Vindicator 6/11/2013 5:27:53 PM Report

According to Indian claims, their population must have been over 50 million people at one time and they trekked over every square foot of North America.

Anyone with large parcels of land should plow it over a few times before going for development.
summersky44 6/11/2013 8:14:40 PM Report

@ Vindicator, all I have to say is "Karma"
Y.B.P.C. 6/11/2013 8:56:40 PM Report

A very one-sided report. I've heard from a very reliable source that proper steps were taken on the archaeological fieldwork to the level required. There were also ample opportunities provided for discussion.

When meetings are blown off time and time again one can't turn around and suggest that decisions were made without the proper consultation. Show up for a meeting!!!!
Timbob 6/11/2013 9:01:10 PM Report

I'd consult with them all right.

I'd tell them to get lost and make sure they don't get in the way of the bulldozer.
Nunavut 6/12/2013 7:52:38 AM Report

I lived in Elliot Lake from 1960 to 1990 and know this (Flat Rock as it is called by locals) area quite well and walking trails that bisect this. Not once in 30 years did any native discussion or concern occur around this city parcel of land. Matter of fact in the 80's when a water treatment plant went up 100 yards away from this area, there was not a peep from Serpent River Band.
.........only now when land was being considered for water front property does issue come up. This is a farce.

EL17 6/12/2013 12:22:09 PM Report

Funny how the other issues went away when they were given 50% of the waterfront profits ( earlier this week). Cultural significance has a price tag I guess.

Anyone really interested, read the actual wording of the Robinson-Huron treaty that they CLAIM uphold these rights. It's a good read.
straightshooter 6/13/2013 7:50:54 AM Report

Again, inappropriate, racist comments, laced with malice and hatred, made by ignorant racist people.

Hard to believe so much of it exists in this area. Its almost like we are living in the southern US in the 1950's.

Perhaps some of you can open up and write a piece for this website, and tell us how you really feel?

What drives, or angers you, to make such comments?
Where did you, and how did you, become a blatant racist?
At what point in your life did you all of a sudden know you hated someone because of their race or skin colour?

There are many who would like to know how a seemingly intelligent person gets to have such negative prejudice beliefs, or hold such ignorant opinions?

Please take a little time out of your day, and tell the world exactly why you think the way you do about a certain race of people?
It will, no doubt, be an interesting, and entertaining read.

ps...I hope my spelling and grammar are sufficiently correct to satisfy the scrutiny of the the grammar police. LOL
Vindicator 6/13/2013 7:28:01 PM Report

@straightshooter, perhaps you could enlighten us as to where you got your degree in psychology and made you the expert in discerning who is or is not a racist.

Perhaps if you became more enlightened, you would recognize that many of us have opinions that do not necessarily agree with the topic of discussion, that does not make one a racist, bigot or any other title people of your ilk like to attach to people who don't agree with your shallow thought process.

That is not to say there are no racists or bigots here since they exist in every single country in the world, no exceptions.

What you are possibly misinterpreting is frustration. People have heard the Indian story for so long and they are tired of it because they do nothing to help themselves. Not all Indians, but the majority.

People work hard for their money, many barely make ends meet, but they are doing honest work to support themselves and their families. Most have no benefits of any kind and must pay for dental and other expenses out of their own pockets. How can you blame them for being p1ssed off at people who get everything handed to them?

Maybe if the Indians reached out by doing something positive instead of closing highways and preventing working people from earning a living, they might get some sympathy. Until then, frustration levels will continue to increase.

So get off your high horse and ditch the racist monologue.
Note: Comments that appear on the site are not the opinion of If you see an abusive post, please click the link beside the post to report it.
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