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DECEMBER 27, 2009

Freeze-up Watch: Lake Temagami still open

Progress stalled on warmer temperatures.

  SATELLITE IMAGE:   December 27

DECEMBER 23, 2009

My Christmas Rant on Gutting MNR

By Gaye Smith

Since the MNR withdrew support for our Temagami Stewardship Council in 2006, I have used every opportunity (and there have been many) to chew on the MNR’s ass. Unfortunately there comes a point when it is like harassing Toronto Maple Leaf fans. Their situation is so pitiful that you have to feel sorry for them. Unlike the Leafs, it is going to take more than a 5-year plan to return the MNR to the venerable standing that it once commanded.

Problems with the MNR are not all the fault of their incompetent and archaic management style, although Harold Ballard would be proud of them. With all the political hoopla in the past number of decades over the cost of health care and education, the politicians in Toronto found an area where they could trim spending and no one would notice. That is because the real work of the MNR is not conducted in Toronto. I don’t think we can blame Mike Harris for this one, as the gutting of the MNR was underway before he was elected. He just hurried the process.

When the McGuinty Liberals were elected I naively thought the government might have taken steps to rectify things. They began well by choosing a minister who knew something about natural resources and came from Northern Ontario. But then they saddled him with Native Affairs and the Caledonia crisis and nothing was accomplished. With a new election came a new Minister of Natural Resources. By all accounts an excellent politician, but in reality a figurehead who knows nothing about hunting or fishing. She is there to put a smiling face on a ministry that continues to be gutted.

As citizens of Ontario, we have all accepted drastic reductions in MNR service. These have led to cuts in the number of conservation officers. Conservation officers have been told to stay at their desks and respond only to calls from tip lines. They are not provided with gas to run their trucks and hold bake sales for gas money. MNR offices are locked to the public they are supposed to be serving. Drastic reductions in the number of biologists in MNR area offices have led to reductions in the quantity and quality of scientific fisheries, forestry and wildlife studies conducted to aid in the proper management of our forests, fish and wildlife.

Ironically at the same time the Liberal-directed MNR destroyed two of the most viable stewardship councils in Ontario, on Lake Nipissing and Lake Temagami, along with all the fisheries and wildlife research they were conducting.

As hunters and fishermen look at what we have accepted. A moose management policy, based on a lack of creditable scientific data, that was already decided before public opinion was gathered (contempt for public involvement). Management decisions made contrary to existing management policy. A wasteful, knee-jerk, issuing of “kill” permits for valuable elk without an elk management plan in place. A bear-hunt regulation based on political expediency rather than good science. The collapse of the sports fishery in Georgian Bay, Lake Huron and Lake Ontario. Overly restrictive walleye and brook trout regulations for Zone 11 not based on science or the MNR’s own toolkits.

Many of us feel that by buying a membership in Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters we are doing something to support hunting and fishing in Ontario. Other than a few letters, OFAH has done nothing to stand up against the gutting of the MNR or the questionable MNR management practices. The Ontario Outdoor Recreational Alliance, or OntORA, is an example of citizens in Northern Ontario who have had enough of questionable land-use management policy, and have banded together to fight for credible public involvement in Crown lands management.

It is time to hold the politicians accountable for their lack of support for our natural resources. It is time to hold the MNR accountable for their poor management policies, something that even Ontario’s Ombudsman has been too faint-hearted to tackle. It is time for all of us to be more politically active and demand that our natural resources be preserved, protected, restored and improved so that they will still be here for our grandchildren.

Gaye Smith is the former chair of the Temagami Stewardship Council.

DECEMBER 23, 2009

Freeze-up Watch: Down to the deep three

  SATELLITE IMAGE:   December 23

DECEMBER 21, 2009

Freeze-up Watch: Only deepest waters open

  SATELLITE IMAGE:   December 21 

DECEMBER 17, 2009

Freeze-up Watch: Ice to the landing

  PHOTOS FROM THE ICE:   December 17  

DECEMBER 17, 2009

Freeze-up Watch: Progress today

  SATELLITE IMAGE:   December 17 

DECEMBER 15, 2009

Freeze-up Watch: Most water to north frozen over

  SATELLITE IMAGE:   December 15

DECEMBER 14, 2009   7:30 p.m.                                                       UPDATED: DEC 15

Ayotte affirmed chief as elders dismiss election appeals

Roxane Ayotte and John McKenzie are the new chief and second chief, respectively, of the Temagami First Nation as the three-member Council of Elders dismisses two election appeals.

This fulfills the conditions of the Federal Court decision of June that put in place Gary Potts as a caretaker chief with limited powers.

The Elders written decision says that neither of the issues appealed had an impact on the results of the election on July 30. Ayotte and McKenzie won decisively.

The decision says the chiefs will take office after Janaury 4 and after meeting with the current caretaking Chief and Council under Gary Potts.

It is a long-standing TFN custom that elected officials take office immediately upon being elected. The constitution only gives the Council of Elders the power to decide election appeals.

The community has been through a political roller coaster for 18 months in the aftermath of the close election put Potts in office in June, 2008. However, election appeals were ignored, and a majority of the community protested. Potts chose sides, ignoring the election irregularities, and took his opposition to court. The judge overturned Potts election and ordered a new one. The legal costs hurt the 635-member First Nation.

"I ran three times and won," says Ayotte. "It couldn't go any other way."

She acknowledges that she and council have a lot of work ahead after the political turmoil and the court decision that limited the council's ability to govern, pending the election completion. "We've been standing still for the past year."

  RELATED STORY:  Bear Island under shadow over unresolved election

DECEMBER 11, 2009

Freeze-up on small- and mid-sized lakes

  SATELLITE IMAGE:   December 11  

DECEMBER 10, 2009

Book Review: Ontario's Old-Growth Forests

It is not often that a book comes along that reveals the uniqueness of Temagami and deepens our understanding of it.

This is a must-have for the Temagami bookshelf.


Ontario's Old-Growth Forests: A Guidebook Complete with History, Ecology, and Maps   

DECEMBER 7, 2009

Bear Island under a shadow over unresolved election

Angry Temagami First Nation constituents point fingers at the Council of Elders over an unresolved election that keeps in office a court-shackled chief.

In August the Council of Elders, the final election arbiter, received two appeals of the July 30 election for first and second chief.  It has not ruled on them.

“It’s 130 days and counting!” says TFN member Victoria McKenzie, referring to the August 29 deadline to file an appeal. Frustration is widespread in community.

In June, after a year of community turmoil and protests, the Federal Court of Canada ruled that the election on June 12, 2008 of Gary Potts was invalid and ordered the July 30 special election. Roxane Ayotte won a landslide victory over Potts.

The next day Potts turned over the keys to Ayotte (his niece), and her second chief John McKenzie (Victoria’s brother). The appeals put the election result in questionAyotte stepped aside, as the court ruling required, and Potts and his second chief, Peter McKenzie (John’s cousin), resumed their roles as the court-ordered caretakers (called by opponents the “Takers Council”) on August 19.  

The judge limited the caretakers’ powers to small decisions until the resolution of the election, so band government has been handicapped. Settlement of the land claim remains sidelined.

Are appeals valid?

One appeal objected to an Ayotte lawn sign that referred to her re-election. Darcy Becker, the appellant, believed that she was putting herself forward as previously elected when the judge had invalidated her election. The sign was quickly corrected during the election after objection by Potts, citing a violation of the Hughes decision. Potts did not further object nor appeal to Hughes.

Electoral officer Catherine Mathias McDonald (Potts’ niece), a lawyer, in her statement of fact to the Council of Elders said this appeal “could be determined by the Federal Court.”

With less than 200 voters in the community, most had participated in recent elections so they knew the results had been overturned in a court decision. It seems unlikely any would have changed their vote if they saw the single lawn sign referencing one of these past reversed elections. After all, that was why they were voting again.

Becker was charged by police with theft of a ballot box at one of those elections.

The other appeal, which came from Arden Moore Sr, objected that on election day McDonald told voters that either an X or a checkmark would be acceptable on the ballot. The constitution calls for a cross. The electoral officer reported that two ballots were spoiled, and a third unclear ballot was decided jointly with scrutineers from all candidates. The rest were clearly marked and unequivocal.

The constitution empowers the Elders Council if there is an issue that “might have affected the result of the election.” The winners prevailed by a margin of over 35 votes each.

McDonald wrote: “I do not believe the results of the election were affected by the method in which each voter marked their ballots.”

Conflict of interest

There are also allegations that two of the elders are in conflict of interest. Council elder Kim Montroy is the partner of appellant Moore. She is also the chief financial officer of the band and its acting band manager. She will rule on her boss.

Elder June Twain is the mother of second chief candidate Peter McKenzie.

The third elder is Mary Katt. They were appointed by the Potts Council.

The Council of Elders’ sole purpose is to rule on election appeals. The Constitution does not define eligibility, but the community Elders Club uses 50 years of age for membership and that is the only criteria used. The Constitution also does not set a council size, list any rules on rendering decisions or provide a deadline. It has only met once before and that was in July, 2003. Then, it ruled within a week.

“This council could have issued it’s opinion in one day,” says Ayotte.

The Council’s members have found themselves on the receiving end of community anger. They requested help from Justice Roger Hughes, who presided over the court decision, on October 29. It took a month for Justice Leonard Mandamin, an aboriginal federal judge who had been to the island for mediation before the election, to return at Hughes’ request.  He met in closed session with the Council and in an open meeting with all community elders.

Non-Council elders protested the delay in a decision and the conflict-of-interest of Montroy and Twain. Mandamin told the group that the fact of and the appearance of conflict were the same. As he wrote after the meeting to Justice Hughes, he impressed upon the elders “the importance of making decisions fairly, without bias or the appearance of bias.” It remains unclear if the members of the Council will heed the advice they sought.

This past week the Council announced that its decision will be mailed to community members by December 8. However, on December 6 it notified Ayotte that it was postponing the announcement until a December 14 community dinner, which it would organize.

“This community is hungry for a decision, not a dinner,” says Ayotte.


Three Elections, Two Chiefs, One Quagmire

Court date set

Indian Affairs' contradicts policy

First Nation chief and council impeached

TFN chief and council stripped of authority

First Nation votes to oust Chief Potts

Potts council beleaguered

Court hearing on Potts' impeachment

Mediation falls flat

Respect their dignity

Last chance at mediation

First nation mediation commiseration

Court orders new election at First Nation

Court sets rules for new election of chiefs

TFN election day July 30

Ayotte elected chief of TFN

Potts out, Ayotte in


DECEMBER 4, 2009

Pressure mounts to bridge heart of Sturgeon River

The forest industry wants to build a bridge through the heart of the Sturgeon River Park and it wants to do it by breaking the rules. FULL STORY


DECEMBER 2, 2009

Former PM to speak at Temagami Community Foundation dinner

Former prime minister John Turner will be the guest speaker at a Temagami Community Foundation dinner this spring.

Turner was a camper at Camp Temagami. The fundraiser will be held in Toronto. Time and location to be announced.

  YOUTUBE VIDEO:   Temagami Community Foundation



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