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Christmas Mini Banner Saugeen Shores

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SON 560On February 6, Chiefs and Councils of Saugeen Ojibway Nation (SON) issued the following statement:

After many letters and meetings, a Saugeen Shores landowner has received a Stop Work Order from the Ontario Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport.

Construction on a Clarendon Street residence has stopped for the time being, until the Saugeen Ojibway Nation’s concerns about the cultural and historical significance of the site can be properly addressed.

Prior to construction, the land was a known archaeological site that hosts an Anishnaabe (Ojibway) ancestral burial ground. The Saugeen Ojibway Nation was aware of the presence of burials on the vacant property, as evidenced by historical record and oral tradition.

Therefore, in August of 2017 when staff noticed trees being cleared from the property, SON asked the Town of Saugeen Shores if any building permits had been issued or if the land had been purchased. At this time, the Town was notified that burials exist on the property and archaeological investigation would be required to find the exact location of the burials without disturbing the site. The investigation would also recommend strategies to avoid any disturbance of significant sites on the property. The Bruce County planning staff were also notified of the burials and informed that SON should be alerted if an application related to the property came through their department. In September of 2017 SON was informed that neither the Town nor Bruce County knew of an application for a building permit or an application to build.

In November of 2017, SON staff drove by the property and saw it had been cleared of trees and construction of a foundation had started. SON contacted the Town and restated their position about the burials, requesting immediate follow up due to the urgency of the situation. Work stopped at this time and a meeting was set with the landowner, SON reps (Chiefs and technical staff), Town officials and the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport (MTCS). At this meeting, SON was informed that the property was zoned back in 1978 when archeological assessments were not required. At this time, the Town of Saugeen Shores does not require archaeological assessments for building permits.

All parties present at this meeting agreed that a process needed to be put in place before any further work could happen on the site, regardless of policy loop holes. SON created a plan supported by MTCS, drafted a letter and sent it to both the Town and landowner, with no response provided by either. Another letter was sent in December of 2017 from MTCS reiterating SON’s position and that the Town and landowner should agree to a process. This letter also received no response.

On December 20, 2017, SON staff noticed construction trucks on site and that workers were pouring the footings and walls for a foundation, despite every reasonable effort to reach an agreement on a process to proceed. At this time, SON sent a Cease and Desist Order to the landowner, stating that if work did not stop immediately, they would take the necessary action to protect the site until a process was in place. This letter received no response. MTCS reached out to the Town and landowner again and told them work should stop until it was confirmed whether burials had been disturbed. They informed the landowner, if they didn’t comply, the MTCS would react accordingly.

Work temporarily stopped. SON was already set to occupy the site due to of the lack of correspondence and continuation of work.

On January 17, 2018, SON spoke with MTCS and delivered a notice that by the end of day, SON leadership and community members would be building a sacred fire and occupying the site. SON was then advised by MTCS that a Stop Work Order was being signed by the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport, Eleanor McMahon.

Since the Stop Work Order was issued, all construction has stopped on the site. SON staff, along with the MTCS and Ontario Heritage Trust, are currently working on a plan for a thorough archaeological investigation of the site.

In a emailed response February 6, Town of Saugeen Shores CAO David Smith said, “The Town correctly and legally issued the building permit with no knowledge that the property in question may have heritage value. The site is not a designated Heritage site.”

He went onto say that the Town has fully cooperated with the Ministry and SON when the issue was raised, including meeting with the Ministry, SON and the property owner.

“We have had legal advice throughout this process and have shared elements of this with all parties. The Minister’s Order is an option that the Town does not have,” Smith said, adding that he hopes the issue between the land owner and SON is resolved.

“We would encourage the Minister to require all significant Heritage Sites to be formally registered at the Land Registry Office so all parties, including the property owner, are aware,” he concluded.

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