saubleBy Anne Finlay-Stewart

Settling the land claims of First Nations is a slow and complex process, involving parties federal, provincial and municipal governments as well as individuals.

The 1995 lawsuit initiated by the Saugeen Ojibway Nation concerning the eastern boundary of their land at Sauble Beach is now in the mediation phase, prior to litigation.

The organizers of a July 5th public meeting at the Sauble Beach Community Centre promoted the event as "non-political." But it is difficult to grasp what definition of the word they could have imagined.

Did the event concern "the governance or public affairs of an area"? Without question. Attendees sat before a full-screen plea to South Bruce Peninsula mayor John Close to not "give away our beach." They chuckled at jabs at sitting members of council and were encouraged to take councillors' home addresses and emails to "play the broken record ...Don't give our beach away."

Unlike the diverse group playing on the beach on any given summer day, the people at this meeting were almost exclusively white and overwhelmingly over the age of 50. Ratepayers and residential property owners whose families have holidayed or retired in the Sauble area over most of the last century were clearly the "us" implied in "our beach."

Not surprisingly, they are also of the age and status identified by Statistics Canada as most likely to vote.

Was the meeting "motivated by beliefs or actions concerning politics"? It was organized by Friends of Sauble Beach, a fourteen-year old not-for-profit corporation open to anyone "interested in the conservation of the dune eco system" of the beach.

Although president Kathy Strachan alluded to potential environmental degradation if management of the beach were to change hands, most of the hour was devoted to guest speaker Craig Gammie, himself a candidate for South Bruce Peninsula council who has frequently found himself at odds with mayor Close.

Gammie is neither a surveyor nor a lawyer. His power-point presentation, now on the Friends website, included his own interpretation of the publicly accessible documents - 1854 treaty #72 and Charles Rankin's surveys - that have been used to demark the jurisdictions of the Saugeen Ojibway Nation (SON) and Town of South Bruce Peninsula.

The presentation does not mention the amendments to this treaty, nor the perceived violations that form the basis of two claims currently working their way through the legal system.

Mediation between the town and the Saugeen Ojibway Nation, aimed at mitigating lengthy litigation, is what's now underway. Mayor Close has been very clear that nothing can be discussed publicly at this point, but that no decision will be made without a public meeting.

Far from providing research on where negotiations stand or what taxpayers can do about the outcome, as the advertising for this meeting suggested, it further fanned the flames of rumour and distrust with language such as us, them and "giveaway."

Regardless of semantics, this meeting was anything but "non-political." It was misrepresented.

Anne Finlay-Stewart is Community Editor of She can be reached at [email protected]


CopyRight ©2015, ©2016, ©2017 of Hub Content
is held by content creators