County councillors nix funding First Nations, Metis role in archaeological plan
Ramara Deputy Mayor John O’Donnell
By Kate Harries AWARE News Network
Simcoe County councillors voted last week not to provide funding to facilitate participation by First Nations and Metis in an archaeological management plan.
The project, being undertaken by Archaeological Services Inc., a well-respected Toronto consulting firm, is aimed at guiding future development in the county as well as providing a protocol for future engagement with indigenous communities.
“Is this going to slow down development?” asked Ramara Deputy Mayor John O’Donnell.
“Hopefully the opposite,” replied Debbie Korolnek, the county’s manager of engineering, planning and environment.
But O’Donnell was dissatisfied, noting that the staff report on the plan proposes to provide “capacity funding” on a case-by-case basis to indigenous communities, two of which requested it when approached.
“This would not be intended to set a policy or standard for all projects and initiatives going forward, but it will facilitate meaningful participation in the development of a consultation protocol, and assist in completing this important study,” the report to the February 13 2018 meeting states.
“I totally object,” O’Donnell said, referring to a 2016 controversy in which county council insisted that the Metis Nation of Ontario come to the table “by their own means.”
Warden Gerry Marshall supported O’Donnell. He said he’s “passionate” about consultation, but he believes it is up to the federal and provincial governments to provide capacity for Metis and First Nations to consult.
Korolek pointed out that it’s in the county’s interest to get indigenous communities involved. “The risk with not providing capacity funding is that they won’t come to the table and we will have completed an archaeological master plan without consultation.” And, she added, “Simcoe County is Ground Zero for First Nations, let’s not forget our geography here.”
The staff report points to other situations where municipalities have provide funding to indigenous communities.
“We need to invite, invite, invite, engage, engage, engage,” Marshall said. ““Our job is to make sure we extend the invitation to consult. It is not our job to fund.” He suggested a motion be put forward to remove the funding from the staff-drafted recommendation.
O’Donnell obliged, seconded by Wasaga Beach Deputy Mayor Nina Bifolchi. Oro-Medonte Mayor Harry Hughes spoke in support of Marshall’s position.
Innisfil Deputy Mayor Lynn Dollin, who also heads the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, doubted the wisdom of removing funding. “I see this as spending a little bit of money now to save a whole lot of headache and money in the future,” she said.
But Ramara Mayor Basil Clarke questioned whether the equation does not work both ways. “They would save money by showing up and not fighting us after,” he said. He also suggested that providing funding could be viewed as “buying support,’ which he opposes.
Springwater Mayor Bill French expressed concern about the direction council was moving in. “Are we giving lip service to duty to consult or are we consulting?” he asked. “I don’t think we are treating them as nations,” he added. “They’re not just stakeholders, they’re rights holders.”
Midland Mayor Gord MacKay said he did not believe indigenous communities differentiate between levels of government. “We’re dealing nation to nation here,” he reminded councillors. “When you invite someone to your house, you tend to set the table,” he added, urging that the county “take the first step” and avoid “these initial insults that stay forever.”
But a majority of county councillors voted in committee of the whole for the archaeological plan with capacity funding removed. It was not a recorded vote. Ratification is required at the next council meeting on March 13.
The following are the indigenous groups identified with a “suspected interest” in Simcoe County: Alderville First Nation, Beausoleil First Nation, Chippewas of Georgina Island First Nation, Chippewas of Nawash Unceded First Nation and the Saugeen First Nation, Chippewas of Rama First Nation, Curve Lake First Nation, Hiawatha First Nation, Huron-Wendat Nation, Métis Nation of Ontario, Mississaugas of New Credit First Nation, Mississaugas of Scugog Island First Nation, Moose Deer Point First Nation, Wahta Mohawks First Nation