OntORA has taken exception to road closures meant to deter the public from equal and lawfull access to public lakes and lands as their inherent rights dictate, the following letter was sent to the MNR regional Director over unfair restrictive measures in the Spanish Arm region.
March 26, 2010
Tom Brason, President
Ontario Outdoors Recreational Alliance
35 Amber St.
Sault Ste Marie, On
Corinne Nelson, RPF
Ministry of Natural Resources
Re: The Spanish Arm
Dear Ms. Nelson,
This letter is in response to your March 2010 reply to a request for information concerning the Spanish Arm public access restrictions.
You say that you considered all the information presented, including submissions from the plan author, local citizens’ committee and the MNR Sudbury District Manager. You also said that you essentially agreed with the results, whereby: “the District Manager’s decision required signage to be placed at the Frog Creek crossing which states “Unauthorized use of this road to access Raphoe, Helene, MacSmith, Little Burwash, Coonie, Barnet, Pilon, Thor and Edna Lakes is prohibited.”
You added that your decision is “consistent with the policy framework and the stated land use intent of this area and “The 2006 amendment to G2048 of the Crown Land Use Policy Atlas”, in addition that your decision “enacts a form of road restrictions (emphasis added) by placing signage under the authority of the Public Lands Act”. You mentioned as well that “the planning team has reflected the policy direction in the 2010 Sudbury Forest Management Plan”. http://crownlanduseatlas.mnr.g…..06_08.html
The Ontario Outdoors Recreational Alliance (OntORA), is dedicated to improving the outdoors experience for all Ontarians, and we speak for ordinary outdoors public across Ontario. After reviewing your comments, we express serious concern with several legal problems associated with possible enactment.
You say you considered submissions from various sources including “local Citizens Committees” (LCCs) which, contrary to its title, are made up almost entirely of special interest groups, even though this involves publicly owned lands and resources. The only participants in this matter were staff from your office and these special interest groups who are actually secondary stakeholders. In reality, the public who own these resources are the primary stakeholders and are largely unrepresented. LCCs are encouraged to reach decisions, according to your documents, using a bartering system with an issue resolution process which the local MNR District Manager can override. Allowing these groups to displace members of the public on such “public consultation committees” and barter over assets that don’t belong to them, is inherently wrong.
- Your Ministry, by allowing some of its staff to take advantage of their positions to own or have an interest in lucrative business ventures on Crown land, has added another element involving conflict of interest since these entrepreneurs may be financial beneficiaries of public access restrictions. Therefore, members of your staff may be allied with, or a member of, one of the primary special interest groups involved here, and of course, Public Lands Act Section 39 frowns on this practice.
- Crown Land Use Atlas G2048, which you refer to, states “this amendment is to provide for restrictions to public motorized use of (new) roads in areas known to contain natural resource values (remoteness or fish & wildlife populations) that are sensitive to pressure”. Not only are successful, generations old methods of managing our fish and wildlife ignored but you subscribe to a tactic outlined in this working manual “Management Guidelines for Forestry and Resource-Based Tourism” http://www.mnr.gov.on.ca/STEL0…..179112.pdf
- Coincidentally it says to tell the public the reasons for road closures is to protect the resources. (pg 18 in version 01, 2001). Our resources are a sensitive issue amongst Ontarians and using them in such a manner is disgraceful. This working manual is just one example of how the MNR is discriminating against ordinary non-tourist citizens by severely limiting public access for the benefit of the remote tourism industry.
- That manual was created by the MNR and members of the remote-based outfitting community with no public knowledge or input, you offered advice on how to tear up public funded roads and bridges, word signs to make them easier to enforce, even offering land use permits to tourism operators for strategic points on roads as an added measure of insurance. All with the intent of deterring legal public access to their own lands and resources.
The above mentioned manual which was created without the public’s knowledge or involvement by the MNR and a group intended to gain financially from its content was intended to be the cornerstone for future plans involving our public assets. The MNR states “These guidelines summarise those management options and practices to be considered when developing operational prescriptions in forest management plans…intended to address resource-based tourism interests or values” and also they “must be considered when writing forest management plans”. The information afforded by this and other similar manuscripts dictates that all FMAs must be regarded as suspicious documents, inasmuch as the basis for their creation without crucial public input is therefore flawed and of little real legal value.
- Your “Resource-Based Tourism Policy” G2048, and other such documents, which suggest that the reasons for the public access restrictions are generated by our sensitive resources such as fish and moose populations, also further states “(public access restrictions) is proposed in order to protect a limited number of remote Wilderness areas that remain inaccessible by road…These areas are highly valued by present users.” (Emphasis added). Do squatter’s rights displace public rights? This is no reason to discriminate against the public and again you’ve shown that your intent is to ultimately prevent equal and legal public access.
- A high percentage of the operations benefitting from these discriminatory access restrictions are foreign owned with the profits leaving the country and at least 85% of the clientele being given exclusive use of our resources at the expense of the rights of Ontarians, are also non-Ontarians.
The MNR not only has conceded that the public does have the right to access and enjoy these lakes on public lands but Public Lands Act section 3 with its accompanying “Shorelines Reservations for Recreation and Access Policy” was drawn up by our lawmakers as a guarantee with the intent …“to provide for adequate sustained access and recreational opportunities for present and future generations of Ontarians”.
This Policy says that in the future at least 25% of the shorelines will always be retained (beyond our present ability to access the whole lake) for public access and recreational opportunities and neither disposition which includes land use permits nor MNR Stewardship Agreements (RSA) will interfere with that right.
These rights are in existence today and are not being respected by the MNR.
Your office is saying that an LUP large enough for a cabin on a huge lake sometimes 40 km long entitles the holder of the said LUP the opportunity for an MNR enforced 3km or larger buffer zone around the whole lake with the intent to impede public access to the point of successfully preventing them from enjoying the lakes, as they have a right to do.
You are also stating that LUPs entitle the holder to enter into an RSA, part of which is confidential even though it pertains to public assets and can be used as a tool to detrimentally affect public rights and the law of Ontario.
- The RSA process sacrifices our rights and sovereignty as Canadians by providing citizens from other nations the power and ability to dictate over citizens of this province and create the equivalent to private game farms on Canadian soil. The MNR then acting as wardens to prevent us from trespassing on our own land.
The Free Use Policy under “Transient Activities” (3.4.2) states how the public has the right to travel about on public lands with various modes of transportation with the only exception (3.4.5) to using roads being if they are under occupational LUPs but in the next paragraph (3.4.6) the lawmakers caution the MNR against issuing occupational LUPs if they will detrimentally affect the public’s ability to access tracts of public lands.
Again we see how the lawmakers intended allowing the public to access and enjoy their lands and lakes and that LUPs will not be used as a tool for the sole purpose of preventing lawful public access.
The comment about your decision “to enact a form of road restriction” leaves us wondering what you mean by the term “form of” and OntORA would appreciate an explanation.
Public Lands Act Part II, sec 48 to 55(1) governs roads on public lands and like all other Acts or parts thereof governing roads it begins with a preamble (s.48) describing the roads under its jurisdiction. This is important so that the correct Act may be applied to the proper road and no important details, such as safety concerns, will be left out.http://www.e-laws.gov.on.ca/ht…..0p43_e.htm
The roads here are not included in this section and PLA s.49 states that unless otherwise stated in this Act, the public has the right of passage on all roads on public lands.
You have been attempting to discourage legal public access to public lands by governing public vehicular travel on these roads so we are certain there is a difference between these roads and the surrounding public lands which you’ve conceded we can access and enjoy.
The Ministry under your jurisdiction erects signs restricting public use of roads by saying only “under the authority of Public Lands Act”, and after further questioning, the MNR usually say that it’s PLA s.28. We’ve discovered that Sec. 28 PLA has nothing to do with roads, since it does not refer to governing any category of road. Therefore, how could an officer apply it to a specific road.
Checking the definition of “posted” in the “Free Use Policy” we learn that it means the posting of signs under PLA s.28 governing usages of public lands…not roads on public lands.
Not only, in our opinion, is the MNR closing roads with signs erected without the proper authority but you are enforcing road closures with the Fish & Wildlife Conservation Act 10.1(a) contrary to PLA s.49 and saying that these roads are a premises with you as the occupier of said premises. Using an Act in a manner not intended by the lawmakers.
Several alleged breaches to the law have been pointed out with the distinct possibility that some are being knowingly carried out under a central direction. Any one of these instances is serious enough to force the removal of all artificial barriers, including signs, gates or physical obstructions on roads meant to deter equal and lawful public access. Liability isn’t a factor here as is often used as an excuse since PLA s.50 states the Crown isn’t liable on roads on Crown Land.
OntORA is requesting that due to the many obviously questionable circumstances surrounding the closing of the above mentioned roads to discourage legal and equal public access, that all these barriers be removed immediately with sufficient public notification.
If the law is being abused you cannot allow it to continue, being a public servant in a position of responsibility you must ensure that legally satisfactory solutions are enacted immediately.
Accountability is paramount, now that your attention has been drawn to these facts OntORA and the citizens of this province respectfully expect your attention will be in their best interest.