This article appeared in the Timmins Dailey Press (letters to the editor)
In Northern Ontario in recent years there has been a public outcry concerning public access to crown land.
Basically the citizens of Northern Ontario are concerned they are losing traditional access to much of Ontario's publicly-owned back country because of the MNR's efforts to create remote-based tourism.
The Ontario Outdoors Recreational Alliance (OntORA) is a group of concerned citizens who have banned together to fight what they see as an erosion of their rights to use the back country whether to hunt, fish, hike or pick blueberries.
The MNR and the Liberal politicians in Toronto have been ignoring the group's concerns.
OntORA has made a case that crown land belongs to the public and as such, ACCESS TO CROWN LAND SHOULD NOT BE RESTRICTED TO WEALTHY AMERICANS WHO CAN AFFORD TO STAY AT A WILDERNESS LODGE.
OntORA has pointed out several examples where local citizens who have had traditional access to crown land for fishing, hunting, hiking, snomobiling etc. have had access denied to them.
Just to clarify the point for our inept present Natural Resourse Minister, Linda Jeffrey…. this does not mean access to a park but access to crown land (land that belongs to all the citizens of Ontario)
As part of the process of fighting for equitable and fair access to crown land the OntORA group uncovered information that showed the MNR did not have the LEGAL authority to gate roads, block access or fine citizens for trespass on crown land.
Allegations also surfaced that certain MNR employees had benefitted from access restrictions and established hunt camps on crown land.
The MNR is supposed to be governed by conflict of interest legislation.
Like us guys from Temagami, the OntORA group took their concerns to the Ombudsman and received no satisfaction. They lobbied local politicians and had the issue brought up in the legislature only to be shuffled aside.
They asked for a meeting to try and find an equitable solution and were denied.
They finally hired a high profile lawyer from Toronto.
When word got out they were contacted by a local Liberal MPP, David Orazietti, and promised a meeting, time went on, no meeting.
They contacted the MPP to find the meeting had been cancelled.
The Liberal government of Ontario had passed Bill 68, the open for business Act 2010.
Hidden in the document were amendments to legislation legalizing the actions of the MNR to restrict access to crown land.
Apparently, Minister Jeffrey and MPP Orazietti did finally meet with the OntORA executive on Jan.28 when when they visited Sault Ste. Marie to announce the flight-training centre.
They would not discuss any of the concerns brought up by the OntORA group, and instead offered OntORA the opportunity to be involved in the Wawa crown land Atlas Harmonization (CLUAH) project.
The members of the OntORA board voted the offer down, as they question the legality of the CLUAH group and partnering with the MNR would jeopardize their right to pursue legal action against the MNR.
The OntORA group has brought forward several concerns about how the MNR has done things behind the backs of the citizens of Northern Ontario.
As a citizen of Ontario, I resent the fact that a goverment and a branch of the public service hired to serve the people of this province could so blatantly disregard the concerns of the citizens they are supposed to serve.
I recall a newly elected (Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty) promising once upon a time that his government would be open and more democratic.
Integrity is not a quality that can be attributed to the MNR or the McGuinty Liberals.
G. S. Paisley