OntORA: February 2009 Newsletter

Temagami Stewardship Council Discouraged with Ombudsman:

When the Temagami Stewardship Council, (TSC) felt betrayed and subverted by the Ministry of Natural Resources, (MNR) North Bay we submitted our complaint to the Ontario Ombudsman’s Office. The Ombudsman’s mandate, “is to ensure government accountability through effective oversight of the administration of government services.” The hope of the TSC was that the Ombudsman would provide some public accountability of the way the MNR has been doing business with volunteer groups and provide for true public input in the management of our natural resources in Northern Ontario.

It was with the same belief in the integrity of the Ombudsman’s Office that an initial complaint from the mayors of 5 northern communities led by the mayor of Dubreuilville was sent to the Ombudsman. The Ontario Outdoor Recreational Alliance (OntORA) as the organization from the Sault St. Marie, Sudbury area is now called has sent 6 complaints to the Ombudsman’s office since February of 2006. The group continues to request an independent assessment and investigation of the Ministry of Natural Resources’ (MNR) policies and practices regarding Crown land access restrictions. The OntORA complaints have to do with; the MNR’s disregard for the public input process, alleged conflict of interest by MNR staff contravening the Public Lands Act and closure of roads and lands without the legal right to do so.

In both cases the initial response of the Ombudsman’s Office was encouraging. The interviewer, seemed interested, took notes, asked for supporting information and left us with the feeling that the issue would be investigated. On both of our sides we went to great lengths to provide copies of emails, letters, maps, documents and the names of reputable persons who might be interviewed to corroborate our contention of wrong doing.

In both cases the Investigation of the Ombudsman’s Office consisted of talking to representatives from the MNR and informing us that our concerns were unfounded. Both organizations appealed the initial decision and provided further information and again asking for the Ombudsman’s office to at least talk to some of the informed persons on our side. Again appeals were rejected. Despite the reams of evidence and explanations provided to the Ombudsman’s office the response to both groups was an attitude that the MNR is always right. Has “Ontario’s Watchdog” become “The MNR’s Pet Dog” as some are now suggesting?

On the web page for The Ombudsman of Ontario Mr. Andre Marin states that, “The Ombudsman is all about accountability and transparency, so please let us know how we’re doing.” Well, Mr. Martin I know at least 2 groups in Northern Ontario who are very disappointed in your office.

Gaye Smith

519-353-7275

Manitouwadge residents to lose access to  local lakes (from the Manitouwadge “Echo”)
Manitouwadge residents may soon find their favourite lakes, trails, blueberry picking areas off limits.  Various crown land use strategies point to a long term goal of making the Manitouwadge area a Wilderness Remote experience for people willing to pay for the privilege of being in our backyard.
Since the 1950’s, this area has experienced logging development which allowed local residents the opportunity to access areas previously reserved for the avid canoeist or float plane pilots.  Having access to nature is one of, if not the main fringe benefit in living in Manitouwadge.   During the past few years, there has been a policy of limiting road access to all but paying customers of remote tourism operations.
The province may decide to make part of our backyard a Remote Experience for those who can afford to pay to be flown into our backyard.  The only problem, an area cannot be a remote experience if the local human fauna keeps showing up and ruining the photo opportunities by being there.  How can Kagiano be a remote experience if Manitouwadge people go there for the weekend to fish?  The only solution is to ban locals from spoiling the remoteness of the area by being there.   If an area is not remote because local people show up there, the solution is simple; remove the local people and the area will become remote.
This is the strategy at play for the past few years and it is about to accelerate  under the Crown Land Use Atlas Harmonization Project. (CLUAH)  Since November 2006, this project has been quietly building steam and one of the consequences will be the loss of access to numerous lakes in our area.We already have some of the best fishing lakes with limitations for access.  Yet, many Manitouwadge residents know very little about it despite local information meetings and numerous web sites decrying the  loss of our backyard.
It is important to understand that this access is not to protect existing commercial businesses that deliver high quality remote tourism experiences.  Rather it is now designed to remove local residents from areas that may be an “opportunity” for a remote experience some day.    Manitouwadge residents, politicians, EDC staff and anyone who likes to go to such places as Kagiano, Palmquist, Klinestiver… for an outing need to get informed.
Ontario residents pay taxes to the province who in turn provide funding for primary and secondary logging roads which we are permitted to use.  Municipalities are encouraged to develop tourism strategies as economic diversification and yet, the government then limits access to those same areas that were opened up with taxpayers dollars.  The worst of it is that those who can afford to pay for the “remote” experience in our backyard will do so with the blessing and protection of the province.
Our region is being touted as a future area where remote experiences will be the privilege of the rich and famous who will spend time in large areas of nature owned and managed by corporations far removed from our community.  This first step to privatization happened in much of Europe and has started in Canada.  It has started, but it can be stopped.  Watch for upcoming details on a public meeting coming up soon.

Local Citizens Committees (LCCs), Do they have the capacity to represent the public and make controversial decisions concerning appropriation of Crown land?

On Feb 10th a couple of your OntORA members attended a Local Citizens Committee open house in Sault Ste Marie and left as frustrated as we entered. While we did meet a couple well intentioned members, the whole system is flawed beyond logical comprehension.

“Local Citizens Committee” conjures up an illusion of a randomly selected group of citizens with the task of representing their peers in public matters and public property but dream on.

Of the 15 members listed only one is listed ‘specifically’ as representing the public, the rest represent special interest groups. Fourteen members represent a special interest group with a singular interest in mind, the non-motorized user’s representative we spoke to for instance told us he had to be interviewed for the position before being appointed by the MNR and he is focused on bicycle trails and portages, that’s his job.

When one puts on the hat of a special interest group in instances like this they are no longer a member of the public; they look after the interests of the group they represent.

LCC members should be representatives of the public selected by a fair and legal selection process; they should be representing their peers on collectively owned property, shouldn’t they?

A special interest group which wants consideration for something can send representatives to make a presentation; if a member of the committee has an interest or association with the group they must declare a conflict and abstain from the discussion or vote. Just like town council.

Presently almost every member is in conflict one time or another. Their duties are to reach a consensus based on the give and take method alternatively called tradeoff.

Is the public ready to stand up and challenge this and other similar structures controlling public lands?

A Heads up to our members in the Sudbury region to watch for the regular articles in the Sudbury Star by Outdoors Columnist John Vance, a real outdoors enthusiast with much knowledge to share.

OntORA reminds all those who have not signed up yet as members and have been receiving this Newsletter by e-mail as a courtesy, that this service will soon be discontinued for non-members. An application form is attached if you wish to join and help us in abolishing the present two-class system of public access to Ontario Crown lands and lakes.

Please support our corporate Members and Affiliated clubs

Bristol Motel and Outfitting, Wawa Ont. Ph (705) 856-2385

Permanent Electric, Sault Ste Marie, Ph (705) 949-7977

Alain Labelle, Dundee Wealth, Val Caron (705) 897-3373

Chelmsford Fish and game club

Sturgeon Falls Rod & gun Club

Sign up a friend… Ontario Outdoors Recreational Alliance (OntORA)

Membership Application

Mail to:

Ontario Outdoors Recreational Alliance,

35 Amber St. , Sault Ste. Marie, ON P6A 6N6

ont.ora@hotmail.com

Yes, I want to become a member of the Ontario Outdoors Recreational Alliance

(United Steelworkers Union Ontario Partner) and add my support to the fight for lawful and equal public access to Ontario Crown lands and lakes.

Name: (please print)___________________________________________________

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Corporate……………..$ 100.00 (minimum) per year ……………_______________

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