Browsing the blog archives for January, 2011.

Respect

South March Highlands

January 13, 2011

Ms. Jarvis,

Further to our New Year’s letter of offer below, we were disappointed that you did not convey firsthand your reply to us when we met with Kitchi Makwa/Big Bear to discuss the stone circle.  At our meeting, I remained silent about our offer to you in deference to Kitchi Makwa’s desire to focus discussion on the fate of the medicine wheel.  Although we do not consider it helpful to have read your response, “While they’re protesting, we’ll be cutting”, subsequently in the press, we will respect your preference to communicate via the media instead of directly.

In the event that you may not be aware of recent developments, we wish to advise you that the Chiefs of 5 Algonquin First Nations as well as the spiritual Elder have recently written to all levels of government requesting that KNL’s proposed tree clearing be halted pending the completion of meaningful consultations with all stakeholders.

Please appreciate the fact that these native leaders believe they have an un-extinguished right to, and therefore a legal interest in, all property within the South March Highlands because of the fact that it lies within unceded, unconquered, and unsurrendered Algonquin territory. 

We have been informed that they consider your planned destruction of the forest to be a violation of traditional Algonquin Law and, especially when viewed in that context, we think their request for meaningful consultation prior to further destruction of the forest is both reasonable and appropriate.

We would like to believe that Urbandale conducts its affairs responsibly, so we ask that you respect their request and voluntarily agree to suspend your plans so that you can participate in consultations also.  

Not only will proceeding unilaterally against their objections be viewed as disrespectful by the 14,500 members of public who support us,  it may unnecessarily escalate or inflame public opinion among both the native and non-native community who normally think that communication is preferable to confrontation.  We wish to observe that your moral, legal, and community posture can only be diminished by refusing to respect their request.

 Sincerely,

 Paul Renaud

South March Highlands – Carp River Conservation Inc.

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Misinformation in the South March Highlands

South March Highlands

Misinformation #1 ? This Area is not an Old Growth Forest

Urbandale says that this forest was studied by IFS Forestry who determined that the trees in this area are roughly 60 – 80 years old and definitely not old growth.  Further confirmation of the age of the trees is found in the 1861 Agricultural Census indicating that the Graham family was active in farming this property at that time.

The MNR defines old growth as older than 120 years old.  There are many examples of old growth in the SMH, as an example the 250-year old Black Sugar Maple that was destroyed to make way for Terry Fox Drive Extension.

These trees survived the great fire of 1870 that destroyed much of the Ottawa River Valley which is why the vast majority of trees in Ottawa are younger.  However, because the South March Highlands is a mountain wetland, it provided a firebreak for the town of March and thus many old growth trees are found. 

It is well known that many farms in the area failed because of the thin soil layer that covers the Canadian Shield in the South March Highlands and although several homesteads existed, very little of the land was cleared and used for farming.

 Misinfo #2 ? KNL Isn’t Clear-Cuting Environmentally Significant Forest

 KNL’s development agreement with the City was designed to protect environmentally sensitive areas including Beaver Pond, Kizell Pond, and Trillium Woods. As required by the 40% Agreement, KNL will be giving approximately 265 acres of the most ecologically sensitive land to the City.

However, KNL will destroy the majority of the remaining forest for its subdivision.

The City already owns an additional 1000 acres of forested area in the neighbouring South March Highlands.  This is the same so-called “Conservation Forest” that the City recently built a 4-lane highway through.

According to the City’s Environmental Assessment for Terry Fox Drive Extension filed in 2010 to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, the entire area of the Beaver Pond Forest is designated as Natural Environment Area – the highest level of land use protection.

 Misinfo #3 ? KNL Is Trying to Rush This Development to Avoid Debate or Find Alternate Solutions to Preserving the Forest

The City has zoned these lands for development since the 1981 40% Agreement was approved in spite of objections from environmental groups who have opposed development for 30 years.  This opposition included 2 OMB appeals that took years to resolve.

KNL has completed and submitted to the city multiple studies looking at the environmental impact of this development including fish habitat, tree species and age, site archaeology, agriculture potential and more. These been reviewed and approved by City Planning Officials, City Council and the OMB even though these plans will result in the removal of endangered species, such as Butternut, and the destruction of critical habitat for an estimated 20 species at risk.

KNL has never met with the community despite being obligated by their conditions of subdivision approval to implement a communications plan and recently declined offers from the community and the city to buy them out at a profit based on a fair-market evaluation for their property.

Misinfo #4 ? There are no Significant Aboriginal Findings on the Site

As part of the approval process, KNL was required to conduct complete Stage 1 and Stage 2 Archaeological Resources Impact Statements of the site to the approval of the Ministry of Culture and Communications.  This study attempted to find evidence of aboriginal habitation and not surprisingly found nothing of archaeological interest on this site.  Most grade school children are aware of the fact that the ancestors of the First Nations of Canada were nomadic and therefore few had permanent residences.

Recently KNL’s consultant was called back to study a group of stones forming a circle which appears to be a possible indication of a burial ground or Medicine Wheel. 

According to KNL, the same consultant who found no evidence of aboriginal residences is also of the opinion that it is not a medicine wheel because finding such an artefact would be provincially significant as none others are known by him to exist in the province of Ontario.

KNL has stated that the site will be protected pending his confirmation that this is not of archaeological significance – which appears to be a foregone conclusion by him.  Many people feel that this diminishes the credibility of the consultant and that an independent assessment performed by the NCC is the right thing to do.

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You Can’t Eat Money

South March Highlands

Urbandale Protest Demonstration

On January 8, 2011 a public demonstration was held in support of Grandfather William Commanda’s letter of protest to the City of Ottawa.  The 97 year old spiritual Elder for the Algonquin First Nation attended the rally and delivered prayers in 3 languages despite the snowstorm that surrounded us.

Grandfather Albert Dumont opened the proceedings with a prayer for peace and I then spoke the following to the 100+ people in attendence:

Message from South March Highlands – Carp River Conservation Inc.

When people form coalitions so that they can speak louder, it is a sign that their government isn’t listening.

When people take their government to court, it is a sign that their right to fair government was violated.

When people take to the streets in protest, it is a sign that their government is failing them.

We are here to tell our governments that their failure to protect the South March Highlands is irresponsible government!

How is it possible for any responsible government to knowingly allow the destruction of the most bio-diverse area in their city and in their national capital?

We have documented 675 species of life in the South March Highlands and are still discovering more because there are well over 1,000 to be found.

  • Of these no fewer than 20 species are officially designated as species-at-risk of extinction.

So what does our government do?

  • It builds a road that they acknowledge will sever the eco-connectivity of this area, choking off the natural function of wildlife.
  • Just take a look at the Berlin Wall on Terry Fox Drive and you will understand why we needed to appeal our court case.
  • And like a robot, our government continues to allow the ongoing destruction of this great forest with one subdivision after another.

The place where you are standing [Holy Trinity High School in Kanata] was once a natural part of the South March Highlands.  Yet, in spite of 20 years of protest and overwhelming evidence to the contrary, our government has allowed this destruction to proceed because they lack the political will to stop it.

This place wasn’t always called the South March Highlands.

A long time ago, the Anishinabe people saw an island that looked like a great turtle rising from the sea and from that point forward they understood that the turtle was an integral symbol of creation.

10,000 years ago, when the waters of the Champlain Sea receded, this highland area was also a freshwater island surrounded by a salt water sea.

  • There are no fewer than 3 species of turtle among the 20 species at risk in this area.
  • Do you think that this is symbolic of how our modern society has become so disconnected from creation?

We have found evidence that the Anishnabek, who are the ancestors of all the First Nations in eastern Canada and USA, lived here 500 generations ago:

  1. The archaeological survey done by the City for Terry Fox Drive called for a follow-up study that according to the Ministry of Culture was never done.
  2. Just down the street from here on Richardson Ridge, the archaeological survey done by the developer found conclusive evidence of a tool-making site that was estimated to be 10,000 years old.
  3. This study was confirmed by world experts but rejected by the developer who is now in court for not having paid the archaeologist. Meanwhile the area has been clear-cut and blasted to the extent that they had to close Kanata Avenue last fall.

  4. On Huntmar Ridge, last July we reported the finding of another tool-making site that was similar to the one on Richardson Side road.
  5. But the City has yet to find $25 K to hire an archaeologist to investigate because they are too busy wasting millions on Landsdowne Park.

  6. According to Dr. McGhee, former president of the Canadian Archaeological Society, the archaeological survey done for Urbandale’s subdivision was fatally flawed because it failed to adequately consider native use of the area prior to the arrival of Europeans.
  7. Recently we reported finding a site that may be a medicine wheel in the Beaver Pond Forest. As a result of a meeting with native people and Urbandale measures may be taken to safeguard it.

What else has been missed and why has the city not required Urbandale to do a proper study in view of all this overwhelming evidence that this entire area is possibly a national historic site?

The great spiritual elder of the Algonquin, Grandfather William Commanda, reminds us that beyond its archaeological history, the South March Highlands are, and I quote,

[a] living temple, a place of Manitou, a special place of nature
and that this precious reality also demands immediate protection and reverence
.

We have much to learn from the native people to lived here long before us.

I’d like to read some of the words spoken by the Medicine Man Kitchi Makwa / Great Bear to Urbandale this week:

We the Anishnabek Peoples of this Land are very close to Nature, in fact we ARE part of nature.

This vision enables us to live harmoniously with Nature!

We are One with Nature and can only live in Peace when our actions are based on love and compassion for ALL living beings, including Nature!

When we live in this harmony with Nature, we become aware of past and present echoes of the forest.

My heart cries that future generations may not have this opportunity to know this forest.

Sadly, like us, many indigenous people have been recently removed from the energy and heritage of the forest. For many years our society has erased their history, art, and culture to the extent that they are almost invisible within our capital city.

But we represent the new voice of Canada.

  • A voice that says that the protection and preservation of native heritage is important because it strengthens us all and teaches us many things.
  • A voice that says that our society must return to what Grandfather Commanda calls a “sustainable relationship” with all living beings – regardless of colour, creed, and culture, and with respect for all species of life.
  • A voice that says that we too are an integral part of this natural ecosystem. We do not walk on it, we exist within it, and we are only alive because of it.

Today we carry our voices to Urbandale to remind them that we have offered them a responsible way forward in this situation. A way forward that preserves the forest and compensates them fairly. We will remind them that greed is no substitute for responsibility.

I hope that all of you will also individually carry your voices to our government representatives and ask them to join us in this new 21st century of reconciliation with nature. Also to request that native culture and rights be respected and that this forest be protected.

As the native people of this area say:

When the last forest is gone, people will learn that you can’t eat money.

IT’s NOT TOO LATE TO DO THE RIGHT THING!

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Offer to Purchase Sent to Urbandale

South March Highlands

December 30, 2010

Mr. Sachs & Ms. Jarvis,

Since it is now evident that Ottawa City Council is currently unwilling to add any value in protecting the South March Highlands, we are extending this offer to work directly with you in this regard. The South March Highlands – Carp River Conservation Inc. is the legal entity that represents the interests of over 6,000 individuals who are committed to being stewards of Ottawa’s Great Forest – the South March Highlands.

We suspect that you may not have been fully aware of the environmental significance of this area when you originally purchased the lands north of Kizell Wetland and Beaver Pond from Genstar in Sept 2000. We are confident that by working together, we can create a win-win solution to this situation.

By now you are no doubt aware that the South March Highlands is an old-growth forest, home to 20 documented Species-at-Risk, has the highest floristic diversity and densest bio-diversity in Ottawa, and contains several archaeological sites that are twice the age of the Egyptian pyramids. You are also aware that there is substantial community resistance to your development plans and that Algonquin spiritual leaders consider this area to be ancient, unique, and a very special sacred space.

According to the Nature Conservancy of Canada, unlike the tax provisions for donating land directly to a municipality, an individual or corporation that donates land to a charitable land trust may obtain a tax credit equal to 100% of the market value of that land.

We are willing to establish a charity for that purpose if you are willing to donate all remaining undeveloped land that you own in the South March Highlands. At the point when you are ready to wind up the corporate operation of KNL, any remaining tax credit may be fully monetized by selling the corporation to a third party, such as an income trust looking to shelter earnings as they roll-over into a corporate entity.

Furthermore, we propose to name the resulting park, the “Urbandale Conservation Forest” (or a similar name of your choosing) so that you may leverage significant, positive, and very green, branding benefits in recognition of your generosity. Our marketing experts will work with you on signage and branding opportunities accordingly. We will also support you in a media campaign to ensure that branding benefits are maximized. When leveraged into our existing Stewardship Plan for the area, which emphasizes eco-tourism involving an audience measured in millions of people, we believe that this will be of significant branding value to you.

Should you wish to monetize some of your current investment now, we are also prepared to optionally enter into a long-term purchase agreement for “Phase 9.” This would enable you to obtain a tax credit for donating land west of Goulborne Forced Road (GFR) as described above, as well as receive annual payments for the land east of GFR and north of Beaver Pond.

In this scenario, we would establish the charity so that it can receive community donations, and pursuant to the 40% Agreement which runs on title with the land, purchase the 60% of developable land at fair market value and the 40% at no cost (as you did when you purchased the lands). You would facilitate this purchase via a vendor-take-back mortgage at 6% over 30 years.

Since some lead time would be necessary to establish the cash flow for the charity, depending on the agreed purchase price, the first couple of annual payments may need to be balloon payments. Nonetheless, since city records show the assessed value of the land for tax purposes is only $6 million, it is evident that KNL paid less than that for that land and you would receive more than double your investment plus the 6% payout.

If you wish to explore this option, we can provide further details of how we will raise the funds for purchase and we can discuss the methodology for fair market valuation.

We believe that the above represents a fair outcome for you in what otherwise is an increasingly difficult situation. We hope that in considering this offer, you reflect on the merits of taking a long-term view of the benefits from enhancing your eco-stature and brand over a status quo course of action that appears likely to significantly damage it. We believe that you will conclude that it is better business to work with a community than to continue to fight against it and we trust that, together, we can both start the new year on a positive note.

Sincerely,

Paul Renaud
South March Highlands – Carp River Conservation Inc.

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