Members of the Kawartha Nishnawbe are holding their ground at Lock 28 in Burleigh Falls, Ont., located about 200 km northeast of Toronto.
Six days ago they put a halt to repair work at a dam, owned by Parks Canada, because there was no consultation.
“We’re here to protect our lands from Parks Canada and the construction workers,” said Nodin Webb, councillor for the Mississauga community located minutes from the dam. “They started construction here without our consultation and that’s what we’re here to protect the land.”
According to Webb, the members will continue to block any further destruction on and around the lock.
“It’s key for harvesting all at the bottom particularly or along the edges all of the pickerel spawn there every spring and that’s when we do our big harvest and we do it with so much respect for the for the fish and the land, we release every female, we only keep the males and what we need,” said Webb.
An overhead view of Lock 28 in Burleigh Falls, Ont. Photo courtesy: Steve Mongeau.
The lock is part of the Trent-Severn waterway, a nearly 400 km route that links Lake Ontario with Georgian Bay. It’s operated by Parks Canada which falls under the responsibility of Jonathan Wilkinson, minister of Environment and Climate Change.
Chris Reid, the band’s lawyer, said the community has had a long history of being pushed aside.
“When this dam was built in 1912, their ancestors were living right there, they were living there because they had been kicked off reserves,” said Reid. “They’ve been declared non status under the enfranchisement policy which has now been described as genocide by the same federal government. So, they were moved off their reserves and they settled here which was still their land, Indigenous land that they had used for centuries for fishing and hunting and so on.
“They’ve gone to court before, they went to court in 2002 and they won, the court agreed that they are a First Nation community and that they have treaty rights and the Government of Canada simply chooses to ignore that decision.”
Webb said, that’s why the Kawartha Nishnawbe say they’re not budging.
“We understand that the dam is over 100 years old and as with anything it degrades and needs construction and infrastructure repair and we certainly aren’t opposed to that, what we’re really opposed to is the lack of consultation and really, the disrespect given on by Parks Canada.
“And quite frankly it’s illegal, it is completely illegal.”
Parks Canada falls under the responsibility of Jonathan Wilkinson, minister of Environment and Climate change. The department did not respond to a request for comment from APTN News.