Who will the MNR decide to be the best protectors of Springwater Park – Camp Nibi: Elizabeth Brass Elson or Ian Taylor?

January 2, 2014

What is their reputation in protecting land, water and air in Simcoe County?

Cedar boughs

In today’s Barrie Advance, Groups working to keep Springwater Park open:

The closure prompted the creation of two local groups which have worked to get the ministry to reverse its decision.

And last April, Anishinaabe First Nations member Elizabeth Brass Elson and some friends moved into the park, founding Camp Nibi, where they have lived ever since.

In July, a teaching lodge and traditional Midewiwin sweat lodge were erected and Brass Elson hopes to eventually turn the area into a First Nations education and spiritual centre, which would be open for everyone to experience.

“The traditional territories of Beausoleil First Nation will be protected and our teachings and ceremony will continue,” Brass Elson said. “Camp Nibi and Three Fires Midewiwin Lodge will have a voice in the planning and development of the park lands for the continued use of all in the future.”

Meanwhile the Friends of Springwater Park is meeting with the ministry Jan. 8, but it’s unknown if a second partnership will be struck.

Has the Teaching Lodge or slide been made off-limits to anyone since April 1, 2013?

Teaching lodge

Has anyone been denied access to the Midewinin Sweat Lodge or tipi that wanted to learn?

Sweat tipi

What group has done the physical work necessary to keep the trails open since April 1st?

Clearing trees

And continues to do so now?

Plow 4

***

Plow 3What group has always favoured the light, life and inclusiveness while saving the land for everyone?

here comes the sun

Which group has chosen another path?

Posted on voteLesStewart.ca.

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NEWS: Ontario government, First Nation agree on joint partnership at Springwater Park – Camp Nibi

December 20, 2013
beth-kim-sylvie-nahuis

Elizabeth, Kimberly Rose and Sylvie (l to r). Photo: Anne Nahuis

Ontario government, First Nation agree on joint partnership at Springwater Park – Camp Nibi

Springwater Provincial Park – renamed Camp Nibi by a group of First Nations women who have occupied it for nine months – is to be a partnership with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Beausoleil First Nation.

Beausoleil First Nation and the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources are in discussions which ensure the interest of Camp Nibi/Midewiwin Lodge for their continued traditional, cultural, spiritual education will continue to be provided for on these lands of Springwater Park, Elizabeth Brass Elson said today.

“The traditional territories of Beausoleil First Nation will be protected and our teachings and ceremony will continue. Camp Nibi and Three Fires Midewiwin Lodge will have a voice in the planning and development of the park lands for the continued use of all in the future,” she said.

An agreement between the Ministry and the First Nation is good news for all, Brass Elson said.

“We are satisfied that our vision for Camp Nibi has been recognized. Camp Nibi and the Eastern Doorway of The Three Fires Midewiwin Lodge will be working together with the First Nation to bring traditional spiritual teachings on the land of Springwater Park.”

The past nine months at Camp Nibi have been the scene of ceremonies, teachings, potluck suppers and – most important – connection with the land and the surrounding community.

It’s been an important journey for Brass Elson, known to many in Simcoe County for her leadership role in the battle to stop Dump Site 41.

She turned her attention to Springwater Park – part of the traditional territory of Beausoleil First Nation – after the Ontario government declared it non-operational as of April 1, 2013.

“I found my true spiritual connection with the land here,” she said. People came from all over Ontario to camp with the women who were in the park through the high heat of summer and the recent bitter cold. Locals were generous with support and donations.

“Chi Miigwetch, a big thank you to all those who supported us, our friends and our allies,” Brass Elson said. “And special thanks to Beausoleil First Nation and Ontario Parks for recognizing our vision for these lands.”

Two women joined Brass Elson – an Anishinabek from Chimnissing (Beausoleil First Nation) – in a steadfast determination to ensure that the land remains protected in an area north of Barrie that’s being subjected to intense development pressures.

They are Kimberly Rose Edwards, a Richmond Hill resident from the Mohawk community of Oka, and Sylvie Simard of Kapuskasing, a Mi’kmaq from New Brunswick.

“This has been my destiny,” said Edwards. A seer, she found her native roots a decade ago and saw the Camp Nibi lands long before she arrived to support Brass Elson in April.

“I came to learn,” said Simard. “My ancestors were calling.”

News release from Camp Nibi

Cross posted on iLoveMidhurst.ca.

NOTE: A very similar article appeared in the Springwater News on January 2, 2014. pdf


Has the Ministry of Natural Resources treated the ladies in Springwater Park in a Christian manner?

December 20, 2013

Speaking from my imperfect knowledge of  Catholic social justice principles, no.

SSMarie Precious Blood Cathedral1

Notwithstanding an overall cordial relationship between the perfectly legal First Nations occupation and the local/regional MNR staff and the Premier’s office, any decision above the “mid-level grunt” level is clearly in bad faith (mala fidesand unfair dealings.

Examples:

  • refusing to meet with the occupation, Beausoleil First Nation, and community leaders at the same time, even once after 8.5 months opportunity to do so, (unreasonably force a winter occupation to cynically take credit for re-opening on Apr 1, 2014 which may coincide with a provincial election),
  • breeding distrust between indigenous and settler leaders (divide-and-conquer),
  • using the 230 cm of our expected snowfall and -20 C temperatures to drive first nations’ grandmothers out of the park or into the hospital,
  • cynically playing “bad cop” to Premier Wynne’s “good cop” (here, here, here, now here),
  • threatening to knock the building down,
  • cutting off all electricity for lights, heat and security in a 193 ha., unsecure wilderness more than 3 months ago,
  • refusing to meet with community groups from the Assistant Deputy Minister level and above,
  • (so far) refusing the community permission to do volunteer snow removal to keep the 14 km. of ski and snowshoe trails open. This also forces low income families to pay over $1,000 at private ski resorts for a season pass instead of using our already-paid-for trails.,
  • showing up late as guests for a spiritual ceremony,
  • refusing to allow fallen trees to be harvested for firewood by chainsaw,
  • failing to investigate damage done to vehicles (twice), and
  • approving the sandblasting/desecration of the Vespra Boys cairn (eg. the Anishinaabe and Medewinin Lodge call field stones “Grandfather”; people, animals, air, land, water, trees and even stones have a type of “soul”, made by the Creator and it is my great honour to have been taught should be valued and protected from harm).

I wish Minister David Orazietti and his family all the best for this Christmas season. He and I will be enjoying the warmth, generosity, support and company of our family, parish and community over this very special time in the liturgical calendar. I imagine that the Precious Blood Cathedral in Sault Ste. Marie will be as comfortable as St. Mary’s parish in Barrie will be for Midnight Mass next Tuesday night. St Marys bulletinWe have a terrific new pastor at St. Mary’s who was born in Kenya.

I’ve never had occasion to talk to him specifically about intolerance but this is the first such collection I can remember.

Cross-posted on iLoveMidhurst.ca.

NOTE: A very similar article appeared in the Springwater News on January 2, 2014. pdf


To protect 193 ha. from development, is it really necessary for the ladies to freeze this winter?

September 6, 2013

“We all want to see this land taken care of.”

Kim Beth

Kim Rose left, and Elizabeth Brass Elson are working to help grow a native healing centre at Springwater Park Laurie Watt

There have been 153 days from April 1 to September 15, 2013.

  • 153 days to figure out a way to keep the 15 kms. of cross-country ski and snow shoe trails cleared, groomed and open this winter,
  • 153 days to renew the contract for snow removal on the roads in the park,
  • 153 days to winterize the cabin and deal with the mold, and
  • 153 days to have a place to change a diaper out of the cold (ie. open the comfort station for goodness sake).

Laurie Watt from the Barrie Advance asks an important question in today’s article, Aboriginal camp prepares for winter in Springwater: Is it necessary for the ladies to endure a full winter camping?

Brass Elson said she already feels the cool winds of fall and relit the fire in the cabin Tuesday. She plans to stay through the winter and continues to talk with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Parks Ontario.

“We all want to see this land be taken care of,” she added.

And what’s so special about Springwater Park – Camp Nibi?

Brass Elson, an initiate at the Midewan Three Fires Lodge, has brought in an elder to bless the land and the growing community that unites people of many aboriginal heritages.

“This is a place where there’s a lot of different First Nations, rich in history, because it’s such a beautiful, spiritual place,” said Brass Elson.

“The man who designed this (park) said it should be a template for forestry in Ontario. His energy is still here. He started the tree nursery and his vision lives. It’s a shame the Ministry (of Natural Resources) doesn’t want to sustain it. This land has lots of offer everybody.”

NOTE: The flag behind Kim and Beth is the only Canadian or Ontario flag at the park anymore.

The ladies hung them up last Saturday along with a few others at the main pavilion.

Flag 1These are the Anishinabe Nation,  United Nations and Haudenosaunee Nation flags (l to r).

Flag 3


NOW Magazine Toronto picks up the Springwater Park – Camp Nibi reckless development defense story.

September 5, 2013

Will the Ontario government continue to allow Springwater Provincial Park to unthinkingly slide into sprawl?

now Bacher

An article in NOW Magazine’s News Frontlines section called John Bacher on Wild West sprawl wrecking Ontario parks will be appearing on September 5, 2013.

Excerpt:

Those who love Georgian Bay and its tributaries are getting accustomed to bizarre schemes threatening its sanctity. First there was Dump Site 41 in Simcoe County, and then the Melancthon mega-quarry – both stopped in their tracks by massive protests, marches and cook-ins.

Now there’s the Ontario government’s plan to abandon Springwater Provincial Park, 10 kilometres north of Barrie. Since April 1, women from the Beausoleil First Nation near Midland have been occupying Springwater, protesting the park’s changed status from “operational” to “non-operational.” The closure is one of six.

It’s not a coincidence that the action’s spokesperson, Beth Elson, is a veteran of both the Dump 41 and the mega-quarry fights. She’s learned a thing or two about forming alliances with non-natives – and about winning.

The province points out that even though the gates are locked, visitors can still stroll the 193-hectare green space. But the reality is, the 12 kilometres of wheelchair-accessible trails, mostly used for cross-country skiing, will no longer be maintained; comfort stations are closed, as are the buildings; and the lovely stone water fountains and picnic pavilions will presumably be left to moulder.

The women have named their occupation camp Springwater Nibi, “nibi” being the Ojibway word for “uncompromised water,” a vivid reminder that the park’s beautiful ponds are fed by underground springs – it sits on the headwaters of the Minesing Wetlands. Those gushing waters allowed park officials to restore habitat for the elegant trumpeter swan, a species once wiped out in eastern North America.

Occupiers, who have set up a sweat lodge and given smudge blessings to the park’s zoo animals before their relocation to other sanctuaries, say the land traversed by old trading routes has deep roots in Ojibway history. They worry that the Ministry of Natural Resources’ withdrawal will leave the space vulnerable to trashing.

First Nation occupiers have strong relationships with the Springwater Park Citizens’ Coalition. Native environmentalist Danny Beaton, an anti-Dump 41 mainstay, is an official SPCC adviser. The group is deeply troubled by the sprawl wreaking havoc in Simcoe County in defiance of the weak policy supposedly protecting land on the fringe of the Greenbelt.

Contrary to the Growth Management Plan, development is encircling Springwater. A few weeks before the closure, I noted a sign across a road from the park indicating proposed zoning changes from environmental protection to medium-density residential. The Coalition fears construction is poised to pollute the Wetlands.

The province says it has no intention of selling the land, but the SPCC is skeptical that the government can resist building pressures.

Parks Ontario’s Jolanta Kowalski tells me parks are being closed as a cost-saving measure, part of a “transformation plan to make the ministry more modern, efficient and sustainable.’’ Springwater, she says, “returns only 53 cents on the dollar” and gets half the visits it did a decade ago. Changing its status, she says, will provide savings of $70,000 and avoid a capital investment of $1 million.

It depends on what you value, of course. The Beausoleil women say they are taking over the space from a ministry that has left it to ruin, and they want an aboriginal healing and heritage centre established on site. Will the Liberals see the light?

John Bacher is the author of Two Billion Trees And Counting: The Legacy Of Edmund Zavitz.

news@nowtoronto.com

Dr. Bacher continues to serve on our SPCC Advisory Council.


Is the ON Ministry of Natural Resources capable of getting all the Springwater Park stakeholders at one table, at one time, and in one place?

September 2, 2013

After more than 5 months, how many times has the MNR tried?

White Pine District Office

On December 6, 2012 the SPCC and the MNR met at the White Pine Boardroom (top left) on Nursery Road, Midhurst, just south of the MNR District Office (r).

These are the stakeholders:

  1. Beausoleil First Nation (Indian Act band council),
  2. Ministry of Natural Resources/Ontario Parks,
  3. local governments (Springwater Township, Simcoe County and City of Barrie),
  4. AWARE Simcoe,
  5. Jim Wilson MPP,
  6. Premier Wynne’s office,
  7. community groups (Ian Taylor and Les Stewart),
  8. Midewiwin Lodge (Anishinabe educational and spiritual leaders, see Thoughts from a Born-Again PaganSooToday.com), and
  9. Springwater Park – Camp Nibi grandmothers (Elizabeth Brass Elson).

How sincere is it  for the MNR to claim (1) that they want a partnership and then (2) refuse to meet with everyone, in the same room, at the same time?

The Ministry has met with almost everyone separately. Several times, in fact.

Why not try getting together and problem-solve in good faith?


Full Moon ceremony tonight at Springwater Park – Camp Nibi

August 21, 2013

Every one is welcomed, Wednesday, August 21.

Crop

Bring your drum, rattle and skirt (if appropriate).

Mostly, just bring yourself at dusk to a very special place.


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