Hello newly-elected municipal leaders: John Ralston Saul says aboriginal rights are a “simple matter of rights denied”.

October 29, 2014

How about every level of government (starting with municipalities) simply following the law, human rights and the direction of the Supreme Court when it comes to First Nations’ relationships?
john ralston saul toronto star

Who is afraid of a little “meaningful consultation and accommodation” about land use?

An interesting article by Jim Coyle of the Toronto Star, about allowing justice (not bequeathing charity) when first nations are concerned:

“What we face is a simple matter of rights — of citizens’ rights that are still being denied to indigenous peoples. It is a matter of rebuilding relationships central to the creation of Canada and, equally important, to its continued existence.”

The stakes are that high, he says. And — given history, the power of demographics and the rise of an educated aboriginal class — the issue is not going away.

“Enormous efforts are being made to stop it, to sideline it, or to slow it down,” he says. “It cannot be done.”

Saul’s message to newly-elected municipal officials?:

He leaves no easy out for guilty liberals merely satisfied to have their hearts in the right place. “We — you and I — have not elected or defeated people on this basis.

“That’s what we need to do now. We need to be saying to people who want to be our representatives: ‘I will vote for you or against you depending on your willingness to come full front on this issue, spend the money, act with respect, listen to the courts,’ ”

And since we are all Treaty People (aboriginal and non-aboriginals) we have 2 things to do:

“We must reinstall a national narrative built on the centrality of the aboriginal peoples’ past, present and future. And the policies of the country must reflect that centrality, both conceptually and financially.”

Protecting legal rights not giving bleeding-heart charity, begins at home.


The Ministry of Natural Resources agrees to start to consult First Nations on the future of Springwater Park – Camp Nibi.

December 21, 2013

After a 9 month peaceful and lawful occupation, the stage is set for respectful discussions.

Examiner Elizabeth Kim Sylvie

Three First Nations women — from left, Sylvie Simard, Elizabeth Brass Elson and Kimberly Rose Edwards — have been the core group of people at the centre of the Native occupation of Springwater Provincial Park since Ontario Parks declared the park north of Barrie non-operational on April 1. Beausoleil First Nation and the Ministry of Natural Resources have agreed to discuss the park’s future together. IAN MCINROY/BARRIE EXAMINER/QMI AGENCY

Ian McInroy reports for the Barrie Examiner in First Nations and MNR to enter into talks about Springwater Park’s future:

Beausoleil First Nation and the MNR have agreed to enter into discussions to ensure the interest of Camp Nibi — as a group of First Nations women who have occupied the park have renamed it — and its traditional, cultural and spiritual education activities continues. Since April there have been ceremonies, teachings, potluck suppers and a connection with the land and the surrounding community.

“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,” said Elizabeth Brass Elson, one of the original protesters.

From the Ministry of Natural Resources:

Jolanta Kowalski, of the MNR, said there is still much to do in regards to the park’s future.

“The ministry is pleased to be working with Beausoleil First Nation to discuss a future partnership for the operation of Springwater Provincial Park,” she said. “The ministry has committed to working with the First Nations. However at this time, an agreement has not been signed and details of the partnership have not been determined.

“We appreciate the interests expressed by the First Nation individuals who had occupied the park and respect their commitment to First Nation traditions and culture. The public can continue to enter the park and enjoy the use of the park for activities like hiking or snowshoeing.”

Kowalski re-iterated that the park is not closed and that the province and the MNR, which took over the area in 1958, is not considering selling it.

Ontario Parks has existing partnerships with other organizations and municipalities to operate other provincial parks, she added.

“Kowalski re-iterated that the park is not closed and that the province and the MNR…is not considering selling it.”

A very large thank you is in order from the community to the core three ladies and their supporters.

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.


  • 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

An informed comment on the changes to the Vespra Boys cenotaph: “a locally significant public monument that deserves the best possible care”

November 18, 2013

For professional reasons, experts cannot put their name, education, and experience to their opinions.

Before sand blasting when registered with the Department of Defence.

Face marble no relief

After sand blasting. Photographed on October 11, 2013.

Nevertheless, the legitimate authority of their statements shine through. 

Such is the case with “Darwin” from this post:

2. Darwin says:
October 16, 2013 at 12:29 pm
In spite of the perception that stone and mortar are indestructible materials, such is not the case. As pointed out above, these materials all have varying physical properties that together form a complex assemblage.

I would hope that a full assessment of the condition of the monument, along with a detailed treatment plan, were developed prior to any work taking place. Sadly, this is probably not the case.

The old fashioned get-er-done approach to restoration of masonry has been “sandblasting”. Blasting with silica is highly aggressive, and more often than not causes damage to the substrate. While an improved appearance may be gained in the short term, the consequence of such an invasive approach can be accelerated deterioration. This is not to say that media blasting has no place in this type of work, but there are many less aggressive materials than silica which may be employed.

As with most projects of this nature, I’m sure it started with the best of intentions. Unfortunately it is not always as easy and straight forward as it may seem, and once the damage is done there is usually no going back.

I would hope that all work on the monument is based on a proper preservation plan, including a maintenance plan, that is sensitive to the materials and heritage integrity of the monument. There are resources and guidelines available to assist with this work, including Landscapes of Memories: Guide for Conserving Historic Cemeteries by Tamara Anson-Cartwright, and the Appleton Charter for the Protection and Enhancement of the Built Environment by ICOMOS Canada.

This is a locally significant public monument that deserves the best possible care, and I hope that the ground work for long term care has, or is, being properly prepared.

In closing, it is important to consider that preservation and ‘good looks’ are not always synonymous.

Yes: what done is done and there’s no merit in the “blame game”.

But a professional restoration includes a proper preservation plan (remedial assessment, and treatment and maintenance program) which is developed using the best practices in the field in consultation with recognized local heritage, veteran, and community stakeholders. It’s not a matter of $ because many of standards have already been paid for through our tax dollars. Ministry of Tourism, Culture, and Sport: Heritage

We need to finish the paperwork and be more thoughtful in the future.

We owe our community builders that respect, don’t we?

“The work of restoring a memorial is a specialist skill requiring appropriate techniques and methods.”

November 14, 2013

An international, Commonwealth veterans’ advocate group suggests great respect, care and community transparency be taken by provincial and federal governments in the ‘appropriate preservation’ and continued protection of the Vespra Boys cenotaph in Midhurst, Ontario, Canada.

Page 1

Page 2

Page 3


10 Nov 2013

Mr. Les Stewart MBA
Springwater Park Citizens’ Coalition

Dear Les: Remembrance Day 2013: Supplementary Notes

Thank you for bringing to the attention of the Community our concern about what has happened to the ‘Vespra Boys’ Memorial in Springwater Park, support for ‘appropriate preservation’ of the Memorial, and recognition of the important sacrifices these Men made for us.

My Committee has not been privy to any discussions or actions regarding the work on the Vespra Boys Memorial and so cannot comment on the ‘intent’ of anyone in taking the actions which have occurred. It is not infrequently the case that good intentions may not necessarily achieve the best outcome and damage may occur unintentionally.

The work of restoring a memorial is a specialist skill requiring appropriate techniques and methods. In Australia we have specialists who are involved in restoration of Memorials. For example, the War Graves Commission in Australia [Commonwealth War Graves Commission] pays a regular visit to the Official War Cemetery at Evans Head to maintain and clean the headstones and surrounds (see Figure 1).

Certainly in the work of our local museum we pay particular attention to well specified standards in restoration and preservation of the collection and make a point of being part of regular workshops devoted to ‘getting things right’. This often requires a great deal of prior research and clear attention to detail and ‘best practice’ methods.

Figure 1: Specialists clean delicate headstones at the Evans Head War Cemetery, restore lettering as required and repair fractured and friable materials as needed

The Evans Head War Cemetery is treated with a great deal of respect and is kept in good condition despite its age. The community plays a role in keeping the Commission aware of any changes which require attention and it willingly obliges requests we make of them.

The site is used frequently for various memorial occasions including ANZAC Day and Veteran and family reunions (see Figures 2 & 3).

We would hope that the Ontario Provincial Government might play a very positive role in providing the necessary specialist services to protect the Midhurst Memorial and that perhaps the appropriate Provincial or Canadian Government Minister might be extended an invitation to attend a Memorial Service at the site particularly given the huge losses Canadian ‘Boys’ sustained in the ‘Great War’ alongside their Australian Comrades-in-Arms. We have had both State and Federal Ministers as well as the State Premier and Governor General and her husband at a number of our functions.

In our view it is critical that the Vespra Boys Memorial not become a ‘political football’ but be treated with the bipartisan respect which it is due. We would hope that on the 11th of the 11th that the Memorial Service is not subject to action other than recognition of the Service and Sacrifice that these ‘Boys’ were prepared to make on behalf of Country and Empire. They deserve nothing less.

As indicated previously we will join you on the 11th in spirit.

Kind regards
Yours sincerely

Dr. Richard Gates, President.

Dr. Gates established the Evans Head Memorial Aerodrome in the face of local government opposition and fierce commercial development interests. He is a member of the SPCC Advisory Council.

Support from Australia for the Remembrance Day ceremony this Monday at Springwater Park

November 9, 2013

An internationally-recognized Commonwealth military heritage advocate, former Barrie resident and youthful park employee says the  Vespra Boys cenotaph sandblasting and irreparable damage a “desecration”.

Richard Gates2


Mr Les Stewart MBA
Springwater Park Citizens’ Coalition
9 Nov 2013

Dear Les: Remembrance Day 2013

I am writing to you on behalf of the Evans Head Memorial Aerodrome Committee Incorporated, a voluntary community organization involved in the preservation of the first of the Empire Air Training Scheme Stations to be established in World War II at Evans Head on the Far North Coast of NSW.

Evans Head is a sister Empire Air Training Scheme Station to Camp Borden which was also the very first of that Scheme to be established in Canada. My father trained there during World War II as a RAAF pilot with the RCAF. Sadly there does not appear to be any recognition of the important role which Camp Borden played in preparing personnel for the World War II AirForce effort despite the large number of men who passed through there on the way to England to defend Empire.

My Committee has a strong affinity with the work you and the SPCC are doing to preserve the ‘Vespra Boys’ Memorial. We were successful in having Evans Head listed on the State Heritage Register in 2002 despite opposition from local government and various commercial interests.

We have also experienced desecration of a Memorial Plaque initiated by World War II Veterans and know the angst and disgust generated by such action. However through persistent action we have prevailed and now Evans Head is a major stopping off point for Veterans and their families.

The reason for writing to you and the SPCC is to lend our support to your actions to preserve the memory of the World War I Veterans at Springwater Park and to let you know that we will be with you all in spirit on the 11th of November when we have our own Memorial Service here.

As a former employee of Springwater Park 50 years ago I remember the Vespra Boys Memorial well. It must stand in situ as a reminder of the sacrifices that our forefathers were prepared to make that we might enjoy the freedom we have today. Lest we forget.

Kind regards
Yours sincerely

Dr Richard Gates, President.
PO Box 64 Evans Head NSW 2473 tel 02 6682 5161 ragates@netspace.net.au

The Empire Air Training Scheme is better known in Canada as the British Commonwealth Air Training PlanThe Military History and Significance of Evans Head Memorial Aerodrome

Richard Gates3

Minister Jason Clare, Minister for Defence Materiel came to Evans Head on 18 October 2012 to announce the delivery of a retired F-111 or “pig” as they are affectionately known for the Evans Head Memorial Aerodrome. Minister Clare is shown here with Dr Richard Gates, President of the Evans Head Living Museum who presented the Minister with Wings at War, a history of Evans Head Memorial Aerodrome during World War II. The Museum will be involved in the management of the displayed aircraft which is scheduled to be in place by August this year.

Dr. Gates established the Evans Head Memorial Aerodrome in the face of local government opposition and fierce commercial development interests. He is a member of the SPCC Advisory Council.

United Nations representative investigates Canada’s central race relations situation.

October 7, 2013

Nine days for the Rights of Indigenous Peoples special advisor to see what progress has been made since 2003.

James Anays

James Anaya, the UN’s Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, begins a tour of Canada Monday to gauge the government’s progress on aboriginal rights. JAMIL BITTAR / REUTERS FILE PHOTO

An interesting Toronto Star article, A UN envoy steps into the Canadian fire.

It is a visit more than 18 months in the planning, a somewhat grudging welcome mat laid out by a government that does not embrace international observers on its turf.

But James Anaya, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, says he takes the Conservative promise of co-operation at face value, even as he begins his tour of the country Monday to gauge the government’s progress on aboriginal rights with his eyes wide open.

Some of the rapidly accumulating issues:

Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn Atleo has characterized the looming resource battle as “collaboration or collision” and he has vowed that First Nations will stand their ground until their rights are respected.

Anaya says there is a duty of the state to consult “in order to obtain consent” in regards to resource extraction on aboriginal land.

The journalist summarizes:

Anaya says he has had “a lot of different reactions” from a lot of countries regarding his recommendations and analyses, but one reaction he does not deserve from this government is disdain.

As usual, the comments reflect a divergence of opinion and stereotypes.

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