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

December 20, 2013

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

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


How can an MNR Minister who is the Sault Ste. Marie MPP try to (1) freeze-out Anishinaabe grandmothers in Springwater Park get and (2) away with it politically?

December 20, 2013

Especially with a provincial election likely in the spring of 2014.


It’s not because traditionally first nations’ have a very low voter turnout.

Or is it another reason for your refusal to act in good faith or say “yes”, Minister?

Hon. David Orazietti, MPP

Anishinaabe Reservations


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

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

Who is responsible for the sandblasting, damage and repair of the circa 1929 Vespra Boys cenotaph at Springwater Park – Camp Nibi?

October 15, 2013

I took these photographs on Friday October 11, 2013. This monument had never been sand blasted in its 84 year history.

Back 34 cropped

Note the broken corner of the cairn main pedestal at the front right.

The Vespra Boys is made up of three very different materials: granite field stones, concrete mortar and marble.


Another view with the broken urn base at the left back. The MNR-owned heritage-designated building in the back is the original park office.

Each material has it’s own much different properties such as porosity, hardness, strength, etc.


Detail of broken urn base.

One of the key heritage preservation principles is to try to do no harm. Start with the mildest, least destructive means to the stated, justifiable end.

Back marble sign

Note how the years of patina soak so deeply in the mortar. To get a consistent “new look” the mortar would have to be blasted up to one inch deep.

I was told that the Ministry of Natural Resources considers any of their buildings that are over 50 years old to be “heritage” and extreme caution must be taken. I do not know if those standards apply to community cultural assets that they have legal stewardship for.

Face marble no relief

Front: The softest material (white marble) is easily destroyed with silica sand. The text is almost unreadable now. The contrast between the 3 media is lost. Many of the stones have horizontal etch marks now. Note how the light orange, protective patina has been destroyed. When marble is polished it changes the physical properties of its surface. By sand lasting the raised and relief areas, the contrast is lost. The sharpness of the relief lettering is much less.

Over the years, objects as well as people acquire character. Patina is a much-valued characteristic by many people that appreciate things that have endured. In stone, sand blasting destroys this highly-prized protective layer; the earned look and feel of a well-worn artifact. The cold-hard facts are that etched monuments will likely have more structural problems in the future than if it were more gently treated. The Ontario Heritage Trust talks of The Conservation Cycle.


The before picture: In 2013, Major John R. Fisher took these photographs in support of the registration to the Department of Defence of the Vespra Boys cairn. There are less than 6,700 of these nationally-registered war memorials in Canada in 2013. It’s magnificent as it was and precisely how the builders envisioned it in 1929, I believe. Note the irregular patina that is appropriate for its age and nature and the sharpness of the relief edges.

Sand blasting is known to radically alter the appearance, life and strength of materials. it is the most aggressive form of abrasive cleaning and is usually the last method used.

Front cross

The after picture: The field stone/mortar joints have been opened up for water to freeze and thaw. There are only surface cracks evident over the whole monument. There is no safety issue. The symbol may indicate the builders’ were concerned in pleasing an entity other then their own ego.

Silica sand appears to be the material used against the Vespra Boys centotaph. There are chips of mortar and stone all over the grass.


There are different grades of silica sand available. The most destructive are the cheapest. There are bits and pieces of stones, mortar and sand 2 to 3 metres away from the cairn.

Sand blasting is classified as a form of abrasive blasting.

Abrasive blasting is the operation of forcibly propelling a stream of abrasive material against a surface under high pressure to smooth a rough surface, roughen a smooth surface, shape a surface, or remove surface contaminants. A pressurized fluid, typically air, or a centrifugal wheel is used to propel the blasting material (often called the media). The first abrasive blasting process was patented by Benjamin Chew Tilghman on 18 October 1870.

There are several variants of the process, such as bead blasting, sand blasting, sodablasting, and shot blasting.

Background: At a meeting at the site arranged by Ontario Parks Zone Manager Mr. Ken Lacroix this summer, I opposed the use of chemicals being applied and then having it power blasted with high pressure water. This elicited a very strong reaction by a representative of Ian Taylor’s, Friends of Springwater Park. I was not informed of any plans to alter the monument although I take Minister David Orazietti at his word when he said he appreciates my interest in the park.

Mr. Taylor appears to be taking credit for this “restoration” project on his Facebook page (see Sept 29th). He also thanks his good friends Patrick Brown Barrie MP, Ms. Nancy Bigelow, Ken Lacroix, Park Superintendent Scott Thomas,  Monument Restoration Ltd., Barrie Legion 147 and Elmvale Legion 262.

CFB Borden, the Department of National Defence, Springwater Township and City Barrie Heritage Committees, Camp Nibi grandmothers/occupiers or the families of the 18 WWI dead appear not to have been consulted, accommodated or included in his thanks.

I have asked the Ministry of Natural Resources to secure the site and not allow any further work until more is known about some may consider a pre-meditated assault on heritage on what is claimed to be protected Ontario land.

Premier Wynne restores 57.1% of the Ministry of Natural Resources planned cuts to its base funding.

August 23, 2013

But does the MNR reverse its decision to abandon Springwater Park?

Wynne mnr

In opting to restore $40-million of a planned $70-million cut to the ministry’s base funding in 2013-14, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne saved approximately 400 jobs mostly in Northern Ontario, says Natural Resources Minister David Orazietti
(Moe Doiron/The Globe and Mail)


Minister David Orazietti refuses to admit they made a mistake about Springwater Park, despite the $40-million reprieve given to his ministry by Premier Wynne. Minister Orizetti (MPP Sault Ste. Marie) decides to lessen the pain of northern communities. There should be no shame in simply hitting the reset button and restoring full-staffing to Springwater Park.

Instead, the park has to rapidly deteriorate over the MNR’s artificial minimum time table of April 2014 for re-opening.

For details on an opportunity missed, see Globe and Mail article Wynne’s scaled-back cuts part of plan to reconnect with rural regions:

While the change in plans will not have much impact on the province’s $10-billion deficit, it is indicative of the softer touch Ms. Wynne has brought to running the province, and in particular of her attempt to rebuild bridges with regions that felt mistreated by Mr. McGuinty.

Laurels to Premier Wynne. Not so much to the Minister and his senior staff.

Remind us again how abandoning Springwater Park would be a material step in hitting the MNR mandated 2013-14 $30-million belt-tightening?

Shuttering a 90 year-old, 477 acre facility would only yield 0.2% (2/10ths of 1 per cent) of that goal (ie. $60,000 annual “deficit” divided by $30-million).  Using this logic, the Ministry of Natural Resources would only have to abandon another 500 provincial parks.

Kathleen Wynne’s ministers are pleased one of their seven abandoned parks are being downloaded for 12 months.

August 2, 2013

Elliott Lake deserves to keep Mississagi Provincial Park permanently: not just for one or two years.

Ontario Parks

That seems to be the written law anyways.

News Release dated June 3, 2013:

Ontario Launches Pilot at Mississagi Provincial Park
Province, City of Elliot Lake Working Together to Operate Park
Ministry of Natural Resources

Ontario is working with the City of Elliot Lake to continue providing camping and other services at Mississagi Provincial Park for the 2013 season.

Under a proposed one-year pilot project, Ontario Parks will work with Elliot Lake to operate Mississagi Provincial Park with the goal of increasing revenue and visitation rates. The city will be responsible for staffing, operational and capital costs while covering any net financial losses incurred during the pilot period.

In September 2012, the province announced it was changing Mississagi Provincial Park and nine others from operating to non-operating designation because of low usage and financial losses. Since then, Ontario Parks has been working with three municipalities to operate Fushimi Lake, René Brunelle and Ivanhoe Lake provincial parks under two-year pilot projects.

Ontario is committed to working collaboratively with municipalities to strengthen the economy and sustain jobs for families.

Quick Facts

  • The 2013 season for Mississagi Provincial Park will begin on June 14.
  • In 2012, Ontario’s provincial parks received more than nine million visits and brought in $69 million in revenue, which supported jobs and businesses all across the province.
  • There are more than 330 provincial parks in Ontario and more than 100 feature visitor facilities. Many Ontario provincial parks provide barrier-free facilities.
  • Campsites can be reserved online 24 hours a day or by calling the park reservation line at 1-888-ONT-PARK between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m. daily.

Minister DavidDavid Orazietti
I’m pleased we have reached an agreement with the City of Elliot Lake to operate Mississagi Provincial Park for the enjoyment of Ontarians. In listening to Ontarians, and particularly northerners, we have worked collaboratively with the local municipality and First Nations to develop a pilot that will allow the park to provide overnight camping and other services for the 2013 season.”

David Orazietti
Minister of Natural Resources

Minister Mike

Michael Gravelle
“I’m tremendously pleased an agreement has been reached for the 2013 season. Mississagi Provincial Park is certainly a showcase of Northern Ontario’s natural beauty and I look forward to seeing this pilot project help maximize overnight camping opportunities going forward.”

Michael Gravelle
Minister of Northern Development and Mines

This could not have happened without the hard work of citizen volunteers and the cooperation of the Minister and his staff. I want to personally thank Minister Orazietti for expediting this project to ensure the park will be open for the summer season. It is an important part of the cultural and economic life of Elliot Lake.”

Rick Hamilton
Mayor, City of Elliot Lake

To review the facts from a Springwater Park in Midhurst perspective.

Springwater Park was…

  1. the only park abandoned in the MNR’s southern region (0.6% of the Ontario Parks are in their self-defined Southern Region). Please see: Who is selling off all the public lands in Springwater Township?
  2. the MNR has a clear institutional conflict of Interest (they are both monopoly crown land seller and operator of Ontario Parks),
  3. the only (now last) provincial park with a animal sanctuary,
  4. the only non-camping park closed this year, and
  5. the unfortunate “island” of 477 acres of public green space in a sea of 1,087 acres of MNR- and 2,290 acres of County of Simcoe-controlled forests while this host municipality (Midhurst) is scheduled to grow by over 8 times its size (Midhurst Secondary Plan). Please see: Is the provincial government both fueling and profiting from a real estate bubble which benefits developers, the MNR sales team and the County of Simcoe?

Very pleasing financial results for real estate opportunists and their supporters.

Exactly how does this squares the Wynne government’s 2006 legal objective “to permanently protect a system of provincial parks” for the benefit of future Ontarians is less clear.

The MNR moves the Springwater Park animals out of harm’s way.

May 29, 2013

Interestingly, the latest Goldhawk Fights Back interview between Dale Goldhawk, Jim Wilson MPP and Les Stewart was just 2 days ago.

Wanzel Chrissy Stewart

Photo by Mark Wanzel

A welcomed end to the abandoned park’s attraction to soon-to-be out-of-school teenage mischief makers.

From the desk of Hon. David Orazietti, Minister of Natural Resources: 

Mr. Les Stewart
Springwater Park Citizens’ Coalition

Dear Mr. Stewart:

As a follow-up to my earlier correspondence, I am writing to provide you with an update regarding Springwater Provincial Park.

As you are aware, on April 1, 2013, Springwater Provincial Park became a non-operating park and we announced that the ministry would no longer be maintaining the wildlife facility.

The health and well-being of the animals are very important to us and I am pleased to inform you that, by working cooperatively with Zoocheck Canada, we have found new facilities for all of the park’s rescued wildlife.

As promised, we have secured wildlife sanctuaries that are leaders in providing facilities that meet the animal’s specific biological and behavioural needs. The majority of the animals are remaining in Ontario and many will be housed at the Aspen Valley Wildlife Sanctuary in Rosseau. A few animals will move to other suitable sanctuaries in Nova Scotia and Quebec.

With the assistance of animal experts and Ministry of Natural Resources staff we have started the relocation process of moving the animals to their new homes today.

We continue to encourage visitors and local residents to use Springwater or to explore other provincial parks nearby that offer vehicle access and day-use opportunities.

Springwater continues to be protected land regulated under the Provincial Parks and Conservation Reserves Act, which will ensure this land is protected for future generations.

We would be pleased to review a business proposal from a potential partner, provided the proposal is consistent with the ministry’s fiscal commitments. For further information, I encourage you to contact Ken Lacroix, Project Manager, at

Again, thank you for your continued interest in Springwater Provincial Park.


David Orazietti
Minister of Natural Resources

c: Ken Lacroix

Credit is definitely due to the Ministry of Natural Resources for their professionalism, hard work and cultural sensitivity.

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