Dec 5: Report on First Community Consult with National Parks

Parks Canada is beginning to put together their 5-year management plan for Bruce National Park and Fathom Five Marine Park. Both are in our treaty areas, at the norther tip of he Saukiing (Bruce) Peninsula. Parks Canada must do this in consultation with us.

The management plan must respect the rights of the Saugeen Ojibway Nation. These include our right to harvest, access the land, and our affirmed commercial fishing rights. The Plans for both parks will be subject to the outcome of the land claim. That claim is scheduled to enter court in the Spring of 2018.

The first of many conversations between the Parks and our communities occurred on Wednesday, December 5th at the Wiarton Arena. Nearly 100 band members from Nawash and Saugeen gathered to hear what Parks Canada had in mind for its relationship with the Saugeen Ojibway Nation, and to voice their opinions about what that relationship should look like. This is a short report of what was discussed.

For a more in depth discussion with Doran Ritchie who organized the evening, go to the audio podcast on our You Tube channel. (Click on the icon or here: 

Band members from Saugeen & Nawash gathered on Dec 5, 2018 to talk about their relationship with the Bruce National Park and the land the Park now administers.

Our relationship with the Parks has not always been easy. Canada established two national parks in the northernmost part of our territory in 1987 – without consultation. The Fathom Five National Marine Park encompasses several islands and the water around them. Bruce National Park takes in a large chunk of the northern Bruce Peninsula and, on the southeast corner it abuts the hunting reserves of Nawash and Saugeen. [See map below]

Parks Canada, in administering these parks, is obliged to respect SON’s aboriginal and treaty rights to hunt, fish and gather. That hasn’t always been the case but, with negotiation, that has changed. Now the challenge is to increase our presence in the Parks – by practicing our rights, by helping protect the land, and by managing the activities of the Park.

Progress is being made. The Park is now checking with SON every time it makes plans for altering the land. From new parking areas to the construction of buildings, we are being called to comment. In some cases, when our archaeological assessment turns up an important site for example, we have told the Park to establish no-go zones.

Parks Canada is putting together their next 5-year plan for the Park and hence the need to consult with SON about what goes into that plan. They are doing that mindful of SON’s rights and claims, and in the knowledge that 60% of the world’s vertebrates have disappeared over the past 30 years, along with 83% of the freshwater population.

Doran Ritchie, Resources Manager for the Saugeen Ojibway Nation Environment Office with John Festarini, National Park Supervisor in front of a photo of The Grotto, a highlight of the Park and popular with visitors.

The Park’s deadline for their plan is 2021. Here’s what some Band members thought should be included …

No deadline for consultation. The Park may have a deadline of 2021 but SON will take as long as it takes. Indeed there is no limit – the Park must consult with SON on anything that would impact our rights and claims. And that includes the land claim that is going to court in the Spring.

More access to the Park. Generations of SON’s people have used the Park to hunt and fish and gather. That must continue unfettered. An elder from Saugeen remembered how people used to visit the area now covered by the Park and told the gathering of a tone by the shore worn smooth from the canoes that were beached on it.

Anishinaabemowin – Our language is our understanding of the land. It is not the same as the understanding the newcomers brought with them. At the meeting, people applauded the idea that our language should become a prominent feature at the Park – and not just on signs.

More SON members in senior management positions. If the Park is serious about comanagement, then that must be reflected in the offices of those who manage the Park.

More SON youth working with Park staff to protect the land. Youth connecting with the land is something people want to see because it also connects people to the culture. But that probably means residency programs – youth staying in the Park – since the distance from Saugeen is so great.

Anishinaabewin – Anishinaabe culture and ecological concepts must embedded in Park management and way of doing things. Our ways are not the same as those practiced by Park staff. For us to be part of the Plan for the Park, those ways must become part of the way the Park does things.

Remove all barriers from employment of SON members. Some see Parks Canada’s requirement of a security check as a barrier. The Superintendent assured people that it was not necessarily so.


The Bruce National Park and Fathom Five National Marine Park are located at the northern tip of the Saukiing (Bruce) Peninsula in Ontario. They are the northern terminus of the Niagara Escarpment Biosphere Reserve, a designation of UNESCO that runs along the limestone escarpment from Niagara to Manitoulin Island.


The traditional territory of the Saugeen Ojibway Nation takes in over 2 million acres in southwest Ontario, Canada and it includes the lake bed surround the territory. Both the lake bed and the Saukiing (Bruce) Peninsula are subject to an $80 billion land claim that is due in the court in the Spring of 2018.


The Saugeen Ojibway Environment Office is charged by the Joint Councils of Nawash and Saugeen with the responsibility of conducting proper consultations with the Crown and private enterprise who have proposals for development in the Territory. In carrying out consultation, the Office will negotiate accommodation agreements with proponents which go to Joint Council for ratification.


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  1. Glenda Clarke Reply

    Thank you for posting this in a publicly accessible way that those of us with an interest in the fair treatment of the SON can be better understood. I am a year round resident of Tobermory and through the local TRC group have been increasing my knowledge of local indigenous matters over the past few years. The relationship with the Park is and will continue to be very important into the future. My hope is that not only can a positive relationship be established now, but that the land claim, when settled will include at least a strong co-management governance structure for the Park. Ideally in my mind the governance role would be managed 100% by SON.

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