Frequently Asked Questions
We have compiled a list of submitted frequently asked questions from our membership.
Resources & Infrastructure
Joint Council & Rights
What is SON?
Also known as the SON EO.
The Environment Office serves the Saugeen Ojibway Nation Joint Council and their respective communities and membership. The Environment Office was created by Joint Council on October 7th, 2004.
Also known as the Joint Chiefs and Councils, or SON Joint Council.
Joint Council is comprised of the Chippewas of Nawash Unceded First Nation Chief and Council as well as the Chippewas of Saugeen First Nation Chief and Council. They meet frequently to discuss and decide upon issues that affect the Territory. Oversees the Environment Office.
Saugeen Ojibway Nation
Also known as SON.
Includes both Saugeen and Nawash, as well as all SON (Saugeen and Nawash) members living on- and off-reserve. SON’s Territory encompasses over 2 million acres.
What is your mandate?
The Environment Office’s mandate is to provide infrastructure and expertise for matters that affect the rights and interests of Saugeen Ojibway Nation (SON) and support the Joint Chiefs and Councils of SON in asserting jurisdiction across SON Territory.
What do you do?
The Environment Office is the technical body for Joint Council and has skilled staff members who liaise between organizations and governments operating in the Territory and the SON (Saugeen and Nawash) membership. Staff members work with these organizations and governments, such as OPG, NWMO, quarries, Bruce County, etc. to ensure that the Saugeen Ojibway Nation is being consulted on all matters relating to the lands and waters of the Territory.
Why do you do it?
The staff members work for the office because they believe in the mission of the office. They work to advance the rights and interests of SON because they believe that it is important for SON, as the caretakers of the Territory since time immemorial,
SON membership as a whole benefits, along with the Territory, since the Environment Office works on advancing the rights and interests of the membership.
How are you funded?
The Environment Office is funded through a combination of contribution/consultation agreements, and government and non-government grants. None of the funding for the Environment Office comes from either Saugeen or Nawash. Each band office manages and administers an equal number of SON Environment Office budgets and finances received administration fees for this service.
What are the long term goals of SON?
The long term goals of the Saugeen Ojibway Nation are to continue to assert and protect SON's Aboriginal and Treaty rights across the Territory and increase our presence as decision makers in our Territory and the space we occupy both physically on the land and across the waters, and the space we occupy socially and economically in the region. Participating meaningfully in decisions related to the Territory means being involved in anything that has the potential for environmental, social, cultural and/or economic consequences (positive or negative) for SON.
In order to do this, SON must engage with:
- all levels of government (municipal, provincial, federal),
- non-governmental organizations (e.g., Nature Conservancy of Canada) and
- many proponents from diverse developments and/or industries (e.g., Bruce Power, pit and quarry operators).
In order to be decision makers, SON needs a full complement of staff at the SON Environment Office to carry out the day-to-day work of a First Nations Territorial government in engaging with a variety of people and projects across our very large Territory.
The Environment Office's long term goals are to build a core staff that are able to uphold the responsibilities and goals of SON in the Territory. This means having staff:
- with the expertise to engage with government and proponents on a day-to-day basis,
- to collaborate, develop and implement environmental research and programs,
- to analyze settler government policies and practices,
- to build SON's own policies and standards for the Territory,
- to ensure that SON is consulted on and involved in decisions in the Territory, and
- to ensure those decisions reflect SON's vision for the Territory and both protect and empower the Aboriginal and Treaty Rights throughout the Territory.
How can we be more involved in knowing what is happening in the Territory?
Currently, a new website is in development which includes a members portal for all SON (Saugeen and Nawash) members. This will allow the membership to stay up-to-date with confidential information. You can also sign up to join our email list, and follow the Environment Office on social media.
What does the new Environment Office mean for all SON members?
The new office space that the Environment Office will be moving to soon means that the membership will have a location midway between the communities to visit and ask any questions they may have (following pandemic protocols, currently, of course). This also creates more accessible employment opportunities for SON members.
Is Saugeen part of these processes and how?
Saugeen Chief and Council makes up half of the SON Joint Council, meaning Saugeen Chief and Council have equal decision making with Nawash Chief and Council. All motions put to the SON Joint Council require support from both Saugeen and Nawash to pass. Saugeen and Nawash jointly make decisions and provide directions to the Environment Office. Joint Committee meetings and Joint Council meetings do not proceed unless the appropriate number of representatives from both Saugeen and Nawash are present.
Are there Saugeen Band Members that are employed at SON? If so, how many?
Currently, there are 11 employees at the Environment Office. 7 are Nawash Band Members, 2 are Saugeen Band Members and 2 are not SON members. Our Archaeology Monitors rotate, but usually half are from Saugeen and half are from Nawash.
Will the Environment Office be working with SON youth? If so, how?
Yes. Many of the issues and projects that the Environment Office deals with impact the entire SON membership, regardless of age. To ensure that all SON members are fully aware and informed of any of these projects, we will be hosting events that are focused on engaging youth. With the current pandemic in mind, however, many upcoming events or sessions will likely be online. We will inform the community as soon as things are planned.
Will the Environment Office be getting a "satellite" office in Saugeen?
With the change to the new office space outside Wiarton, the Environment Office will be moving operations there. However, currently, many members of staff are working remotely, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
What are the next steps to ensure our safety with Nuclear Waste? Low level and high level. Are we still at the table with OPG to figure out a different solution for low/med level nuclear waste?
The Environment Office is engaged with OPG in discussion around what the best low- and intermediate-level waste solution is for the nuclear waste in our Territory. OPG has committed to addressing legacy issues (from historical and ongoing operations of nuclear in the Territory without SON’s consent) and the leadership (SON Joint Council) will be engaging with them around this. As well, the Government of Canada is currently in the process of reviewing its nuclear waste policy. This will have an impact on OPG’s next steps around finding a permanent solution for the low- and intermediate-level waste. See below for an update on the high-level waste.
What is happening with the high level?
NWMO has evaluated potential sites for their DGR and narrowed down the potential sites to two areas:
1. Wabigoon Lake Ojibway Territory (near Ignace, ON) 2. Saugeen Ojibway Nation Territory (Municipality of South Bruce, near Teeswater, ON)
They have purchased 1500 acres of land in the Municipality of South Bruce and selected two locations to begin exploration. NWMO plans to drill two boreholes within this land in spring of 2021 to understand the geological and hydrological (underground water) conditions and suitability for the project.
The Environment Office will be engaging with our communities as a key part of this process. COVID has impacted this, including the ability of our working groups to meet. Our office is working hard in conjunction with Saugeen Ojibway Nation leadership to develop community engagement and an online platform for discussion and information sharing.
What are the next steps in the engagement process between SON and the NWMO?
So far, SON and NWMO have established a consultation agreement that binds both parties to carry out consultation activities and respect and uphold SON’s free, prior and informed consent on this project. NWMO has purchased 1500 acres of property in the Territory (South Bruce) to carry-out assessments to determine the suitability of the area from a scientific standpoint (geology, hydrogeology, ecology, etc.). NWMO has selected two sites for potential bore-holes to test the suitability and conditions of the geology and hydrogeology. The Environment Office has worked with NWMO to complete high standard (SON standards) archaeological assessments on these borehole sites. We have also worked with SON Elders and knowledge keepers to do ceremony at one of the borehole sites.
Our next steps will be to determine how best to:
- engage Community with information about the potential DGR,
- facilitate discussions within / between Communities about the project, and
- facilitate NWMO’s engagement with Community members.
We are looking for input from Community members regarding the best way(s) to engage across our diverse community (youth, elders, working parents, on-reserve, off-reserve, etc.).
Medical Isotopes, will there be more information sessions?
In the spring of 2021, there will be more sessions with information on the medical isotopes project. Currently, we are in the planning process for our community engagement, so there will be announcements about this and more coming soon! In the meantime, you can visit www.fightingcancertogether.ca for more information.
Resources & Infrastructure -
Why do the Joint Council and SON Environment Office not engage with forestry management and operations in the traditional territory?
The most straightforward answer is - capacity. We have, over the years, been involved in some discussions regarding forestry operations and management in the Territory, but this has not been an area of focus due mainly to our human capacity and availability of financial resources to support this work. This is absolutely an area that is important, one that the Environment Office is interested in becoming more involved with. We are working to stabilize our organizational structure to support these areas of work.
Why are there two fishery departments and the SON Environment Office when as the SON, our mandate is to govern collaboratively in a "unified" manner?
Yes, both Saugeen First Nation and Nawash Unceded First Nation have their own fisheries assessment programs / departments. In the past, these two departments have worked collaboratively to carry-out monitoring, assessment and research activities across the Territorial waters and worked with the SON Environment Office and Joint Council on issues related to fisheries. There have been discussions about creating one unified fisheries department under SON that carries out monitoring/assessment/research across the Territorial waters and represents both Saugeen and Nawash. This is ultimately a decision for the SON Joint Council.
Joint Council & Rights -
Is the Joint Council negotiating with any other parties outside of court with regard to the land claim and Aboriginal title claim?
The only party that Joint Council has negotiated with outside of court (outside of the Federal and Provincial Crowns) are the municipalities within the boundary of the land claim (e.g., Grey County, Bruce County, Northern Bruce Peninsula, etc.). Because the land claim is only for Provincially and Federally held lands, negotiations around settlement of lands held by municipalities is important. The result of one of these negotiations was the settlement with Grey County for 250 acres of land to be transferred to SON (https://www.oktlaw.com/grey-county-and-saugeen-ojibway-nation-reach-his…). Negotiations with the municipalities and the other county remain on-going.
Land use and occupancy, what is the update on this project?
We were planning on rolling out the Land Use and Occupancy project in early 2020 (Feb/March). COVID-19 greatly impacted our ability to implement this project this year. Part of the LUO project involves bringing in the best in Land Use and Occupancy mapping (Terry Tobias and Associates) to the Communities to interview Community members. At present, we feel that this would put Community members and interviewers at risk, we would get fewer community members signed up for interviews, and the interviews would not be as enjoyable for those participating. We plan to proceed with this project in 2021 and will update on our Facebook page and website when we are ready to begin booking interviews!