• August 27, 2014 1:05 PM

Media Advisory: The Wahta Mohawks are staging a "PORTAGE-IN" to protest the obstruction of the traditional and historic Bala Portage

BALA, ON, Aug. 27, 2014 /CNW/ -

Overview

A new hydro-electric generation facility, proposed to be constructed on the Bala Portage, which is between the Moon River and Lake Muskoka, would eliminate the traditional and historic portage that the Wahta Mohawk and other First Nations have used for generations.

The Wahta Mohawks will stage a "Portage-In" at 11 am on Thursday August 28, 2014 to protest that the federal and provincial governments have failed to fulfill their "Duty to Consult".

Introduction

The North Bala Falls site, proposed by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry for a hydro-electric generating station to be built by Swift River Energy Limited, has historical and cultural significance to the Wahta Mohawks and other First Nations, as it is the site of the traditional Bala Portage.

The Wahta Mohawks therefore have an inherent interest in being involved in all aspects of this proposed development as it is up river and adjacent to their community, and specifically because the review of this project did not substantively include the Wahta Mohawk as required by the Crown's duty to consult and accommodate.

Background

The Wahta Mohawks arrived in Muskoka in November of 1881 using what is now called the Bala Portage – which has always been south of the Bala North Falls. Historical documents clearly show that other First Nations in the area used this Portage prior to this.

Transportation by water and portaging is traditionally and culturally important to all First Nations, and it is disrespectful that the Wahta Mohawks were not informed of the impact on the Bala Portage by this proposed project. The Wahta Mohawk Council plans on raising this issue with the Iroquois Caucus and the Chiefs of Ontario.

The Wahta Mohawk Council has given notice that the communications and information the Wahta Mohawks have received concerning this proposed project have been completely inadequate, and the "Duty to Consult" has therefore not been fulfilled.

The Wahta Mohawk's Position

Until this consultation has been completed and some balance has been shown between the Aboriginal interests and those of the Ontario government, the Wahta Mohawks requests:

  • The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry not approve any of the developer's Plans and Specifications which would result in the obstruction of the Bala Portage, and as part of their assessment under the Lakes and Rivers Improvement Act, the MNR require that there be consultation with both First Nations and the general public. Furthermore, they request that the current Section 28 ban on use of the portage route be removed immediately.

  • The Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change require the developer to re-start the environmental assessment process, so that the developer can provide correct information on the impact to the Bala Portage, and so there can be meaningful consultation with the Wahta Mohawks and the general public on this and any other environmental issues resulting from changes the developer plans for the proposed construction and operation.

  • Transport Canada require that the Bala Portage not be obstructed, and as part of their assessment under the Navigation Protection Act, require there be information provided to and consultation with both First Nations and the general public concerning marine navigation and portaging.

  • The District Municipality of Muskoka and Township of Muskoka Lakes not provide Driveway Entrance permits, building permits, or otherwise facilitate this proposed project's construction until it has been shown that the "Duty to Consult" has been fulfilled.

This information has been communicated to the Right Honourable Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada and to the Honourable Kathleen Wynne, Premier of Ontario. The full text of that communication is available at http://wahtamohawks.ca/news-events-media/reclaim-the-portage/

About the Portage-In Event

There will be a portage of canoes across the historic Bala portage from the Moon River landing to Lake Muskoka. The Wahta Chief will be available for interview.

Bala, Ontario, is located on Muskoka Road 169 approximately 200 km north of Toronto, and 25 km northwest of Gravenhurst.

SOURCE Wahta Mohawks

For further information: On-site contact: Karen Commandant, Wahta Mohawk Senior Administrator, cell: 705 644-9894; Spokesperson: Chief Phillip Franks, Wahta Mohawks, cell: 705 528-9468