First Nation councillors upset over Durham’s call to kill Ajax motion to study greenbelt implications


Published March 8, 2023 at 3:29 pm

A motion by Ajax Mayor Shaun Collier asking for a report on the implications of developing the provincial greenbelt lands died on the floor of Durham Regional Council last week, prompting a strong message from Mississaugas of Scugog Island First Nations Chief Kelly LaRocca, who warned councillors “there is no turning back from destroying the environment.”

LaRocca and Mississaugas of Scugog Island First Nations (MSIFN) councillors Laura Colwell and Jeff Forbes said they were “shocked” by the Regional Council decision to defeat Collier’s motion by a 17-12 vote.

“We are profoundly troubled by Durham Region’s vote to not study the implications of carving out land from the greenbelt,” read a statement from MSIFN. “The wetlands and biodiverse areas that are part of the greenbelt have developed over millennia and serve critical purposes in balancing our ecosystems and ensuring that humanity can thrive. These areas cannot simply be replaced with other undeveloped parcels of land somewhere else in the province.”

Collier introduced the motion at the March 1 council meeting, noting the Region has been working on its Envision Durham Official Plan Review for four years, with the draft plan released last month.

As the impact of the development of the former greenbelt lands in Durham is “not reflected” in any of the Envision Durham analysis, Collier believes staff need to address the implications, and that consideration of the new Official Plan by Council does not take place until the report has been completed.


Ajax Mayor Shaun Collier

“We made a decision based on facts and those facts have clearly changed,” Collier said of the need for a staff report, which he hoped would be ready in a month’s time. “This does not change the overall process.”

Pickering Mayor Kevin Ashe, however, said delaying the process “opens this body up to criticism,” adding that several of the delegates in the chambers at the meeting were spreading “inaccuracies” in their deputations.

LaRocca and her council team, while understanding of the position Durham Region is in as a creature of the Province, believes Council’s decision was not the right one.

“We recognize that sometimes difficult decisions have to be made in our growing province. However, responsible decision-making requires scrupulous, evidence-based, and detail-oriented processes. Especially when it comes to land that is vital to our fight against climate change.”

MSIFN Chief Kelly LaRocca

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