Mississaugas of Scugog reminds Pickering they need to be consulted about airport

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Published May 2, 2023 at 6:55 pm

Chief LaRocca Great Blue Heron
Mississaugas of Scugog Island Chief Kelly LaRocca addresses a crowd in front of the Great Blue Heron Casino in November 2021 - via Great Blue Heron Casino

While glad to hear Pickering City Council has changed its tune and rescinded its support of a potential airport, the Mississaugas of Scugog Island First Nation (MSIFN) wanted to stress they really should have been consulted about it.

The first nation noted at no point in the 51-year fight over the idea of an airport in northern Pickering has the city reached out to consult them as required by law.

The generation-long battle over the airport began in 1972 when the Federal government under Pierre Trudeau expropriated lands in the city (then a town). However, the plans never came to pass even as other airports planned around the same time, such as Mirabel in Montreal, did. Decades later the lands still sit empty and largely unused.

Grassroots opposition to the airport grew immediately after the announcement and has only grown stronger since. Most recently, nine such voices attended a raucous city hall meeting. The marathon four-and-a-half-hour meeting ended with a near-unanimous rejection of the city’s support for the airport.

Mayor Kevin Ashe was the only dissenting voice as he elected to abstain from the vote.

The decision was warmly received by anti-airport and environmental advocates. Likewise, the MSIFN joined the chorus of praise saying, “were pleased to see Pickering council members withdraw previous support for an airport in Pickering.”

“In addition to serious concerns about the environmental impacts of this proposed airport, MSIFN wishes to remind council that meaningful consultation with First Nations is legally required,” they said.

The law is clear that all levels of government including the Feds, the province and Pickering have to consult with First Nations under section 35 on The Constitution Act of 1982. This provision protects all First Nation treaty rights established in agreements that pre-date the Act, including the land expropriated for the Pickering airport.

These lands were included in the 1923 Williams Treaties as First Nations territory. As a result, “Developing this land requires meaningful consultation with those First Nations. Despite this, MSIFN has not been consulted on this project for decades,” the Nation wrote, “and all levels of government are shirking their legislated responsibilities.”

It is deeply disappointing that, during the 50 years that this project has been discussed by all levels of government, MSIFN has never been consulted on this matter,” said MSIFN Chief Kelly LaRocca, “moral obligations aside the Canadian constitution and provincial policy clearly outlines a legislative duty to conduct meaningful consultation for this airport with MSIFN and other impacted First Nations to address our concerns.”

“Durham Region’s natural and agricultural lands are disappearing at an alarming rate” they said voicing their “grave concerns” for the land with which they have a “deep historic and cultural connection.” Furthermore stressed the area is prime farmland which would be destroyed by an airport and could not be replaced. 

“MSIFN is pleased to see the vote in favour of the motion to rescind all previous support for the proposed airport,” LaRocca concluded, “We’re prepared to engage in meaningful consultation on this and other planned projects with William Treaties First Nations’ territory.”

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