Scugog Island First Nation reminds Pickering Mayor – again – to consult with Indigenous community


Published June 10, 2024 at 11:47 am

Mississugas of Scugog Island First Nation Chief Kelly LaRocca
Mississaugas of Scugog Island First Nation Chief Kelly LaRocca at the 2023 Powwow. Photo by Ang Tek Gie Photography

Durham Region’s only First Nation is once again reminding Pickering Mayor Kevin Ashe that Strong Mayor Powers granted to municipal mayors by the Province do not supersede their obligation to consult with local indigenous communities on important planning matters.

Mississaugas of Scugog Island (MSIFN) Chief Kelly LaRocca and Councillors Sylvia Coleman and Jeff Forbes made it clear to Ashe they have “profound concerns” with how strong mayor powers appear to be interpreted.

MSIFN Council cited Section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982, which obliges the Crown to consult with First Nations. Ashe left out the First Nation in his comments declaring the goal of building more homes in northeast Pickering to meet provincially mandated housing targets is a “shared commitment” of the Province, the federal government and the two levels of local government.

“My letter to the minister reinforces this collective priority and outlines decisive action that should be taken in order to help achieve our critical goal of sustainable development.”

The timing of the omission was particularly galling to MSIFN Council as June is National Indigenous History Month, with the highlight of the celebration National Indigenous Peoples Day on June 21, when Canadians “recognize and celebrate” the history, heritage, resilience and diversity of First Nations, Inuit and Métis across the country.

“Both these celebrations and supportive statements on social media are meaningless as long as fundamental Indigenous rights are being trampled on by political decision-makers. Requesting Minster’s Zoning Orders to speed up development on Indigenous Treaty Lands without consulting with affected First Nations is morally and constitutionally wrong.”

Ashe is insisting his letter to Housing Minister Paul Calandra asking him to revoke a 50-year-old ban on development in northeast Pickering is entirely about building more homes in the city and has “no bearing” on encroaching on the protected Greenbelt.

“We all want to see the continued protection of the Greenbelt lands in northeast Pickering,” Ashe said in an email in response to a request from indurham, adding that his request will have no affect “in any capacity” on the airport lands.

Ashe said his position is also consistent with the positions of both Pickering Council and with Durham Regional Council, though his letter to Calandra was issued under Strong Mayor Powers and not from any decision by his council.

MSIFN said in their social media post directed to Ashe that Council recognizes both the “legal complexities” and the need for housing in a growing province.

“Shrugging at these difficulties and unilaterally moving forward with contested ideas anyway is unacceptable and makes a mockery of public office and its mandate to solve difficult problems,” the statement read. “We urge provincial and municipal government representatives to recognize these complexities and pause developments in contested areas until clarity has been achieved.”

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