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JUNE 17, 2008

End of right to navigate waterways?

The right of navigation stands in the way of a dam between Lake Temagami and Cross Lake. No one is proposing such a dam, but that right would be an vital shield if it was.

The right of navigation, whether by motorboat, jet ski or canoe, exists on every waterway in Canada and is enshrined in the federal Navigable Waters Protection Act. Now a parliamentary committee proposes to take it away. It released a report calling for an end to the ancient right on minor waterways.

During committee discussion, minor waterways were said to be any river or stream that was only used by recreational watercraft, or could only support boats with less than a metre draft these are large boats. Canoeists, hunters, anglers, whitewater rafters, kayakers, cottagers, motorboaters, and houseboat vacationers navigate minor waterways.

"[The committee] will tell you this is a minimal thing," says Doug Skeggs of Les Amis de la Riviere Kipawa and a leading advocate of navigation rights. "This is not a minimal thing. We're talking about thousands of rivers and waterways [across Canada]."

The act requires strict attention to navigation for any construction over, under or through a waterway. In Temagami, it has kept logging roads from blocking our rivers.

Canada was explored, settled, and developed by river travel and before that it supported aboriginals for thousands of years. With roots in Roman law, navigation grew into Canadian common law.

As modern industrial use encroached on waterways it became necessary to guarantee the protection and sort out conflict. It was enacted in legislation as the NWPA in 1882.

The Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities in the House of Commons wants to change the act to reduce the approvals that municipalities and industries must obtain in building, or simply maintaining, structures across rivers.

Skeggs agrees some procedural changes to the old act's requirements are good, but he is angry at the attempt to revoke navigation rights and the effort to undermine opposition to it.

The recreational community was kept in the dark over the hearings held by the committee between February and May. Only two recreation groups received invitations to participate, and only as the hearings were winding up.

Skeggs saves his strongest criticism for one man.

"The national manager for the Navigable Waters Protection Program [David Osbaldeston] is responsible for protecting my navigation rights as a Canadian citizen, my right to pick up a canoe and put it onto any stream, river, or creek. That is his job one."

"What is that guy doing going before a Parliamentary committee and arguing that we need to take my right to navigate away. That is a breach of public trust of the highest order."

Users are organizing a coalition to fight the changes. Skeggs is calling on the public to write their MPP, Minister of Transport, opposition leaders, and the Prime Minister.

 EXTERNAL LINKS:  Rivers coalition

                             Committee report

                             Navigable Waters Protection Program

JUNE 13, 2008

Gary's back

From champion to outcast to new hope, Gary Potts returned as chief of the Temagami First Nation after yesterday's election.

Potts defeated incumbent Alex Paul by a single vote. There was a feeling among some on the island that stronger leadership was needed. Paul held the position since May 2002.

Potts election as chief in 1972 marked the beginning of a new era for the TFN. He launched the land-claim battle, hired a lawyer, and filed the famed legal caution, tying up land sales in the region for 23 years. The troubled nation gained a new sense of self-respect and an unshakable faith in him.

Ontario took the TFN's land claim to court, but Potts stood by his principles and fought back. He gained national stature among First Nations.

And he never hesitated to say it as he saw it. "They are going to rewrite history," he was quoted in the Toronto Star in 1989. "They are out to avenge [General George] Custer, or so it seems."

The legal battle went to the Supreme Court, and there, in 1991, the case was lost. It was a difficult time on Bear Island. Potts no longer enjoyed the unchallenged trust of his people and his relationship with them became bitter. In 1992, he did not run again.

Despite the hope of Potts' election yesterday, there is also some trepidation. The crushed dream of his past leadership is not easily forgotten.

  Election Results: Chief  
  Gary Potts 52
  Alex Paul 51
  John Mattias 27
  Virginia Saville-McKenzie 3


JUNE 10, 2008

Mosquito heaven, human hell

If you hate mosquitoes, 2008 may be your worst nightmare. Conditions are ripe to produce a bumper fly crop.

Soaked ground and excess open-water pools a gift of mild spring temperatures and lots of rain have exploded the mosquito breeding territory from past years.

With blood sucking already de rigueur, June is beyond redemption.

Only an end to the rain and plenty of evaporation could change the longer outlook and reduce the aerial attacks in July.

Obabika Lake access & maps


Alex Mathias

Spirit Rock


JUNE 9, 2008

Fall's Seasons Ceremony set for September 13

The eighth annual Nishnabai ceremony to celebrate the changing of the seasons will be held September 12 to 14 on Obabika Lake.

The Changing of the Seasons ceremony has been growing in popularity since begun by Nishnabai elder Alex Mathias. He is the last Temagami First Nation


member still living on his family's traditional territory.

The unique, non-commercial, remote event is held on a campground on Obabika in the spiritual shadow of Spirit Rock. It is open to aboriginals and non-aboriginals of all ages.

There will be traditional ceremonies, Ojibway stories, potluck feast, sweat lodge, and hiking in the old-growth forest. The ceremonies emphasize the traditional importance of the forest.

Previous participants recalled the inclusiveness of the ceremonies and the closeness that developed among participants.

Participants camp for the weekend at campsites at the north end of Obabika Lake with most arriving in canoes by early Saturday morning. Contributions are sought for Saturday's potluck.

Contact Kim Cowan at kim.cowan@rogers.com

  GATHERING PHOTOS:   2002   2004   2005  2006

JUNE 4, 2008

Temiskaming heritage website

Temiskaming, the region from Latchford to Kirkland Lake, gets a website dedicated to its heritage and culture.

Temiskamingcountry.ca's creator is local writer Norm Hawirko, who lives on the Montreal River near Mountain Chutes. He plans to grow the website into a significant resource over time.

 EXTERNAL LINK: Temiskaming Country



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