Open Letter from BFN to Premier Doug Ford

For Immediate Release

March 16, 2021

This correspondence from Batchewana First Nation (“BFN”) is a formal notice of the deficiencies regarding the follow up processes as per Ontario court rulings, directives, narratives and Treaty promises in regards to a litany of challenges embarked on and asserted by BFN.   A copy of BFN’s Notice of Assertions is attached for your convenience.

BFN reminds the Crown of BFN‘s Notice of Assertion being served in 2011 to both the federal and provincial government leadership.  That assertion was specific in outlining a process to seek our permission in regard to intrusions of our inherent sovereignty and unextinguished jurisdictions over the lands in Eastern Lake Superior and the lands in direct proximity.

BFN reminds Ontario that the courts in R v. Sayers 2017, ONCJ 77 and R v. Dean Sayers and Batchewana First Nation of Ojibways, 2015, OCJ, provided strong statements by Justice Kwolek and Justice Logan that called for specific actions with Ontario‘s future relationship with Batchewana First Nation.  The statements by the courts pertained to BFN’s historic unextinguished jurisdictions and to engage in discussions in good faith.

In R v. Sayers 2017, the court stated: “recent developments including the release of the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission have provided greater impetus for discussions between the Crown and First Nations in resolving their disputes rather than resorting to criminal actions.”

As early as 2018, BFN attempted to engage in discussions with Ontario.  BFN went so far as to draft terms of reference and provide names of neutral arbiters to mediate the jurisdictional issue.  Unfortunately, Ontario was not interested in such discussions.

More recently, the relationship between Ontario and BFN has further eroded on a number of fronts. 

To highlight, the following are recent Ontario government decisions:

  1. To allow for benzene to be discharged over the lands adjacent to Sault Ste. Marie, BFN Garden River First Nation, and many other municipalities and villages in direct proximity to Algoma Steel for another year. Benzene is a poisonous, toxic substance that is one of the leading causes of cancer in our area. It appears corporate interests have trumped human and environmental needs once again. 
  1. Ontario has further implemented forest management systems that endorse and promote clear cutting and utilizing harmful aerial spraying of glyphosate to the detriment of the flora and fauna, trees, big game population, fish, and many more areas.  All of creation is affected by Ontario’s detrimental arbitrary processes around forest management. Again, corporate interests are trumping our inherent rights and the well-being of not only the animals, the water and the environment but human life. 
  1. As recent as 1944, Ontario illegally developed and imposed Lake Superior Provincial Park; forcibly removing the Indigenous People of Batchewana.  The Court in R v. Dean Sayers and Batchewana First Nation of Ojibways, 2015, OCJ, provided an expectation that Ontario adhere to the “honour of the Crown”. Ontario has not followed up nor shown any initiative in having these legal issues resolved. 
  1. Ontario has also removed BFN from fulfilling our inherent rights to protect and work with all of the animals that are currently being eradicated under Ontario‘s trapping regulations. We don’t have to look very far to see the effects of these processes. Numbers are on the decline and a lot of species are now at risk. BFN along with other First Nations have the ability to pursue or receive an illegal permit from Ontario to work under their assumed regime, which is an illegal assertion. 

These items are just the tip of the iceberg.  BFN cannot continue in the course of action where Ontario works from a premise of “Meaningful Consultation and Accommodation”. This premise was never and is not BFN’s interpretation and it does not reflect the promises identified in the Treaty relationship; where BFN has unextinguished jurisdictions to the land.  The Crown has an obligation to prove their assumed jurisdiction and to seek BFN’s permission for any action if they do not have a receipt.  This relationship will not be defined by meaningless and unendorsed declarations such as the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (“UNDRIP”).  The relationship will be defined by the implementation of the Treaties including the Robinson Huron Treaty and BFN’s interpretation thereof.

In closing, BFN brings attention to one final major issue.  As you are aware, BFN spent many years in Ontario‘s litigation process regarding logging jurisdiction. In R v. Sayers 2017, ONCJ 77; at the 11th hour, Ontario withdrew the charges which in essence proposed a confrontational remedy for Batchewana’s future involvement in the logging industry.  If BFN does not succumb to Ontario’s assumed logging jurisdiction and once again issue BFN’s inherent right based logging permits, BFN and its membership will be open to further legal charges and brought back to Ontario’s courts. 

In the meantime, with this looming threat, BFN has been on the outside of the logging industry looking in, at Ontario’s endorsed loggers, which includes clear-cutting forests for corporate interests. Ontario promotes a flawed, illegal assertion of jurisdiction over logging and the remedy for Ontario is for us to enter into their illegal regime and seek a license from a settler government to manage BFN forests.  BFN cannot condone this course of action any longer. 

As of May 1, 2021, BFN Loggers will commence operations in its original territories outlined in our historically founded documentation and accepted by the courts. BFN will be issuing logging permits based on BFN’s inherent law and unextinguished sovereignty. 

Given the above information, it is our expectation that BFN Loggers will be logging without the fear of prosecution by Ontario. If BFN’s logging operations are met with prosecution, then BFN will take further next-steps as necessary.

For all media inquires please contact: 

Alexandra Syrette

Communications Manager
Batchewana First Nation
(705) 255-8407