Indigenous land defenders block dam project in Burleigh Falls over lack of consultation

·2 min read

A peaceful protest over the lack of consultation Parks Canada had with Indigenous community members of Burleigh Falls about a dam being rebuilt is expected to last until there is recognition of their treaty rights.

Adrian Webb, who was born and raised and still resides in Burleigh Falls, says the protest is not about the dam being rebuilt; it's about how Parks Canada only consulted with Curve Lake First Nation and left them out without any regard to their land or harvesting areas of Burleigh Falls.

“In just two days they did all this,” Webb says, pointing to the already flattened uprooted area that he says was desecrated. Even though Parks Canada has begun the work, Webb said on Tuesday evening (Jan. 12) that, beginning Wednesday, workers for Parks Canada will not be permitted into the area.

Webb says OPP have been monitoring the area but have not spoken with protesters.

“This is Island 31, it has nothing to do with Curve Lake First Nation,” adds Webb. “We don’t have to leave, and we won’t,” he adds. Webb has defended the land before and says it is definitely history repeating itself. Parks Canada says they have done proper consultation, even going as far as recently holding a community virtual information session where the plans were laid out in great detail on the construction of the dam.

Extensive work is planned where the dam is scheduled to be completely rebuilt. The project is expected to last into next year, with the Government of Canada putting $40 million into the infrastructure project. In a previous interview regarding the construction, Parks Canada did indicate then that all protocols and consultation were done.

“Parks Canada has a duty to consult with the Williams Treaties First Nations where harvesting and treaty rights may be affected and engages regularly with these communities through a steering committee. The agency is consulting with Curve Lake First Nation and the other Williams Treaties First Nations on the Burleigh Falls dam replacement project.”

Jack Hoggarth, whose ancestors lived in Burleigh Falls long before the bridge or dam was built, is part of the Indigenous women and men in solidarity protest.

“I’m worried about the artifacts and the sacred land,” he says.

He also believes there was lack of consultation on the part of Parks Canada.

“Parks Canada admitted they did not know Kawartha Nishnawbe existed, and that’s a huge concern to me,” he says.

He adds he will remain until Parks Canada honours the duty and consultation is fulfilled with Kawartha Nishnawbe.

Webb says there is a land claim with Canada that was filed in 2019. He also says he is fully aware he holds membership with Curve Lake First Nation, but it has nothing to do with proper consultation of this project.

“This is our land, not Curve Lake,” says Webb.

Natalie Hamilton, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Peterborough This Week