Sauble residents, cottagers feel left in the dark
SAUGEEN OJIBWAY NATION – Residents and seasonal cottagers are reacting to the Town of South Bruce Peninsula council’s decision to issue a notice of appeal to the Superior Court regarding the recent decision by Justice Susan Vella to honour Treaty #72 and return the beach to its rightful owners, the Chippewas of Saugeen.
The town issued two press releases but has yet to reach out to its own residents or cottagers regarding the decision, the appeal, or plans moving forward, leaving them no choice but to find out what’s happening by accessing the information on the Sauble Beach Facebook page.
Sauble Beach resident John Riddell spoke with Midwestern Newspapers about the current situation, saying, “As a resident here, we’re not really too clear as to what’s going on. You know, pretty vague, I guess, is the best way to put it at this point, from our perspective, anyway.”
Seasonal cottage owner Louise Bond said she wasn’t sure what part of the beach was in question.
“I don’t really know much about it,” she said.
The town doesn’t communicate with seasonal residents, Bond said.
“They never do. I only see what’s on the Sauble Beach site,” said Bond, referring to the social media information.
The reactions from those who call Sauble Beach home and the part-timers are aligned, though they want to be done with this.
Many wish to reach out their hands in reconciliation, accepting the situation and working with the Saugeen band officials and committees to finalize what is to happen moving forward.
“I feel things are going to be probably OK, the way it is headed. But we don’t know that for certainty or anything at this point. But, as a resident, I’m just hopeful that the community and the Saugeen Reserve leaders can work together and make this thing amicable for all. So that’s our hope and our wish, at this point,” said Riddell.
Long-time South Bruce Peninsula resident Cliff Bilyea is unhappy about the decision to appeal and hopes the town will instead honour the decision and reach out their hands in fellowship to the Saugeen Nation.
“I’m very disappointed with the challenge. It’s a stupid thing that they’ve done. We’re trying to collaborate together, work together, and then they come back with this nonsense,” said Bilyea.
“Well, I think it’s very foolish for the town to come back and appeal. It’s very short sighted. We’ve had enough adversarial relationships over the years.”
Many Sauble Beach residents do not wish to waste more money on it. Instead, they want to work collaboratively with their First Nations neighbours and figure out how both can coexist under this new reality.
“That… is money wasted, because if people can just get along everything can work without legal costs. So that’s kind of where I’m from,” said Riddell.
It is also unclear if the government’s offer of compensation to the residents and cottage owners, initially negotiated in 2014, would still be on the table.
“The proposal, meant to avoid a costly court fight, would have handed formal title for the disputed 2.4 kilometres of beach – from Sauble’s Main Street up to its 6th Street North – to the Saugeen First Nation,” a previous report said. “But it also would have created a joint management board with three representatives each from the town and the reserve to run the beach and approve any changes. If the deal had been approved by all sides, the town would have received $5 million, the First Nation an undisclosed amount.”
Riddell said they were not aware if that was the case either.
“Hopefully, between municipal government and… Saugeen, they can sit down at a table and shake hands and carry on with a similar degree of cooperation that there should be. That’s my wish anyway.”
Saugeen issued a press release on April 19 in response to the town’s decision to appeal.
“Chief and council are disappointed… but appeals are a normal part of the legal process. We had hoped that our neighbours at the town would, in the spirit of reconciliation, accept the court’s decision and bring to an end decades of litigation on this matter. Sadly, appears not to be the case.
“We are confident that the trial judge’s decision was correct. We are confident that our ownership of the beach will only further be confirmed and that the decision will be upheld on any appeal.
“Together, the people of Saugeen First Nation have collectively been fighting for our beach for more than 170 years. We will not stop now.
“The trial judge recognized that ‘to achieve reconciliation means that status quo must sometimes change.’ This is a change that we have awaited for generations.
“We will keep fighting to preserve it. And we will prevail.”
Cory Bilyea, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Wingham Advance Times