Pin­ery Pro­vin­cial Park shut down amid ‘oc­cu­pa­tion’ threat

The Beacon Herald - - FRONT PAGE - PAUL MOR­DEN POST­MEDIA NEWS

Pin­ery Pro­vin­cial Park has been closed to the pub­lic “un­til fur­ther no­tice” due to a threat­ened oc­cu­pa­tion.

The park is­sued a state­ment Thurs­day say­ing the de­ci­sion was made af­ter “a few in­di­vid­u­als” in­formed the Min­istry of Nat­u­ral Re­sources and Forestry of their in­ten­tion to oc­cupy the park.

Hu­bert Ge­orge, who lives at Ket­tle and Stony Point First Na­tion, says he and May­nard T. Ge­orge de­liv­ered a “no­tice of re­pos­ses­sion and tres­pass” to the park ear­lier this week, and set up a trailer at its front gate.

They de­scribe them­selves as de­scen­dants of Chippewa Grand Chief Wab­gance, who they say signed a treaty just prior to the War of 1812. They ar­gue land that in­cludes the pro­vin­cial park was never prop­erly sur­ren­dered.

“We’re try­ing to keep ev­ery­thing as peace­ful as pos­si­ble,” Ge­orge said. “We have our rights. We want to be heard, that’s all.”

Ge­orge added: “The story has never been fin­ished.”

Karen Pass­more, a spokesper­son for On­tario’s Min­istry of Nat­u­ral Re­sources and Forestry, said in an email the de­ci­sion to close the park was made “to min­i­mize the im­pact on our park vis­i­tors and en­sure their safety.”

She said Fri­day the park was closed to the pub­lic for camp­ing and day use.

“We have had nu­mer­ous dis­cus­sions with the in­di­vid­u­als to bet­ter un­der­stand their rea­sons,” Pass­more said. “We are con­tin­u­ing these dis­cus­sions in an ef­fort to re­solve the mat­ter.”

Park of­fi­cials tweeted Thurs­day the in­di­vid­u­als claim the park is “right­fully theirs” and added that the On­tario Pro­vin­cial Po­lice were no­ti­fied.

“Pub­lic safety re­mains our first pri­or­ity and will guide our op­er­a­tion of the park,” the state­ment added.

“We’ve en­gaged our pub­lic li­ai­son team to fos­ter the lines of com­mu­ni­ca­tion,” said OPP Sgt. Dave Rek­tor. “We re­spect ev­ery­body’s right to demon­strate. We’re en­cour­ag­ing ev­ery­body to re­main re­spect­ful and work to­wards res­o­lu­tion.”

The park, near Grand Bend, is in the mu­nic­i­pal­ity of Lambton Shores where Mayor Bill We­ber said Fri­day, “Lambton Shores is con­cerned and hopes that ev­ery­thing can be re­solved peace­fully.”

In Oc­to­ber 2014, when a trailer was also set up at the park, May­nard T. Ge­orge said they were seek­ing to re­pos­sess the site as part of an ef­fort to re­claim 20,234 hectares (50,000 acres) of land stretch­ing from Bay­field to near Sar­nia, say­ing it right­fully be­longs to his great­grand­fa­ther’s de­scen­dants.

May­nard T. Ge­orge has been in­volved, for sev­eral years, in First Na­tion land is­sues in Lambton County.

“This is a prob­lem for the gov­ern­ment and the OPP to re­solve,” said Monte McNaughton, MPP for Lambton-Kent-Mid­dle­sex. “The res­i­dents and fam­i­lies who use this park de­serve to have it open.”

McNaughton said he vis­ited the park Fri­day morn­ing, where he was told by its su­per­in­ten­dent that the park would re­main closed at least un­til Nov. 20.

“The OPP and the park staff should prop­erly and fairly en­force the laws and en­sure this park is open as quickly as pos­si­ble,” he said. Sar­nia Observer

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