To the editor,
Re: claims that the Ontario-Minnesota Dam caused flooding thereby creating islands on Rainy Lake.
On Aug. 28-30, 2018, the Ontario Ministry of Indigenous Affairs supported by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources held several meetings in the district to inform the public about negotiations underway to identify certain islands to have been part of certain First Nations reserves before they were flooded.
The public was further told that Ontario was proposing to de-regulate the Rainy Lake Island Conservation Reserve Policy so that certain islands claimed to have been part of the First Nations Reserve, as part of Ontario's plan of settlement for a claim of flooding by the dam.
A letter dated March 8, 2019 regarding the same subject has now been provided to certain individuals who attended previous meetings. This letter addresses matters of private ownership on any of the islands, and any impact if any, about navigations around these islands.
In this letter, I will speak mainly about the Reserves created for Couchiching, Stanjikoming and the Métis. It is not my intention to be disrespectful towards the aspirations of the First Nations people having worked with, and for them, as an official representative of Canada.
- Fact-the Reserves, 18-B and 18-C for Couchiching, Stanjikoming (Little Eagle and Gobay and Bands) were chosen in common. The Reserve for the Métis then referred to on the plan of survey as 16-A and 16-D. General Reserve No. 1 (Agency showing Mr. Pither's Buildings) was also shown on The Caddy Survey Plan.
- Fact-the Reserves did not go to the water's edge but were separated from the same by a Two-Chain (132 feet) road allowance that did not form part of the Reserve.
- Fact-the survey spoken of was completed by E.G. Caddy on July 14, 1876 for the Government of Canada. While traversing the shoreline on his plan, Surveyor Caddy identifies a number of islands outside of the Reserves along the shoreline, being most of the islands now being claimed as having been created by flooding. In Ontario's letter of March 3, 2019, they speak of Canada suing the Ontario-Minnesota Power Company in the 1920s for flooding damages. Ontario does not say they were not aware of the case going to the Supreme Court of Canada and then the Privy Council in England. Ontario was not made aware of the trials until the 1920s.
At the trial, Canada was accused of providing fake survey plans of the First Nations Reserves which did not show the Two-Chain Road Allowance which the Privy Council found was not part of the Reserves. Subsequently, the members of Couchiching who built on this Two-Chain were not entitled to damages to their homes.
- Fact-that the Two-Chain (132 ft.) did not form part of the Reserves first set aside is documented in instructions given to further surveyors engaged in new rectilinear boundary surveys, who were instructed to place iron bars for the Reserve Two-chains from the water's edge.
A more recent survey conducted by G.J. Campbell and his survey crew of Federal Department of Energy, Mines and Resources, (the department responsible for giving instructions for surveys on federal lands) was conducted between June 1981 and June 1983 on Agency Reserve No. 1 and deposited at our local Land Titles on February 1984 as Plan 48R-2138.
The Plan 48R-2138 noted provides quite a comprehensive review of water levels between the setting aside of the Reserve and 1981.
There is much more to the story of claims that flooding created islands on Rainy Lake. Those affected by the claims of flooding of Reserve Lands to create island should be advised to look into this matter further.
Edward (Ted) Berry
Former District of
Superintendent of Lands,
Reserves and Trusts,
Indian and Inuit Affairs
Fort Frances District