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SERA Annual General Meeting Update

AGM August 2022 Update

SERA held its AGM virtually on Aug. 10. We thank our community for attending and having a very thoughtful conversation. If you missed it, please get in touch with your road president for a recap.

Your representatives are:
  • President, Chair and Director: Rico Bertschinger – Gold Point Road Association
  • Vice Chair: Eric Jensen – Welcome Channel Road Corporation
  • Treasurer: Allan Thordarson – 1133406 Ontario Inc.
  • Secretary and Director: Bruce McConnell – Northern Peninsula Road Association
  • Director: Rick Dobel – 1133406 Ontario Inc.
  • Director: Peter Murdock – Northern Peninsula Road Association
  • Director: Harry Salmajaavi – Northern Peninsula Road Association
  • Director: Salem Woodrow – Welcome Channel Road Corporation
South End Road Association

Building a positive relationship with our WBFN neighbours

In the previous two summers, SERA families were unable to access their homes and cottages by land. To try to remedy this situation, we contacted WBFN to discuss a new road agreement that not only opens up road access, but respects the WBFN community, prioritizes its people’s safety, and contributes to its community in a meaningful way.

OUR GOAL

Our goal is to cultivate a long-term agreement that provides stability for everyone. To do this, we’ve proposed forming a committee with WBFN band and SERA board members to meet on a regular basis to discuss conditions, issues and opportunities, including:

  • A collaborative road-maintenance plan.
  • Mutually agreed upon traffic-calming measures to ensure the WBFN’s safety and security.
  • A 10-year plan to develop and build a new access road that bypasses the WBFN town.
  • A plan developed with WBFN to address community housing and infrastructure needs.
  • An exploratory group to examine fire-protection options.
  • Potential WBFN education opportunities, including scholarships and internships.
  • Participation in WBFN’s cultural institutions and events to share its traditional knowledge.

HOW DO WE ACHIEVE THIS GOAL?

SERA’s focus of achieving a new road agreement is based on these fundamental principles:

  • Respect for Washagamis Bay First Nation, including the land and the people.
  • Open and honest communication between the stakeholders of the road and the rights holders.

Download the PDF to learn more.

Urgent notification to all permanent and seasonal residents – Lake of the Woods

The attached presentation was released by the Lake of the Woods Control Board on May 9, 2022. It is an excellent and in-depth discussion of the current and projected water levels in the Lake of the Woods basins. Significant detail was presented with representatives from the United States present. The first and last few pages summarise the key points, everything in between are detailed illustrations, charts and tables of the past and current situations.

DOWNLOAD THE PRESENTATION

Key points are simply this:

  1. Moderately high snowpack by end March
  2. April: record precipitation, delayed thaw
  3. Rain + rapid snowmelt + frozen ground
  4. Record flows for early May in many areas
  5. Timing is poor – wettest weeks of year normally in May-June
  6. Weeks of high water ahead, rain dependent
  7. 2014 or higher levels in most areas possible

Permanent and seasonal residents are encouraged to review their shorelines to avoid or minimise potential damage.

South End Road Association

Washagamis Bay First Nation elects new Chief and council

SERA community members,

On August 16, the Washagamis Bay First Nation held elections in which a new Chief and Council was decided. We have sent our congratulations to Chief Vernon Copenace and his council.

The SERA board is in communication with the new Chief and Council and looks forward to restarting negotiations to achieve resolution on the current road access situation. We will provide updates as appropriate.

As we progress through our relationship building with the new Chief and Council, it is important that we all remain aligned on our desired outcome. We are optimistic that Chief Copenance and the Washagamis Bay community will be amenable to returning access to everyone, but we are aware it will take time and patience. In turn, we ask for your continued patience.

As we approach our member AGMs, we are sure you will have questions about our negotiations strategy and ongoing actions leading up to this new Chief and Council. Please contact your road president if you have questions or concerns.

The SERA board has updated its website. We encourage you to subscribe to the mailing list to receive additional information. You can subscribe on the website or let us know and we’ll add you to the mailing list.

SERA Road History and Position

Reserve Road History Background and Benefits to the Washagamis Bay First Nation

In 1977/1978 the original main road through the Reserve to the southern boundary was being constructed by Manitou Properties (Kenora) Ltd., a Kenora based real estate developer. (“the Developer”).  The Developer received the required authorization from the Washagamis Bay First Nation (“WBFN”) Band and the Crown, then known as The Department of Indian & Northern Affairs. The cost of the road construction in 1977/1978 was estimated to be $105,000.  The $105,000 of funds to build the road was part of the original purchase price paid by each of the original lot owners located on Hansen’s Bay on Lake of the Woods.

The Hansen’s Bay lot owners formed a Road Association that today is known as Welcome Channel Road Corporation (“WCRC”).  WCRC was to represent their interests in the main road through the reserve and their road on private land that connected to the reserve road.  The sole purpose of the main road through the reserve at this time was to provide road access to cottage lot owners at the southern boundary of the Reserve.

Due to the Developer‘s financial demise and failure to construct the road to the appropriate standard, the Hansen’s Bay lot owners  provided  the equipment and materials to complete and upgrade the road to a safe standard at their own cost.  This was done with the permission of the WBFN Band.

In the late 1980’s and into the mid 1990’s the WBFN Band agreed to provide road access to 100 +/- additional cottage lot owners located in the same community area as the WCRC lot owners.  These new lot owners were represented by three additional road associations known as the Northern Peninsula Road Association (“NPRA”), the Gold Point Road Association(“GPRA”) and 1133406 Ontario Inc. (“1133”). Each of these road associations entered into a road access agreement with the WBFN Band.  These road associations, along with WCRC, have paid annual road access fees to the WBFN Band in accordance with the terms of their respective contracts each and every year since these contracts were signed.

In 2013 the South End Road Association (“SERA”) was formally established. SERA was formed as an umbrella organization to represent the four road associations of WCRC, NPRA, GPRA and 1133. The original purpose of SERA was to coordinate with the WBFN Band and the Washagamis Bay Cottagers Association (“WBCA”) to provide maintenance, address handling safety issues and coordinate upgrades to the main road running through the reserve. The main road runs north -south from the entrance to the WBFN down to the southern boundary of the WBFN.  The WBCA is an organization that was formed to represent the approximate 200 +/- individuals that entered into long term land lease agreements with WBFN Band and who built cottages on Lilly Pad Bay and Poplar Bay on WBFN land.

During the first decade of the Reserve main road, the WCRC paid for the cost of the road maintenance. Later, under the signed road access contracts with members of the SERA and the WBCA,  the WBFN Band was responsible for maintaining the road. However, the road was not maintained to a safe standard and members of SERA and WBCA assisted in maintaining the reserve road so that it was passable.

Starting in 2011 the four Road Associations that are represented by SERA, in conjunction with the WBCA, took over the responsibility for the maintenance of the road with the concurrence of the WBFN Band. The WBFN Band agreed to contribute a portion of the annual road access fees and the annual lease fees that they were collecting towards this initiative.  In addition, members of the SERA Community contributed many hours of volunteer time and effort to maintaining the road and making it safer for everyone.  SERA members also made significant voluntary monetary contributions that were above and beyond the mandatory annual road access fees.  These additional amounts allowed the road to not only be maintained but also greatly improved.  These voluntary monetary contributions were used for such things as ditching, culvert installation, gravelling, dust control, etc.

Benefits to the Washagamis Bay First Nation

The building of the road through the WBFN to its southern boundary facilitated economic opportunities that provided many benefits to the WBFN Band including:

  1. The development of 200 +/- leased lots on Lily Pad Bay and Poplar Bay during the late 1980’s and early 1990’s.  The development of these lease lots provided a large upfront lump sum payment and an ongoing annual payment. In fact, one of the SERA Community members originally mapped out the lots on Poplar Bay and submitted it to the WBFN Band as a way they could generate income. A SERA member was also responsible for bringing Ontario Hydro on board to service the new development.
  2. The road access contracts signed with the WBFN in the 1980’s and early 1990’s by the four southern road associations residing in the SERA community at the southern boundary of the WBFN has provided an ongoing annual road access fee being paid to the WBFN Band. At the time of development of these private roads, the WBFN had a heavy construction company which the SERA associations used to build their roads, providing employment and financial benefit to the Band.
  3. WBFN Band was able to access the southern portion of the Reserve which allowed access to selling the gravel from their gravel pit, conducting logging activities, etc.  The gravel from the WBFN gravel pits and Crown owned gravel pits in the area were also used to build the branch roads required to develop the leased lots on Lily Pad bay and Poplar Bay.
  4. WBFN Band has been able to build new housing along the new road beside the lake for its residents.

Questions? Contact us.

South End Road Association

SERA Website Improvements

Our New Website Overview

The South End Road Association (SERA) is pleased to inform you, our subscribers, of important improvements to our website.

Click here to see the improvements, including better presentation of the various articles we have added, archives of previous announcements and media stories, updated by-laws and an acknowledgement of our co-location with the Washagamis Bay First Nation and Treaty 3 bands.

Use this site as a reference point for material related to our local relationships, current affairs, and the road access situation we currently are in. There is a new page called “Our Perspectives” where we provide a history of the construction of the Poplar Bay Road, the road that opened up the economic opportunities for the Washagamis Bay First Nation.

SERA hopes that you enjoy the updates and please contact us if you have any questions.

South End Road Association

News Release – Washagamis Bay First Nations Road Blockade Creating Health Crisis

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 20, 2021

Click to download the news release
Click to download the news release background information
Listen to the press release
Read Kenora Online’s article, “Residents feel ‘trapped’ due to First Nation road blockade.”

WASHAGAMIS BAY FIRST NATIONS ROAD BLOCKADE CREATING HEALTH CRISIS – First Nations actions are putting lives at risk

Kenora, ON, April 20, 2021 – Wayne Warkentin was nervous about travelling over the ice to get to his doctor’s appointment in Thunder Bay on March 30th, but he had no choice. Wayne had been feeling weaker and sicker every day for the past couple of weeks and he needed to get to the doctor. The only way from his home to the highway was over an increasingly thin stretch of ice. This was because Washagamis Bay First Nation (WBFN) Chief and Council had unilaterally cut off road access for the 114 property owners who live south of the reserve. This action ended over 30 years of written, legal contracts that had built and maintained the road for the benefit of both communities.

Wayne had no choice but to ride his quad across 18 kilometers of ice that was no longer thick enough to support his truck. It meant he was all alone on the soft and melting ice road after leaving his wife behind. By the time Wayne reached the landing off the ice road, he felt lightheaded and tired. His condition had deteriorated so quickly that once he arrived at the Kenora Hospital, he was flown by emergency air ambulance to Thunder Bay and had emergency surgery to put a pacemaker into his chest.
Wayne’s experience was just the latest in a long line of difficulties experienced over the last year by members of the South End Road Association (SERA) community. Last summer a person died after suffering a stroke, and the victim had to be transported by boat to Kenora.

“The WBFN Chief and Council has shown indifference to the fear and stress in our community” says Rico Bertschinger, President of SERA. “For a year we have texted, emailed, called and written asking to talk, without any response. Many of our permanent residents are our elders, people who have made their homes here, built their retirement and lives around this beautiful lake and land.”
So far, the Government of Canada has stayed silent. The office of Minister Marc Miller of Indigenous Services Canada claims that, “Our Job is to support the community of Washagamis Bay in whatever decision they make, regardless of how it effects other communities.” The only advice he and his office has given was to “talk to Minister Blair’s (Public Safety) office if you are worried about lives, maybe they can help you.” Ontario Minister of Indigenous Affairs Greg Rickford has also proven to be of no help. “We had an initial meeting with Rickford, and he promised to help, promised to call the chief.” Says Nancy Salmijarvi, who retired to Lake of the Woods over 10 years ago, “now he won’t even answer our letters, or emails.”

“We call on Chief Sinclair and her legal counsel, Bruce McIvor, to stop putting people’s lives at risk. We request the government urge the band to open negotiations with us. The government has a table – won’t they please invite us to it,” adds Bertschinger. “The ice road is no longer stable, and boats cannot travel yet. These residents are trapped until the water opens up.”

-30-

If you would like more information about this topic, please contact media Contact Neil Mackie at 403.862.4053 or email at nmackie@shaw.ca

SERA UPDATE

Ontario Government health order – section 2 cross border travel

The Ontario Government health order issued by the Premier of Ontario is attached for your review. Please beware of the new conditions, specifically section 2 Cross Border Travel.

Click here to read the full health order PDF

Section 2 Information:

Certain travel into Ontario from Manitoba and Quebec prohibited

2. No person shall travel into Ontario from Manitoba or Quebec unless,

  1. the person’s principal residence is in Ontario;
  2. the person is moving to Ontario in order to make their principal residence in Ontario;
  3. the person is travelling through Ontario without unnecessary stops to reach their
    principal residence in another jurisdiction;
  4. the person is travelling into or through Ontario by means of an international or
    interprovincial bus, train, ferry, or flight;
  5. the person is travelling to perform work in Ontario;
  6. the person is transporting goods into or through Ontario as part of the operation of a
    business that involves the transportation of goods;
  7. the person’s health makes it necessary to travel into Ontario to obtain health care or
    social services;
  8. the person is travelling in a vehicle that is transporting or that will transport a person
    in Ontario to or from a hospital or health care facility in Manitoba or Quebec;
  9. the person is being transported from a hospital or health care facility in Manitoba or
    Quebec, whether by ambulance or by any other means;
  10. the person is, (i) in the care of a children’s aid society in Ontario pursuant to a court order or a written agreement, (ii) in the care of a person subject to the supervision of a children’s aid society in Ontario pursuant to a court order or a written agreement, or (iii) at least 16 years old and no more than 21 years old and receiving care, services or support pursuant to an agreement with a children’s aid society in Ontario;
  11. the person must enter Ontario to exercise custody or access rights contained in an
    agreement;
  12. the person must enter Ontario to comply with an order contained in a decision or
    judgment of a court or tribunal, or as otherwise required by law;
  13. the person is travelling into Ontario for the purpose of exercising an Aboriginal or
    treaty right as recognized and affirmed by section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982;
  14. the person is travelling into Ontario to respond to a critical incident, including travel
    for the purpose of, (i) preventing injury or illness to persons, (ii) preventing damage to property, or (iii) performing a necessa1y action to respond to the critical incident; or
  15. the travel is necessary for a humanitarian or compassionate reason, such as, (i) providing care or services to a person who requires them due to their state of health, (ii) attending on a person who is dying, or (iii) attending a funeral.

SERA: Reserve Road Usage Requires Approval

It has come to the attention of the South End Road Association (SERA) and its member boards that recently there have been private road members gaining access to their cottages through the reserve road without previous approval from Andy Graham.  The SERA board was informed of actions by some road members of what can be considered illegal entry and usage of the reserve road.

The Band is now conducting a review of all access and departures through the checkpoint over the last week to ensure there were no additional entries without proper permission.  More transgressions of the permit system will likely be found and communicated to SERA and individual road associations in the coming days.

These transgressions have likely angered the FN Band, who may now think that our members do not respect or understand the Ontario Health Orders and the established checkpoint system.

We are all concerned and frustrated by the road closures, but it is worth restating what we know as the facts today.

  • The Ontario Health order has not been rescinded yet.
  • The Band has the right to set up a checkpoint and restrict road access under the Pandemic Action Plan
  • The Band Police and the OPP have the authority to charge any unauthorised members for trespassing.
  • The Band views the Road Associations as responsible for individual actions of its members.

The consequences of additional unauthorized use of the band roads could be significant.

We ask that you not try and even contemplate the idea of using any Band roads, either coming in or leaving unless you have a permanent resident pass or previous approval from Andy Graham.  The band considers usage both going in and going out to and from your properties and anyone you may visit as trespassing.  Please do not approach the checkpoint with the idea “lets just try and see what happens…”  – hoping that you can gain access from an inattentive security guard.  It reflects badly on your judgment.  That is taking advantage of a situation that will not be helpful to reopening the road.

We are all anxious to get back to our properties, but in the interim, adherence to the set-out rules is critical to us getting back to our properties.

Washagamis Bay First Nation – Urgent Community Notice – COVID-19 Lockdown Lifted

Washgamis Bay First Nation

IMPORTANT: This notice only applies to full-time residents, and there will be no additional road access requests until the week of June 22.

June 9, 2020

Urgent Community Notice – COVID-19 Lockdown Lifted

Please be advised that upon further review by Chief and Council of the current COVID 19 cases and the overall risk to community members, the Lockdown that began on June 8th has been lifted effective immediately.

What does this mean?

  • Washagamis Bay First Nation will return to the restrictions in place prior to the June 8th Lockdown. This means community members and permanent cottagers will be allowed to leave the territory once per day.
  • In order to further protect the community, absolutely no Non-Residents will be allowed into the community until further notice unless they are deemed essential workers.
  • As well, there will be no additional access granted to the road for seasonal cottagers until at further notice.

All restrictions will be reviewed by Chief and Council the week of June 22nd.

The Chief & Council and the Emergency Preparedness Team will continue to monitor the situation and will may implement additional measures and restrictions if there is an increased risk to community members. Again, community and band members are asked to do their part in preventing the spread of COVID-19.

Miigwech,

Chief & Council of Washagamis Bay First Nation

Download notice as PDF.

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