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 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.
The attached presentationwas 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.
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 websiteor let us know and we’ll add you to the mailing list.
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.
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.”
If you would like more information about this topic, please contact media Contact Neil Mackie at 403.862.4053 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Certain travel into Ontario from Manitoba and Quebec prohibited
2. No person shall travel into Ontario from Manitoba or Quebec unless,
the person’s principal residence is in Ontario;
the person is moving to Ontario in order to make their principal residence in Ontario;
the person is travelling through Ontario without unnecessary stops to reach their principal residence in another jurisdiction;
the person is travelling into or through Ontario by means of an international or interprovincial bus, train, ferry, or flight;
the person is travelling to perform work in Ontario;
the person is transporting goods into or through Ontario as part of the operation of a business that involves the transportation of goods;
the person’s health makes it necessary to travel into Ontario to obtain health care or social services;
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;
the person is being transported from a hospital or health care facility in Manitoba or Quebec, whether by ambulance or by any other means;
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;
the person must enter Ontario to exercise custody or access rights contained in an agreement;
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;
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;
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
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.
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.
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.
As might be expected, the boards of the 4 road associations have been inundated with questions and comments concerning the Apr. 24 road access closure to all but permanent residents. SERA discussed your concerns at a meeting Friday night and would like to share the following advice in the form of FAQs:
1. What is the purpose of the road restriction when we are driving through without stopping in a sealed vehicle?
The First Nation (FN) has determined that this is the best means of maintaining their safety. They have locked down the reserve, including the access road, not only to SERA cottagers, but to WBCA (leased lot members) and their own community. They are following steps taken by other reserves in Manitoba and Ontario. As well, they are following recommendations from health officials and governments for cottagers not to travel to their seasonal properties. This is not an arbitrary closure – it is based on extraordinary circumstances – a worldwide pandemic. In the attached Band Council Resolution (BCR) document, in response to a Health Emergency Declaration, the FN has the authority to create and enforce this Border Closure Order.
2. Are annual road fees still payable on normal due dates?
Yes. SERA is requesting that members continue to submit their access fee to their road association. One association’s fees were due May first and that payment has already been mailed to the FN. For the other 3 associations, it is necessary to have all individual fees in hand in May for payment to the FN by June 1. At this point in time it is the intent of the associations to pay in full according to our agreements.
3. I spend most of my time at the cottage – can an exception be made for me to be considered a permanent resident?
No, in the notice sent to members April 22, the FN spells out the criteria for a “permanent resident” as opposed to a “seasonal cottager”: Permanent residents should meet Ontario residency requirements (i.e. Ontario Health Card, Ontario Driver’s License, etc). Residents of Kenora are still considered “seasonal cottagers” with respect to this closure.
At the FN’s request, each road association has submitted names of their members who fit the criteria of permanent residents. Only those pass-holders will be allowed access.
4. Are there any exemptions for essential service or medical reasons?
SERA is requesting that members first notify their road associations with their concerns. In some cases, they may then be directed to Andy Graham, our conduit to the FN. Andy has granted a couple of exemptions already for essential service workers living at their cottage, and has assured individual permanent residents that regarding their medical appointments, they will be allowed through the checkpoint.
5. Are there any consequences if a cottager breaches any aspect of the Border Closure Order?
The attached Band Council Resolution states that Treaty Three Police has the authority to enforce the closure and the offences and consequences are spelled out.
6. How long will this closure last?
The BCR states that the closure will remain in effect until the provincial State of Emergency has been lifted, or by further order of Chief and Council rescinding the Health Emergency Declaration.
Your SERA board of directors understands the disruption that this pandemic has brought to the First Nation community and all cottage owners. We respect the difficult decisions that the Chief and council have had to make to protect the health and well- being of their community. While we are all anxious to enjoy the life we love at our cottages, we have to remain patient in these uncertain times.
If you have a questions or concerns please contact your road association representative. Stay safe! Stay healthy!