Pinery Provincial Park shut down after ‘a few individuals’ notify province of plans to back Indigenous land claim
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.”
Ministry spokesperson Karen Passmore 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 that the individuals claim the park is “rightfully theirs” and added that the OPP 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 also was set up at the park, Maynard T. George said they were seeking to repossess the site as part of an effort to reclaim 20,200 hectares of land stretching from Bayfield to near Sarnia, saying it rightfully belongs to his great-grandfather’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 MPP Monte McNaughton (PC – 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.
With files from The Canadian Press