Sauble Beach, Ont.'s dune dispute reaches boiling point
SAUBLE BEACH, ONT. -- A crowd of 50 people were up bright and early Tuesday morning, prepared to stop heavy equipment from removing a part of Sauble Beach’s sand dunes.
Among them was Lori Kewaquom of the Saugeen Ojibway Nation. “We need to do what we need to do to stand up and protect the land,” she says.
The Municipality of South Bruce Peninsula wants to “trim back” a 500-metre section of the sand dunes along Lakeshore Boulevard, because cars parking there can’t always fully get off the roadway.
“We want to make sure the side of the road is wide enough, so that people can park here safely. It’s pretty clear, it’s not wide enough now,” says South Bruce Peninsula Mayor Janice Jackson.
While the Grey Sauble Conservation Authority and the Ministry of Environment have approved Sauble Beach’s dune work in principle, the Lake Huron Centre for Coastal Conservation along with the Friends of Sauble Beach vehemently oppose the planned work.
“When they dig into these dunes here, what that takes is one of the primary forms of protection of the beach. Nature has built this, itself,” says John Strachan, of Friends of Sauble Beach.
Sauble Beach resident Theresa Stanford agrees.
”It’s only a parking issue for two months of the year. Science has proven that if you dig this far into the dunes, it’s a degradation,” she says.
Complicating matters even more, the land the municipality is planning to work on is at the centre of a land claim dispute with the Saugeen Ojibway Nation.
Chief Lester Anoquot says the municipality is obligated to consult before doing any work on the disputed land.
“This is a matter of principle, respect and jurisdiction. The lands in question are part of the Saugeen First Nation, and while that is not accept by the South Bruce Peninsula town council, it is simply a fact,” says Anoquot.
That being said, Anoquot says they aren’t looking for a fight, rather a voice in the decision on what happens on this disputed section of shoreline.
“I would like to de-escalate any tension in the area. We’ve been good neighbours. We have a vast tourism area we share. To maintain those good relationships, I think picking up the phone and having a conversation could solve a lot of these issues,” he says.
Jackson says their legal team tells them they have no legal obligation to consult with the Saugeen First Nation on work on the disputed land, and that consulting with them would actually harm their case in the land claim.
Still, Jackson too says she wants to de-escalate the situation, “We want to be good neighbours. We want to have a better line of communication with them, and we mean no disrespect to the Saugeen Ojibway Nation, at all."
South Bruce Peninsula council says they do plan on moving forward with the dune work in the spring. But, locals there on Tuesday, vowe to stop them.
Sauble Beach business owner Tom Laforme says, “We’re going to have a judicial review. That’s in the works. It’s going to be filed in the next day or two, and we’re going to stop this permanently."