Trial to decide if municipality or First Nation owns Sauble Beach, Ont. shoreline begins
A trial over 30 years in the making has begun, and will decide who owns a large section of Sauble Beach's valuable sand.
“It’s been a long time coming,” says South Bruce Peninsula Mayor Janice Jackson.
The Saugeen First Nation believes they are the rightful owners of a two-kilometre stretch of Sauble Beach’s shoreline, stretching from the iconic Sauble Beach sign, north to 6th Street North.
The Municipality of South Bruce Peninsula says they’re the rightful owners.
The province is on the municipality’s side, while the federal government sides with the Saugeen First Nation.
A 2014 mediated settlement that would have turned the beach over to the Saugeen First Nation, but kept public access, was denied by the municipality, laying the stage for a trial, which began on Tuesday in Toronto.
“It’s been a dark cloud hanging over our municipality for quite a long time, so it’s going to be very nice to have this resolved,” says Jackson.
Watching from the sidelines is the owner of the Crowd Inn restaurant, Dave Dobson, who owns the only beach business on the disputed land.
“Obviously I’m a little anxious. I’m not represented at the trial, so I’m kind of relying on the town to do the heavy lifting right now, and I hope they do a good job,” he says.
At issue is the court’s interpretation of maps and treaties dating back to the 1800s.
Dobson says his research shows that status quo at Sauble Beach should remain, the municipality owning north of the Sauble sign, the Saugeen First Nation, owning south of the sign.
“I have contacted all three levels of government and offered my research to them. They are all defendants in the case. Why my information isn’t interesting to them, I can’t answer that,” he says.
The Saugeen First Nation has previously said if they win, public access will remain at Sauble Beach, there will simply be a new landlord. Last year, parking fees along the section of Sauble shoreline in question, brought in $992,000. Between 400-500 thousand tourists visit Sauble Beach each summer.
The trial is expected to last seven weeks.