Celebrate and Contemplate

Next week (July 22) Innisfil Beach Park will be the site for Celebrate Lake Simcoe. It will be in recognition of its importance to our lives and an opportunity to learn about efforts to restore and maintain a clean lake and watershed for this region. Indigenous people will participate this year with a traditional pow wow and displays of their own.

Recent events make it all the more important to celebrate clean water and motivate us to ensure clean water for everyone. The mercury poisoning scandal at Grassy Narrows caused by industrial contamination of the Wabigoon River (up to 50 years ago and continuing today) may be one of the most neglected environmental disasters in history. At the end of June the Ontario government committed $85 million toward clean-up of this “gross neglect”. But a resolution will require more years of effort while almost all members of the Grassy Narrows First Nation exhibit symptoms of some neurological damage.

I’m reminding my readers of this because of an alarming report published in the American Chemical Society Journal and recently described in Science Daily and Clean Technica. One headline reads, “Waste Water from Fracking Pollutes Pennsylvania Watershed”.  Continue reading


A Few Centuries, and 150 Years

Most of us will soon be participating in celebrations marking the 150th anniversary of Canadian Confederation. Overall we can be mostly proud of the society that has evolved from our European and colonial past. Some First Nations are reminding us, though, that Indigenous people have no reason to cheer about an imposed system that continues to have devastating social and economic consequences for their communities.

I took a look at some maps in the Economic Atlas of Ontario from the Ontario Archives, which dramatically illustrates how “Indians” systematically vanished from our consciousness in the century prior to Confederation. The following slides contain four maps spanning 1792 to 1882.

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We can hope that in this 150th year of Canada that history is finally starting to bend in the direction of a more just future. In symbolic recognition, the summer solstice, June 21, is celebrated as National Aboriginal Day, and will be renamed National Indigenous People’s Day. More importantly, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission has presented a full catalogue of recommendations to address numerous injustices affecting Indigenous people. (visit Reconciliation Canada)

I think it is both startling and shameful that, over my lifetime in the 20th century, I have had virtually no meaningful contact with Indigenous people. So in that context, it is particularly important and meaningful that Innisfil’s annual event, Celebrate Lake Simcoe, is partnered this year with the Barrie Native Friendship Centre to hold a traditional Pow wow at Innisfil Beach Park in conjunction with other activities later in July.

Travel Ontario website describes a pow wow as a “sacred gathering of Indigenous peoples to honour the past, renew friendships and celebrate with music, song, food, dance and storytelling.” According to Wikipedia, “The word is derived from the Narragansett word powwaw, meaning “spiritual leader“.

The 2017 Celebrate Lake Simcoe event takes place on Saturday, July 22. Admission is free with a Food Bank donation. At 5:30 a.m. First Nations participants will conduct a sunrise ceremony, Blessing of the Water. A traditional Pow Wow begins at noon with a Grand Entry.

Celebrate Lake Simcoe also includes art, culture and environmental booths and a lake swims of 1, 3 and 5 km. Swim registrants are invited. Visit the website at Celebrate Lake Simcoe 2017

Limited Site Controls for Lake Simcoe

I wrote a while ago about some applications I noticed for a ‘minor variance’ to zoning of properties along the shore of Lake Simcoe. Theoretically, the Lake Simcoe Protection Act designated a 30 metre setback for environmental purposes. However, in practice, existing developed properties are exempt. Owners can obtain a zoning amendment from a local Committee of Adjustment for a price.

Shortly after my article, Town Council passed a Shoreline Development Interim Control by-law, which applied to 30 vacant shoreline properties. Council has now adopted an Official Plan Amendment No. 16 to revise the Site Plan Control Bylaw. This would come into effect after its approval by the County of Simcoe and replace the Interim Control bylaw. While it applies only to the same 30 vacant properties, the bylaw clarifies that:  Continue reading

The Zoning Game

I’ve been watching for a while now how things work. Usually, residents get engaged in development proposals, typically with objections, when a plan comes down to a rezoning application. In most instances, it is a losing proposition. The overall broad scheme of things has been decided years before through the Official Plan that maps the boundaries of existing and future growth, agricultural, recreational and natural areas. I’ve come to the conclusion that, additionally, municipal zoning only exists as a mechanism for developers to move vacant land into urban development through a series of rezoning applications. But what comes out the other end is still an unknown.

Here is a description of a development that is moving forward adjacent to the railway line, as outlined by the developer’s lawyer in correspondence to the Town (Council Agenda, May 6, 2015):

This draft plan of subdivision and associated conditions … were approved by the Ontario Municipal Board on June 27, 2008 … On May 29, 2013 the OMB extended “the lapsing date for five (5) years to allow adequate time to register subsequent subdivisions in different stages of approval.” In January 2015, the applicant requested approval of a “revised draft plan” dated December 12, 2014 for the purpose of increasing the number of 50 ft. lots and decreasing the number of 38 and 34 ft. lots “in response to sales … and market demand in the community”.

This revision leaves five lots backing onto the railway corridor in this building phase. The County of Simcoe and the Town of Innisfil consented to the revised draft. “The County considers the above changes to the draft plan and conditions of draft approval to be minor.”

Notably, Metrolinx has required the following warning for purchasers “within 300 metres of the railway right-of-way” [that’s 984 feet]: Continue reading

Crystal Green, and Sparkling Clean?

The Inspiring Innisfil 2020 strategic plan calls for greater protection of Lake Simcoe, improved water quality and more local employment opportunities. With that in mind, a new Canadian environmental technology recently caught my attention.

In May, Tyler Hamilton wrote about a Vancouver-based company, Ostara Nutrient Recovery Technologies, that found a way to “economically extract phosphorus, ammonia and magnesium from the sludgy liquids in municipal waste water. It then turns these nutrients into a pure, slow-release compound that can be used as and blended with commercial fertilizer products. It calls the pelletized compound Crystal Green.” Continue reading

Inspiring Innisfil 2020 – Change a Name or Make a Name?

Innisfil Council held a special meeting on Wednesday (May 11) to receive the Inspiring Innisfil 2020 report. The presentation outlined five strategic objectives:

  • Improve our quality of life dramatically
  • Make Innisfil a desirable [tourist] destination
  • Make arts, culture and heritage major community assets
  • Help all businesses succeed here

The consultants included a list of very definite goals supporting these objectives, such as:

  • Make economic development the number one priority
  • Double the economic impact of Lake Simcoe’s benefits by 2013
  • Ensure that the Town is financially stable by 2014
  • Develop an urban core by 2020

The scope of the report was not new to most of the people in attendance who were also active participants in the consultations. What came as a total surprise was the suggestion to “begin the process of renaming Innisfil”. So here’s the  dilemma – change our town’s name or make a name for ourselves? Continue reading