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CANADA Indigenous man sheds light on 'historical wrongs' near cabinet minister's cottage

Johnny Hawke sets up encampment over land claim, just down the beach from Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada Minister Carolyn Bennett's summer home

The irony certainly isn’t lost on Johnny Hawke.

Just down a quiet beach road where the local Indigenous man has started a peaceful movement to raise awareness concerning a land claim, one finds the cottage belonging to federal Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada Minister Carolyn Bennett.

“She’s one of the reasons I chose this spot,” said Hawke. “We’re calling this a mobile heritage centre.

“We’re trying to create a dialogue to create awareness of historical wrongs, including 50,000 acres that were misappropriated.”

Called the Indigenous Land Defenders from the Anishinaabe Community of G'Chimnissing on Christian Island (Beausoleil First Nation), Hawke’s group has established an encampment on Thunder Beach to raise Indigenous and local non-Indigenous community concerns regarding traditional access to lands and beach areas.

The encampment – which includes a sacred fire and tipi – has been set up on what Hawke claims are "unceded" lands that were never surrendered by the Chippewas of Lakes Huron and Simcoe.

According to Hawke, these lands  – including all of Tiny Township's beaches – are a part of 50,000 acres that were unlawfully taken by the Crown in the 1795 Penetanguishene Purchase and the 1816 Lakes Huron and Simcoe Purchase.

“Tiny Township was not to be included,” said Hawke, who two years ago blocked the main entrance of nearby Awenda Provincial Park for more than a month.

And the area of his demonstration this time around is among the region’s wealthiest and most desirable neighbourhoods with Hawke noting that its million-dollar cottages are all built on “unceded” land. He isn't sure how long this latest effort will last.

Featuring private tennis courts, luxury vehicles and large gated compounds, including one belonging to former federal cabinet minister Bill Morneau, the sheltered Tiny Township oasis is also home to Bennett’s comparatively modest summer retreat.

No one appeared to be home Tuesday afternoon as a reporter sought comment from the Liberal cabinet minister about Hawke’s movement.

But it’s not just Indigenous people who benefit from this latest call to action, according to Hawke, who pointed out it was also important for him to be involved with the local Beach Rights group and their desire to ensure fair access based on historical precedent to Tiny’s many kilometres of sandy shoreline.

“We’re united in the struggle for access. This is a peaceful action where we want to show the rest of Canada that Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities can work together instead of being pitted against each other due to  inaction and divisions created by the government,” Hawke said, pointing out that Beausoleil First Nation submitted a claim to Canada’s Indian and Northern Affairs specific claims branch regarding the lands in question in 1990, but that it was rejected.

Hawke said it seems this claim was lost in the shuffle, given that it came about near the time of the War of 1812 between what would eventually become Canada and the United States.

“We were to be compensated, but the money went to the war efforts,” he said. “We need to get that back on track.”

Andrew Philips

About the Author: Andrew Philips

Editor Andrew Philips is a multiple award-winning journalist whose writing has appeared in some of the country‚Äôs most respected news outlets. Originally from Midland, Philips returned to the area from Québec City a decade ago.
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