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South Niagara chapter backs Indigenous rights and defence of Thundering Waters Forest

Photo: July 7 rally at Niagara Falls City Hall. Photo by Joanne McDonald.

The Council of Canadians South Niagara chapter stood in solidarity at an Indigenous organized rally on July 7 to protect the Thundering Waters Forest.

The Facebook outreach notes, “There are efforts to destroy over 200 acres of dry forest adjacent to over 200 acres of wet forest and if you think this is wrong then please join our efforts to give a voice to our Mother the Earth, to oppose the proposed Thundering Waters Secondary Plan.”

In early April, the chapter began opposing a plan by GR Investment Group to secure approval to destroy 13 acres of provincially-significant wetland to accommodate a $1 billion ‘Paradise’ development project, which includes a hotel, entertainment facilities, apartment housing, and a private school. GR had argued that this loss of wetland could be ‘offset’ by reproducing it in another area. By late April, after several community protests, the developers backed away from the idea of ‘biodiversity offsetting’. But the Thundering Waters Forest is still slated for destruction.

Oneida Nation member Karl Dockstader has written, “GR (Can) Investment Co. is still intending to destroy 200+ acres of Carolinian forest, protective thickets, and other delicate spaces adjacent to 200+ acres of protected Wetlands and no government entity or authority has expressed any opposition to or advocated for protection of this proposed destruction. …The size of the Thundering Waters Forest is one of the largest remaining continuous forests in the region of Niagara and the protected parts of the slough forest wetland complex are interconnected with the unprotected parts”

A Niagara Falls Review news report on the rally highlights, “A First Nations rally in front of Niagara Falls city hall to save the Thundering Waters Forest is just the beginning, promises Dockstader. ‘Just to be clear, if they don’t start listening to us, we’re going to say it louder. Whatever it takes to get the message across.’ The message was shared loud and clear in front of about 125 people: Enough. ‘You have enough malls, you have enough shopping centres’, said Cayuga Nation senior Allan Jamieson, referring to a proposed $1 billion Chinese development over a forested area near the Thundering Waters golf course in Niagara Falls.”

The rally called for a moratorium on the project and a transparent public process on the “social, environmental and economic benefit” of Thundering Waters Forest remaining intact. It also highlighted the need for consultation and consent. Oneida/Six Nations member Celeste Smith, a member of the Indigenous Solidarity Coalition at Brock University, told the rally, “As an indigenous person, I have to remind all levels of government in Niagara you have a responsibility and that is to consult my community when embarking on large scale development projects that alter the environment for generations to come. I’m here to tell you, you have not done that.”

Dockstader has also previously noted, “This deforestation is in conflict with the spirit of Treaty law and is an affront to traditional Indigenous leadership. …None of the established Niagara leadership has sought out input from traditional Anishinaabe or Haudenosaunee leadership about this forest.”

For previous blogs on this issue, please click here.