By Dr John Bacher and Danny Beaton, Mohawk of the Turtle Clan.
In Memory of Alicja Rozanska.
Over two months ago a development company, GR Investment Group, attempted to dismiss my appeal of a Niagara Falls Zoning By-law, No. 2020-124, which has been made to the Local Planning Appeals Tribunal (LPAT). (LPAT-Case Number PL2-2020-64).
Still, the decision of LPAT on this matter has yet to be made.
The appeal of the zoning-amendment was made to safeguard an ecosystem which has become known as the Thundering Waters Forest. Efforts to protect the area through litigation go back to 2008. The area provides habitat for a number of species at risk. There are two species of turtles at risk here, the Snapping and the Midland Painted. Much of the area is off limits to development, due to it being a protected wetland. However, without any public notice, the Niagara Falls Council approved the concept of a sewage pumping station on the edge of the protected wetland — which provides habitat for at risk turtles and the Bullfrog, which is experiencing severe declines in Ontario.
The core of the LPAT hearing is an effort by GR Investment Group to claim that woodlands near the protected wetlands are doomed by the Emerald Ash Borer, a predator of ash trees. However, as the attached YouTube video by Christa Barette documents, most of these forests are dominated by other tree species, such as the Eastern Cottonwood, not ash.
What is most disturbing is some of the arguments that were made by GR Investment Group to legitimate their request to have the hearing dismissed. It was charged that the appeal was motivated by a desire to cause "pain" to landowners. This was ably countered by lawyer Ian Flett, who cited the case Bacher vs. Niagara Falls, which protected a 7-acre woodland that provides deer wintering habitat (it was accepted by all parties at the hearing).
GR Investment Group has also attacked my relevance because I live in St. Catharines and not in Niagara Falls. To counter this argument, the Sierra Club Canada Foundation has obtained Participant Status for the hearing.
When John told me he would work with Ian Flett, nothing made me happier to know that he would be getting the help he needed to protect Thundering Waters. John has spent the past twenty years going to City Chambers and Council Meetings, arguing for the protection of farmland, wetlands, forests and birds, animals and life.
In the attached video, one can see and feel the knowledge, wisdom and spirit of natural life and beauty from John’s voice, hands and body as he shares his love for life. The Ontario Government has labeled John as a Forest Expert Witness when it benefits their own use. But when John speaks against Corporate Land Developers, he becomes guilty of causing suffering and pain to shareholders, lawyers, and contractors who are ready to take out the forests and build up the architecture, golf course and shopping malls, condos. John is a simple man living a simple life. Except when it comes to having to spend all of his life upset that people want to destroy life in his community. John is a 5th generation Bacher on Church Street in Saint Catherines, Ontario.
As a Mohawk Elder, I am honored to be working for Mother Earth with John. As a native elder living in Ontario, I couldn't agree more with what my elders taught me. It is all true that we have enough mega malls and condominiums. But to build concrete where farmland, forests and wetlands are is crazy. Especially since we are in a Climate Change and Global Warming Crisis.
Our elders said all life is equal on this Sacred Mother Earth. Humans are supposed to be a voice for Creation, for justice and for life for our children's children. How can we pollute and destroy every last tree, every last stream, every last animal, every last bird?
Our ceremonies are for giving thanksgiving, we are all supposed to be giving thanks, being real human beings — not destroyers. Watching John in the new video is a joy. To see someone who really knows what he is talking about is amazing and hopeful for Mother Earth and our Sacred Planet.