ISSN 0834-6283

Wednesday, June 24, 2009 $1.19 plus 6¢ GST, $1.25 U.S.

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Volume 115 Number 8 PAP No. 07429

www.fortfrances.com

ISSN 0834-6283

Council unanimous in approving new library
By Peggy Revell Staff writer With money ready to flow from both the federal and provincial governments, town council voted unanimously Monday night to give the official go-ahead for the building of new Fort Frances Public Library and Technology Centre. “I just want to follow that up by saying how pleased I am that we’re finally able to award this tender,” said Coun. Andrew Hallikas. “It’s really been a long haul and things have finally fallen our way, I think. “When this project is complete, I think residents of Fort Frances will be very pleased and very proud of the library and technology centre that we’re going to have because of the vision of a number of people,” he added, thanking the library board, building committee, and all the people who spent “countless hours” getting this project to go forward. Despite initially voting against it just back on April 13, council voted to accept a contract with Aurora Construction for $4,043,000 following the influx of federal and provincial money for the project. A joint announcement June 12 by the federal government’s “Build Canada” fund and province saw $1.967 million in funding earmarked for the new library, followed by an additional $170,000 in funding from FedNor three days later. “The only change I made in that tender from the original tender was the inclusion of Glulam beams as opposed to timber trusses, and that was a recommendation from the contractor in order to save us some money, the cost of $170,000,” Community Services manager George Bell told council. “This project includes all the parking requirements for the library and overflow parking for the memorial sports centre,” he added. “A complete turnkey operation. “We will not have to incur longterm debt, or tap into library reserves if everything goes as planned,” Bell noted. Mayor Roy Avis asked whether or not the money from the various funds would be given up front. He was advised that, at this point, administration had not yet been made aware of how that money would be coming down from the federal government. “I suppose all through this process I’ve been the most negative person,” admitted Coun. Paul Ryan. “I have to say what I think and I apologize if I disturb anyone. “I know by the Library Act I shouldn’t have spoken out as I did in past meetings because this council really doesn’t have power to decide the location, size, or anything else, it’s straight financial. “And now that I see that the financial has been totally covered by higher government funding, I’ll have to support this and I will support this,” he added. Although Coun. Ryan supported the recommendation to proceed with the library project by accepting the tender, he still expressed concern about the size of the new centre, its future operating costs, and the viability of libraries in the future with the way technology is changing. “Maybe someday the library will be used for something else, I don’t know,” he remarked. “It’s an awful big building and I hope we can live in it, but I support it.” “You remember my first word at the first meeting was ‘Keep knocking’ and finally somebody answered, so congratulations,” said Coun. John Albanese. “I know some people they think that we were strictly against it, but we were not,” he stressed. “We Please see “Council,” A8

Residents irked over lack of progress on contamination
By Peggy Revell Staff writer Laura Foran still has the piece of paper that stated she could go ahead with building her home on Harry’s Road, with a view of Rainy Lake. Now eight years later, the piece of land where she’s made her home has been identified as having the highest level of dioxins and furans out of all the buildings tested so far on Couchiching First Nation by DST Consulting Engineers. “People go, ‘You’re contaminated, get the hell out of there!’” Foran said. “Well, do you want me to come to your house?” As reported in last week’s Times, the study commissioned by the band, Health Canada, and Indian and Northern Affairs Canada identified high levels of dioxins and furans at the former J.A. Mathieu sawmill site on Couchiching. Further test results are being waited on. “As soon as the [next] results come in, this place could be fenced off,” Foran said, noting that with two small children, she would have no place to go if she had to leave. And, she added, if others feel safe, then they are more than welcome to switch homes with her. “Documents and lab reports don’t lie,” she stressed, pointing to the part of the report that says vacuum samples taken from her home came back as having 43 times the acceptable level of dioxins and furans when compared to benchmarks DST Consulting established in the report that were comparable to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s standards. “We figured we were going to be safe because we’re up high,” said Mike Sobkowicz, noting Foran’s house is built on bedrock. But two of the old sawmill’s old dipping ponds are located both east and west of the home, he noted. “So we’re stuck right in the middle of it,” he remarked. “It’s not just around here, it’s in the bush, so what does a person do?” With instructions not to disturb

the soil, they haven’t even planted a garden like they have in past years. “Then they tell us not to disturb the soil, so do we weed-eat? Can we cut grass?” Sobkowicz wondered. Tony Prudori, a spokesperson for Indian Affairs (Ontario Region), said the department is working with the community and Health Canada to address concerns over the contaminated site. “For our part, we’re providing $3,000 a month for housing and utilities for the two temporary located families while further testing and remediation is carried out,” he noted. “We’ve also provided a one-time allowance of $1,000 per family to help out because the relocation right now is a precautionary measure at the request of the First Nation,” Prudori added. As well, Prudori said funding was provided for the fencing around areas that are known to be contaminated, as well as towards further site assessment and a remediation project. “What we’re doing in this instance is we’re reviewing a First Nation proposal outlining further testing that needs to be carried out in order to collect more information about the source and the extent of the issue that’s being dealt with,” he noted. “So this would be a follow-up to the first round of testing that was carried out. The consultant’s proposal for what further testing is needed currently is being reviewed. But while Foran hasn’t had to leave her home yet, she has seen what happened when her close neighbours and friends, the McPhersons, who were one of the two households moved away from the site back in March. While the Jourdain family currently is renting a house in Fort Frances, the McPherson family, which includes children under the age of 10, simply ended up having to return to their home. “We went straight to hotels because there was nothing available to rent,” recalled Lisa McPherson, which is where they stayed for the first 13 days after the move—a

Council votes to uphold fencing bylaw
By Peggy Revell Staff writer Town council voted Monday night to uphold the bylaw concerning the height of front yard fences—even those meant to keep out deer that see residents’ yards as a personal buffet table. “Personally, I’m very sympathetic to the plight of these residents,” Coun. Andrew Hallikas said during the committee of the whole meeting earlier Monday. “I’m also cognizant of the fact that you have to be careful because you could set a dangerous precedent,” he warned. The issue originally was brought before council back in April when local residents Marie and Lynwood Anderson requested they be allowed to keep up a deer fence originally constructed earlier this year to keep out the numerous deer that have made their home’s front yard a feeding ground. The couple had been given permission from the town earlier for the temporary fence, but on May 11 they received a letter from the bylaw office stating there had been a concern raised over it, which is higher than the town’s height limit for front yard fences. While council originally forwarded the request to the Planning and Development executive committee, it was “somewhat divided on the issue” and unable to come to a recommendation. As such, it decided the issue should be dealt with by the committee of the whole, Rick Hallam, superintendent of planning and development, explained to council at Monday night’s meeting. “I think Coun. Hallikas brought up a concern that we always are faced with in these decision and that is precedent-setting issues,” noted Coun. Rick Wiedenhoeft, a sentiment other councillors also expressed. “I feel that the question is, when does a fence become a fence, and when does it become a shrubbery guard. “This is a question we’ve got before us here.” While a six-foot fence around Please see “Council votes,” A8

Lisa McPherson stood in front of her family’s home, which preliminary studies commissioned by federal agencies identified as having “unacceptable risks to human health” due to PCDDs and PCDFs. While Couchiching First Nation moved the family, and the neighbouring Jourdains, out of their homes earlier this year as a precaution, the McPhersons have had to return to live in their residence. —Peggy Revell photo
costly expense—until the family finally was able to secure a small rental through the help of friends. In the meantime, she said INAC was supposed to come into their house and clean their furniture, as well as mattresses, so the family could take these with them to their new location—something that never happened. “We did take a few things, but things we could wipe down—like a coffee table—but we didn’t take couches,” McPherson noted. “We bought all brand new pillows. We went and bought blow up mattresses, so we were all on blow up mattresses for the entire month in the rental. “Just minimal everything.” In fact, she said there wasn’t even a place to put clothing, so it ended up just being piled on the floor in the new rental. “We just went from a five-bedroom, three-bathroom [home] to a little shack that had a shower in the basement,” she noted. Please see “Residents,” A8

Inside
New twist to ‘Relay for Life’
Some will be walking, some strolling, some running. But at this year’s “Relay for Life” in Fort Frances, which kicks off Friday evening at Pither’s Point, some participants have a new spin: quilting. “We have every intention of sewing all night long,” said Phyllis Johnson, who, alongside 11 others, will be putting away their walking shoes and bringing out their sewing machines.

Country
Cormorants being studied
A study looking at cormorants launched south of the border last year has been expanded northwards this summer to include more bird colonies on the Canadian side of Rainy Lake. The study originally was looking at the cormorant populations on Lake Kabetogama, said Steve Windels of Voyageurs National Park.

Sports
Meyers named to Hall of Fame
The next course of action for Muskie graduate Taylor Meyers should include buying a bigger trophy case. The multi-sport athlete hauled in an unprecedented number of awards at the Muskie athletic awards banquet last Tuesday night at the Ukrainian Hall— but the most impressive honour bestowed upon her came in the form of a Hall of Fame induction.

See story on A3

See story on B1

See story on C1

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6/24/09 11:56:31 AM

A8 FORT FRANCES TIMES

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Residents irked over lack of progress on contamination
More from A1 “We were losing it.” A growing depression over their situation, along with the financial hardship, finally prompted the family to return to their home—despite the risk. While the family was informed they would be reimbursed for everything they had to buy for the relocation, even getting this reimbursement was a struggle, McPherson said. It ended up putting such a financial strain on the family that they had to max out their credit cards to pay bills, an expense she’s still working to pay off. “We eventually, down the road, finally got it,” she noted—enough to cover the rent, as well as a onetime payment of $1,000 which they didn’t even receive until moving back home. When asked about the McPhersons having to move back into their home, Prudori responded that “that’s sort of [the band’s] end.” “The First Nation requested that the families should stay out of the houses until the situation is verified, so the First Nation would be in the best position to provide information,” he noted. When asked about INAC’s promise to properly clean out the evacuated homes so the residents could take their furniture, Prudori once again reiterated that housing, including the unoccupied houses, was something that should be addressed with the band. “Ultimately, the responsibility for the clean-up [of the contaminated site] is Indian Affairs,” stated Couchiching Chief Chuck McPherson, who happens to be Lisa McPherson’s father-in-law. “We don’t have the financial resources to do it,” he noted. “It’s going to be costly to do it and from our perspective, [INAC is] neglecting, avoiding, and inhibiting the clean-up of the area. “The department has the responsibility, and it’s not even debatable,” Chief McPherson stressed, pointing to the source of the contamination itself—the old J.A. Mathieu sawmill from the early 1900s which was placed on First Nations’ land. “If you were to lease a piece of First Nation property, one of the things that is, is it has to be restored to its original condition,” he said. “And the department is our trustee, and they were supposed to ensure that that happened and they didn’t. “Now they’re neglecting their obligation,” he charged. While the band has been pushing INAC on the issue, Chief McPherson likened dealing with the department to hitting his head against a brick wall and getting nowhere. “They’re a bureaucracy,” he remarked. “Their primary concern is saving a dollar, it’s not trying to help us or doing anything for our benefit. “It’s a sad commentary that this has to happen, that there are peo-

ple living it, that there are people affected.” At this point, Lisa McPherson wants to know why there still are no answers and little action by INAC when it comes to the safety of the families in the area. “Yeah, we’re worried about ourselves—I’m only 31—but it comes down to the kids,” she said. “When you’re a parent, you worry about your kids first.” McPherson said all the testing being done, from test holes to fencing costs and even voluntary blood tests for residents, have cost thousands of dollars—enough money that could have bought out two or even three families so far. And what is especially frustrating for McPherson is that their home also happens to be the newest on the road. “It’s not even been quite three years yet that we’ve been there,” she noted, stressing the family waited almost a year before building for the new house was properly approved, going through three phases through the band, a process which also required approval from INAC. From what McPherson understood, part of this building process included having soil samples taken to ensure the ground was safe to build on. “We did it completely legit,” she said. “To have this after we waited a year to be approved? What were you doing while you were approving us? It’s a frustration Foran also shares. “We’ve got letters and stuff saying, ‘Yes, you can build here, you can build here.’ Eight years ago,” she noted, wondering how new housing could have been allowed if there was any knowledge that the area could be contaminated. And the concern isn’t just about those whose homes are on the old sawmill site, Foran added, pointing out the Couchiching Bingo Palace— that can see anywhere from 150200 people on any night—also sits there. The discovery of the contamination also has made the families speculate about other health problems they’ve observed. “The number-one side effect [of exposure] is chloracne,” Foran said, noting this could explain the skin condition her mother has. “My mother who is 70—she’s been here for 18 years—her legs, they’ve got them all bandaged up, and it’s on her arms and now it’s gone to her chest.” “My dog, at only eight months, had growth cysts on his head,” McPherson said. When the dog was taken to the vet, the cysts were removed, biopsied, and came back negative, she explained, though adding the vet only would have been looking for illnesses and conditions associated with dogs. “It makes you really wonder, though,” she said.

Pow-wow dances
Aiden Wielinga and Jace Jackson, above left, tried to balance a potato between their foreheads without it dropping to the ground during a pow-wow hosted at St. Michael’s School last Thursday. Chad Smith, above right, demonstrated a form of dance known as “chicken dancing” to the students . The school held the pow-wow for the afternoon, giving students the opportunity to dance and learn about First Nation culture. —Peggy Revell photo

Council votes to uphold fencing bylaw
More from A1 the property would be a violation of the bylaw and should be handled as such, Coun. Wiedenhoeft said he wouldn’t see a six-foot high retaining net around some of the shrubbery in the front yard “necessarily as the same thing.” “Suppose I’m moving next to neighbours who have unruly kids, and I want to put a six-foot high fence around my yard to keep the kids out. You can see where this would extend as a precedent,” Coun. Wiedenhoeft added. “The reasons would be different, but the ultimate end would be the same. “I feel that if they can contain the shrubbery, then I would be okay with it, but I’m against a sixfoot high or higher fence going around the entire property,” he added. Coun. Ken Perry reminded council it was they who gave the Andersons permission to originally “break” the bylaw. “Our problem now is when [does] ‘temporary’ run out? They say temporary is until the deer problem is done, [but] they still have a deer problem and the fence is still temporary,” noted Coun. Perry, adding the Andersons didn’t fence their whole yard, just a portion of it. Coun. John Albanese indicated it was his understanding that “temporary” meant for the winter months. “What our real issue is here is if they’re contravening the bylaw with the height that spans higher than the four feet,” said Mayor Roy Avis. “So do we change the bylaw to accommodate this? Or do we move on and just close a blind eye to it? “Or do we say, ‘No, the fence has to come down.’” Mayor Avis noted when the issue was before the committee, a compromise had been put forward to the Andersons, where they would be allowed to heighten their fence with the semi-invisible netting during the winter when the deer were most active feeding in people’s yards. Then during the other seasons, the fence would have to remain within the bylaw’s height limits. He noted that the Andersons did not accept this compromise. “I feel that they implemented the letter of the law, but they’re not enforcing the bylaw equally or fairly,” Marie Anderson said yesterday following council’s decision, noting there are other over-height fences in town where this bylaw hasn’t been enforced. “I feel that they are prejudicial and that it’s unconstitutional that they should do this, that they can insist that we take our fence down but other people have had their fences up for years, in their front yards, and they’re about six feet,” she added. Anderson said the current system enforces bylaws through neighbours “snitching” on other neighbours—even if those neighbours themselves have bylaw infringements on their property. “We have a right to protect our property, and we can’t protect our property unless we have some form of fencing to keep the deer out of our front yard,” she argued. Anderson pointed to a case in London, Ont. where there were deer living in the city-owned Sifton Bog. The province’s attorney general stated because the town owned that property, it was liable for damage caused by the deer living on that land. “And in our case alone, the loss of a mature tree has taken a couple of thousand dollars of value off our property, plus the other damage that they have done,” she remarked. Anderson said their next step is to go to the Human Rights Tribunal since she feels her rights to property are being violated. “This isn’t just about a fence, this is about human rights,” she stressed. “It’s about being treated fairly and we aren’t being treated fairly.” Although council voted to uphold the fencing bylaw, Coun. Hallikas stressed they needed to deal with the bigger issue that was causing people to go to such lengths to protect their property: the deer. “Regardless of how council decides on this, the pressing issue is the deer in the town and that’s what needs to be dealt with,” he argued, saying council should meet with the Ministry of Natural Resources about what can be done. “The deer aren’t going away,” he said. “This will not be the end the debate. “We have a problem in town with deer and I think that it needs to be addressed.” With this in mind, council adopted a recommendation that the issue of the deer population within town limits appear on council’s agenda in the future. But that move isn’t enough for Anderson, pointing out the town long ago had a deal with the MNR concerning the bear problem while nothing has been done up to this point about deer. “They’re only addressing the problem now because there’s more and more people complaining about it,” she charged. “Whether or not they do anything about it or not has yet to be seen.”

Council approves new library
More from A1 were trying to do our best and save taxpayers money. “But now we can say, ‘Good luck, you got it, from my side of the fence.” After declaring the project “dead” when council first voted against going ahead with it just over two months ago, library board chair Joyce Cunningham said her reaction to the project finally moving forward is one of relief and excitement. “We’ve been on such an emotional roller-coaster for the last several years that it’s really hard to get control of what we feel right now, but excitement is coming,” she said. “And we’re looking forward to that one full new building,” she added, thanking the community for both the financial and moral support for the new library over the past several years. As for what’s next, Cunningham said a meeting with the contractor, project manager, and whole building committee meeting is slated for tomorrow (June 25), where more Royal Canadian Legion Fort Frances Branch #29 details, including “alternates,” will be finalized. “What had happened, because of the money problems, we had to take some of the things out of the project,” she noted. “Now we’ve put them back into the project, so we’ll be going over that in detail to make sure that all of the players are very, very clear of what we’re agreeing to and what we are signing. “And then we watch the contractor, the project manager, and George [Bell] make it happen! “[Chief librarian] Margaret Sedgwick and I, in the meantime, will be looking at the furnishing requirements, in particular all the requirements that have to do with the self-checkout stations,” Cunningham added. “That part’s going to be very exciting,” she laughed. “You’ll get two women looking at furniture, it gets to be very exciting. “We’ve been overwhelmed by the generosity of so many in this area, and we are the envy of many, many communities in Ontario,” she noted.

Summer has FINALLY arrived!
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on Sabaskong Bay, Lake of the Woods

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Cash calendar winners named
There were more winners of the Rainy River District Mutual Aid Association’s weekly cash calendar draw. Winning $30 for June 14-20 were Al Elliott (Devlin), David Black (Fort Frances), Cheryl Bailey (Atikokan), Faith and Brad Haw (Stratton), Becky Green (Thunder Bay), Karen Copenace (Morson), and Michelle and Rick Tymkin (Rainy River). Winning $30 for June 7-13 were Janice Niro (Atikokan), Linda Skinner (Longlac), Ken Morrison (Fort Frances), Larry and Laurie Mann (Emo), Arlene and Don Robinson (Iroquois Falls), Ellen Mihichuk (Fort Frances), and Monique and Dennis Gall (Pinewood).

A sincere

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June 24, A8.indd 1

6/24/09 12:01:44 PM

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