By Derek Howard
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Indigenous land defender Johnny Hawke, who claims he was charged with mischief by the OPP, has set up a new `mobile heritage centre’ encampment in Tiny Township. It’s his fourth encampment since he began his protest earlier this summer.
Hawke is one of a group of people called the Indigenous Land Defenders from the Anishinaabe Community of G’Chimnissing on Christian Island (Beausoleil First Nation).
“It’s really two encampments – it’s how many times I’ve moved around,” Hawke explained. “The one in Thunder Beach, the dock: that’s a permanent one. Then I took the tipi to Balm Beach for two weeks, then I was at the 13th Concession at Nottawaga Beach for a week until I was arrested. Now, I’ve moved that to this private residence.”
In a press release issued by Hawke, cause sympathizer Veronique Lacroix, a fourth generation resident of Thunder Beach and descendant of French and Metis heritage, said she allowed the protester to set up on his fourth occupation on her property.
The intent is to gain the attention of federal Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada Minister Carolyn Bennett, “who has to drive past my house” to get to her cottage, Lacroix said in the release.
“I’ve met Johnny through (Facebook lobby group) Beach Rights and when he set up his first camp at the dock in Thunder Beach and I have been a big supporter of his initiative,” Lacroix said in the release.
An awareness campaign was initiated in June regarding, according to Hawke, historic land grievances of 50,000 misappropriated acres through the 1795 Penetanguishene Purchase and the 1816 Lakes Huron and Simcoe Purchase.
Located in Thunder Beach, Hawke set up his first encampment in close proximity to the cottage of Minister Bennett. The intent, he said at the time, was to create a `mobile heritage centre’ to inform and educate the public about historical land injustices, with the site consisting of a sacred fire and tipi.
Minister Bennett did not respond to Hawke’s actions, and a second encampment was set up at Balm Beach shortly after. The following weekend, a `Beach Walk with July Talk’ event was held in support of Hawke’s cause.
On July 25, OPP attended Hawke’s encampment on the beach of the 13th Concession, located in undesignated space adjacent to open space (OS) zoning according to municipal and regional GIS data.
Hawke said he was charged with one count of mischief for occupying private property.
“That was on Nottawaga Beach, on the private property side – the assumed private property,” said Hawke. “But I was right on the beach where, on the Simcoe County and Tiny Township interactive maps, it shows it as not even open space; it’s undesignated. It’s not even on the property line.
“This has been the fight that the Beach Rights folks have been advocating for: the questionable deeds of how far they own to the water’s edges.”
The Township of Tiny has initiated plans for delineation of municipal lands this summer, which will allow the boundaries of beachfront properties to be properly established, a move which has been praised by Beach Rights.
Hawke has stated that he intends to fight the charge of mischief, and is in consultation with two constitutional and human rights lawyers “who help advocate for Indigenous rights.”
The two lawyers are Rocco Galati, the executive director for Constitutional Rights Centre Inc. in Toronto, and Michael Swinwood, who is an Ottawa-based lawyer with non-profit organization Elders Without Borders. However, Hawke has not yet retained either.
Neither Galati nor Swinwood were available when MidlandToday reached out for comment.
OPP Const. Dave Hobson confirmed that “as a result of a police investigation,” Hawke was charged with mischief and failure to comply to the Criminal Code of Canada on July 25. He will face the charges in the Ontario Court of Justice Sept. 16.
As of press time, no response was provided by Minister Carolyn Bennett regarding Hawke’s protests.
Communications officer Joseph Stup of Beausoleil First Nations provided no comment – at the request of Chief Joanne Sandy and council members.
“For me to be charged with mischief and (Minister Bennett) to enjoy the privileges on unsurrendered territory is the underlying story here,” says Hawke.
Derek Howard is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the MIDLANDTODAY.CA . The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.