Ontario Parks offering refunds for Pinery campers deterred by protest

Campers with plans to visit Pinery Provincial Park in Grand Bend this weekend will get full refunds for their reservations if they opt to stay home because of an Indigenous protest.

Ministry of Natural Resources spokesperson Jolanta Kowalski told 980 CFPL they’ve been talking with protesters, but haven’t reached a conclusion yet.

“I’m not sure that there’s absolute clarity at this point, on exactly what’s involved here,” she explained.

A small group has blocked the gates since early last week, resuming a protest that took place last fall. Maynard T. George said they’re trying to raise awareness about their claim to the land dating back to the War of 1812, and the demonstration originally ended because the provincial government opened up a dialogue with them.

‘We’re here to stay’: land claim demonstration resumes at Pinery Provincial Park

Brandon Brockman, a London-area man, was able to camp at the park last weekend. But another camper, who didn’t want to be named, was turned away Wednesday after trying to bring a trailer into the park for an overnight stay.

He said MNR officials and OPP were both on the scene. He and his wife waited for roughly an hour and a half and eventually left for another campground.

“Protesters could potentially impede entry, and they have done that for some people. Especially, I believe, people who want to go in with trailers,” said Kowalski.

“I understand that people are frustrated, but we’re hoping to resolve this in a safe manner, safe for not only our staff … everybody involved, so there’s been a lot of discussion over the last little while. Hopefully, something will be resolved fairly shortly.”

Camper has a better understanding of Pinery Park protest following weekend visit

She’s urging people to check Pinery’s Ontario Parks website, because that’s where visitors will be able to find updates.

“People need to be aware that if they walk in, they may be able to get in, but they may not,” she explained. “If they really want to go to that park, this weekend, they may need to play it by ear.”

In 2004, then-Ontario attorney general Michael Bryant told the legislature that George’s claim was “an individual grievance” and not a land claim.

Bryant noted that the First Nations in the area – Kettle and Stony Point First Nation – had said that they didn’t endorse the grievance and that they have no land claim at Pinery.

If anyone wants to cancel a reservation and get a refund or be directed to another park, they’re asked to call the Ontario Park’s reservation line at 1 888 668 7275.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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