Ojibway National Park Bill Passes Second Reading in House of Commons

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A bill to create the Ojibway National Urban Park cleared a major hurdle in the House of Commons, though most Liberal MPs voted against it.

Bill C-248, a private member’s bill sponsored by Windsor West MP Brian Masse, passed second reading with 168 yeses and 147 noes on Wednesday.

Masse said the bill is the culmination of years, if not decades, of work by many residents, and the project has many supporters, including the Caldwell First Nation.

Masse’s proposal for a 364-hectare park would combine several areas – Ojibway Park, Spring Garden Natural Area, Black Oak Heritage Park, Tallgrass Prairie Park, Ojibway Prairie Provincial Nature Reserve and Ojibway Shores – into a single national park.

“I want this to be our Point Pelee in the city of Windsor,” Masse said in an interview.

The proposal is now submitted to the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development for consideration. To become law, the bill must pass a third reading, obtain Senate approval and receive Royal Assent.

Ojibway Park in Windsor is shown in a file photo. (Mike Evans/CBC)

The process of creating the park is already underway, according to Kusmierczyk

At the same time that Masse is seeking to create the park through a private member’s bill, the government is working to make it happen through a process with Parks Canada.

In August, the federal government and the city of Windsor signed a “declaration of collaboration” to explore the idea of ​​a national urban park. Ottawa has also earmarked approximately $600,000 for consultations and recently reached an agreement to secure key land at Ojibway Shores.

Masse said the bill’s redundancy will create urgency and push the government to act.

“It’s also going to provide a clear and direct path for a solution,” he said.

Windsor-Tecumseh MP Irek Kusmierczyk was among the Liberal MPs who voted against the bill, despite supporting the development of the park. In an interview, he suggested that the private member’s bill is redundant.

Liberal MP Irek Kusmierczyk voted against Bill C-248, saying planning and consultations for the park are already underway through Parks Canada. (Chris Ensing/CBC)

“We are already building and creating the Ojibway Urban National Park. We actually built it, created it, and designed it, really most of the last year, and it’s a process that’s already being led by Parks Canada,” he said. said.

Masse’s bill, he said, establishes the park, leaving consultation to happen later, when he believes consultation must occur before the park is established.

“In my view, the private member’s bill bypasses consultation with our community, it bypasses those critical consultations with Indigenous groups,” he said.

In response, a Masse spokesperson said the bill is necessary to create the park and is the result of consultations with the City of Windsor and Caldwell First Nation.

Consultations will also take place when the bill reaches committee stage, which is expected to take place in the fall, according to Masse.

Essex MP Chris Lewis and other Tory MPs backed Masse’s bill, along with Green and Bloc MPs.

Two Liberal MPs, Jenica Atwin and Nathaniel Erskine-Smith, decided to support the bill.

“Canada’s Ecological Hotspot”

A cardinal perches on a fence in Windsor’s Ojibway Park. (Mike Evans/CBC)

Janet Sumner, executive director of conservation organization Wildlands League, said she was heartened to see the bill passed, saying it was a big step for nature and great for the people of Windsor.

“This is Canada’s ecological hotspot. We see the highest number of endangered species here. We have enormous development pressure, very little protected land and, of course, this tallgrass prairie that works like a natural sponge…helping with that flood mitigation,” Sumner said.

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