March 26, 2020

In the past couple of days we have had a large number of comments and questions raised by cottage owners through our web site. Rather than post all the comments, we have organized the feedback into a description of each issue followed by what we currently know about that issue and what SCOI has done about that issue. We have listed the issues in the order we see as important to SCOI members and to the SFN community.

Not all Cottagers Subscribe

Firstly, it has been pointed out that not all cottage owners subscribe to the SCOI e-mail alert system. Therefore not all land lease cottage owners are receiving details and updates from the Band that subscribers are getting. There are almost 480 subscribers out of about 1200 cottage owners. SCOI has written to the Chief about this asking that notice of the State of Emergency (SOE) and other pertinent information be sent directly to all cottagers from the Band.

For some time now individual Associations have been encouraging their members to get signed up to or notification list. This has resulted in a significant uptick in subscriptions, but obviously too few for the purposes needed here.

We ask that each of you check with those cottage neighbours you are in contact with in the off-season to be sure they are signed up.

Sign-up can be done here.

We Want to Visit Our Cottage

This was a strong theme among the responses. It should be pointed out that all neighbouring municipalities around SFN have also declared a state of emergency and have urged cottagers to stay home. Dr. Ian Arra, the Medical Officer of Health for Grey Bruce, has firmly and strongly urged seasonal residents not to come to Grey Bruce to check their property or to do self-isolation in cottages. He has a genuine concern for the increased risk of community transmission of COVID-19 from one part of the province to another, overwhelming the area’s existing health care system resources.

The SFN State of Emergency states that the Band encourages cottagers to stay home. We want to remind those who are just returning or planning to return to Canada of the mandatory 14-day quarantine put in place by the Federal government at midnight last night.

Some of you have seen these requests as a suggestion and not a firm edict. The SOE also states that CanCom Security will be enforcing the SOE. SCOI has written to the Chief asking for clarification on what will happen to those cottage owners who are found at their cottage. With the exception of those Canadian cottage owners who have nowhere else to go in Canada, SCOI has asked the Chief to impose deterrents sufficient to keep cottagers at home. Those who have nowhere else to go are requested to call the Land Management Office (519-797-3039) and leave a message that they are in their cottage. Messages are being checked.

We are grateful that the Chief reacted quickly to accommodate cottage owners who have nowhere else to go. We in turn need to be respectful of the Band’s wishes and we need to be helping to keep their (our) community safe.

We want to check our cottages:

Everything said above applies. Please remember that Winter Patrol goes to the end of April. So Cottagers who signed up for winter patrol will continue to be checked. We spoke with Trent Skinner of Property Checks this morning. He has indicated that he can continue to do cottage checks after May 1 but it would be on a one on one basis and the cost would be higher per visit. The Association contracts allow him to reduce his rate due to the number of cottages to be inspected. There is really no way for the Associations or SCOI to re-sign up everyone, collect the funds and support that option.

Trent pointed out that if large numbers of cottagers do start to come up, that will increase the number of break-ins because thieves will know that you may have also brought alcohol, electronics and other stuff you took home in the fall. They are busy enough taking care of their own communities. Services and businesses which are shut down by Provincial order in your community are also shut down in Grey Bruce. Things like toilet paper are impossible to find in Grey Bruce, as well.

SCOI has written to the Chief to ask that security providers like Property Checks and Davidson continue to be allowed to access properties on Band land.

Are Service Fee payments and Lease Payments being reduced or deferred?

Consistent with our previous requests we have asked that the deadline for Service Fee payment be delayed or partitioned into installments. Band Council in response to this request and has decided to defer the Service Fee deadline by 60 days. There will be no change in the due date for Lease payments.

We ask that you put these decisions into context. We are still in early days. Lease payments are not due until May 1 and we expect both of these issues will be revisited by Band Council if the SOE remains in place for an extended period of time. SCOI will continue to monitor a number of issues, including these, as the pandemic progresses. Watch our web page for up to date information and sign up for our notices.

Septic Tank Upgrades

Are septic tank upgrades expected to be completed before leases are renewed? And are septic contractors still able to work on Band land during the SOE?

SCOI has written to Kirk Roote asking for clarification on the issue of when septic upgrades need to be completed. Until the 2020 Lands Management Brochure came out, SCOI was under the impression that cottage owners who had a septic plan approved by the Band and Indigenous Services Canada AND had signed up with a contractor to do the work, were good to go. The Brochure clearly leaves the impression that the work must be completed before the lease will be renewed. This clarification was requested prior to the SOE, and we expect coronavirus has taken priority to us getting an answer right away.

We do not know if septic contractors are still working and if they are getting access to Band lands. We will contact a few of them in the coming days and report back as soon as we have any information.      

We have received many other supportive comments congratulating the Chief and Band Council on its leadership and the decisions they have made. We will be posting those and others like them as they come in as our way of encouraging and supporting the Chief, Council and Band staff as they continue to work their way through this terrible situation.

Thanks to everyone for your input. It has been very helpful.

Be safe, stay home and wash your hands.

David Shearman,    President, SCOI

Rob McLaughlin,   Secretary Treasurer, SCOI