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No Simcoe County municipality has an official plan for when historic remains are discovered

Andrew Philips

By Andrew Philips, Special to Postmedia Network

MARK WANZEL/Special to Postmedia Network
The Sugarbush area in Oro-Medonte Township.

MARK WANZEL/Special to Postmedia Network The Sugarbush area in Oro-Medonte Township.

An Oro-Medonte resident worries about historic Indigenous remains being disturbed by development.

Paula Wilson, who lives in the township's Sugarbush area, said she's concerned that not enough is being done to preserve future skeletal and ossuary (large burial sites) finds linked to the Huron-Wendat people, who once called the area home but now live near Quebec City.

"People need to be more conscientious of the heritage, especially the developers and the township," she said. "You hear about what happened at the Allandale GO Station."

The City of Barrie has commissioned an independent archaeological review of the Allandale property to help determine its status. The review is not yet finished.

A large portion of the Allandale Station land was the subject of a standard archaeological assessment in 2000-2001, including an excavation. City officials said it was OK'd by the Ontario Ministry of Culture.

Another assessment in 2009 indicated the property might contain further archaeologically significant artifacts. Historian Andrew Hunter had documented in 1907, and the city was aware of a large burial of bones, several smaller ones and that burial sites had been discovered within the property in the 1800s.

But any issues regarding the finds of human remains as part of a development aren't actually part of a municipality's purview, according to Oro-Medonte spokesperson Samah Othman.

"The procedure for any human find is to initially notify the OPP," Othman said. "The specific procedures/process for investigation and appropriate burial of Indigenous remains is not a township policy or procedure but is solely under the authority of the Ministry of Government and Community Services."

John Raynor, past president of the Ontario Archaeological Society's Huronia chapter, said that once remains are found, the OPP is called and the coroner's office is brought in to determine if they are recent or of an historic nature.

If they're historic, an archeologist is brought in to determine the origin and extent of the burial site.

From there, Raynor said Indigenous representatives and the developer must come to an agreement about final disposition of the site and the remains.

"First Nations' consultation is a requirement" he said. "They (the archaeologists) might do some more searching around the area."

As an example, Raynor pointed to part of Oro-Medonte's Diamond Valley subdivision that was put on hold following an ossuary find in 2011.

"If it's a sacred site, it's unlikely it would be moved. If it can be preserved, it probably will be."

Raynor said it would be a great help if municipalities created their own archaeological management plans, something he noted no Simcoe County municipality currently has done.

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