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Cottage country conflict over wild rice leads to years of rising tensions





A long-simmering dispute over wild rice led people from local First Nations and lakeside communities to pack a community hall in the Kawartha Lakes area of Ontario last week.

A Curve Lake First Nation man has been seeding and harvesting wild rice from Pigeon Lake over the past few decades but lake residents say the rice and his harvesting methods are interfering with their enjoyment of their waterfront properties.

The meeting was the latest step in the years-long fight by lake residents against the seeding and harvesting of wild rice in the lake. 

There were two open microphones available to attendees to ask questions or voice their concerns and at times the tensions flared, erupting into shouting.

‘Good grain’

At the heart of the dispute is the wild rice plant, which Anishinaabe call mnoomin, meaning good grain or seed, and it has been a staple of their diet. In the early 1900s, flooding of the water systems through the Kawarthas with the completion of the Trent-Severn Waterway almost eradicated the wild rice in the area.

James Whetung has been seeding the Tri-Lake area with wild rice for decades. (Kim Muskratt Waaseyaa-Kwe)

The lack of access to this traditional food source is one of the reasons James Whetung says he set out to restock the lakes with wild rice more than 30 years ago.

“I went and talked to the Elders and they told me where all the wild rice was used to grow,” he said.

“There was none there at the time I started planting seeds so I wanted to help rejuvenate our culture.”

The Tri-Lake area is a water system in the Kawarthas made up of three lakes: Pigeon Lake, Buckhorn Lake and Chemong. Curve Lake First Nation, where Whetung is from, is on a peninsula of land surrounded on one side by Buckhorn Lake and on the other Upper Chemong Lake.

Whetung runs a business, Black Duck Wild Rice, and harvests the grain for sale commercially. He said he also provides opportunities for community members and local schools to bring classes in to learn about the process.

“It’s our inherent right to be able to do that and the Williams Treaty enshrined our rights in the constitution,” said Curve Lake councillor Lorenzo Whetung.

“All of the teachings tell you to put back and that’s what he’s doing, he’s putting back what he takes.”

‘Total disrespect’

Residents on Pigeon Lake see things differently.

“He’s destroying our lake,” said Meip Leerentveld, whose family has owned property on the lakeshore for 49 years.

“We don’t have a problem with wild rice here other than what he’s doing and his total disrespect.”

Leerentveld and her husband Brock Walsh said that over the last few years they’ve been watching their shoreline be consumed by thick reeds as the wild rice fields expand.

Brock Walsh and Meip Leerentveld have had a house on Pigeon Lake for 19 years built on property that has been in Leerentveld’s family for 49 years. While the growing season is over, a few wild rice stalks poke out of the water behind the couple, far less they say than there was a month ago. (Rhiannon Johnson/CBC)

“He has to stop seeding the lakes because there’s no boating anymore, there’s no swimming, there’s nothing,” said Leerentveld.

The couple said their grandchildren don’t come visit anymore because the waterways around their house are so clogged up with rice, so they spend time elsewhere.

They’re also unhappy with Whetung’s use of an airboat for harvesting, which they said is noisy as he drives up and down the lake and further assists in the spreading of the rice.

Concern for property values

They said the roar of the boat is affecting their quality of life, triggering anger and anxiety whenever they hear it approaching.

“We all live here and we should all live here in some sort of harmony,” said Leerentveld.

“They should put a designated area in if that’s what they want to do.”

There are also concerns the wild rice will affect property values.

Residents complain the wild rice is clogging up their shore lines and affecting boating and swimming. (

“I’ve had several clients that … have just been like ‘We won’t consider property on Pigeon Lake,'” said Linz Hunt, a real estate agent with Royal LePage Frank Real Estate Brokerage who works in Peterborough and the Kawarthas.

Hunt said it’s difficult to deny that the increased presence of wild rice would decrease the property value. But she added that it’s not easy to tell how much the wild rice has affected real estate on Pigeon Lake, compared to other regions in the Kawarthas, given the red hot real estate market over the past few years.

‘They bought a wetland’ 

According to Parks Canada, the area of Pigeon Lake is 5,246 hectares and the wild rice covers 495 hectares or 9.4 per cent of the waterway.

“While wild rice may appear to be dominant in some areas, it is actually part of a healthy, diverse plant community of submerged and floating leaf plants beneath the water surface,” said Karen Freeley, communications and acting Indigenous affairs officer for the Ontario Waterways Unit of Parks Canada, in an email.

The Tri-Lake area in the Kawarthas is a water system consisting of Pigeon, Buckhorn and Chemong Lakes. (Google Maps)

“The presence of wild rice is a positive indication of the overall health of the ecosystem.”

James Conolly, an archeologist at nearby Trent University who is studying the environmental history of the Kawartha lakes area, said the lake is going through a process of re-wilding after more than a hundred years of farming and logging in the area.

The geographic area that Pigeon Lake sits on was once a creek surrounded by wetlands, according to Conolly.

“They didn’t realize it, but they bought a wetland,” he said.

“Pigeon [Lake] was really badly hit by the dams, but now of course that’s where all the cottages are.”

Plan for consultation

The meeting at the Ennismore community centre in Selwyn Township was organized by a resident group called Save the Tri-Lakes Initiative. Over the years lakefront residents have lobbied multiple organizations and levels of government to intervene.

In 2015, they applied for and received a permit from Park Canada to clear aquatic weeds. The clearing of the wild rice beds was stopped after First Nations groups complained they had not been consulted.

Whetung was not present at the recent meeting.

“I want to have food security and seed sovereignty for us as a nation, not a government-named First Nation but as a nation of Anishnaabek. We need that food for our culture,” Whetung told CBC.

“I’m not out to negotiate my right to gather or plant seeds. There’s an inherent right; no government can take that from me.”

A number of elected representatives sat in at the Ennismore meeting that concluded with a rough plan to begin a three-month consultation between local governments, First Nations and community members to try to find an amicable compromise or some sense of direction moving forward.


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Top 5 Analytics Trends That Are Shaping The Future





Digital transformation is increasingly becoming the focus for many CIOs around the world today—with analytics playing a fundamental role in driving the future of the digital economy.

While data is important to every business, it is necessary for businesses to have a firm grip on data analytics to allow them transform raw pieces of data into important insights. However, unlike the current trends in business intelligence—which is centred around data visualization—the future of data analytics would encompass a more contextual experience.

“The known data analytics development cycle is described in stages: from descriptive (what happened) to diagnostic (why did it happen), to discovery (what can we learn from it), to predictive (what is likely to happen), and, finally, to prescriptive analytics (what action is the best to take),” said Maurice op het Veld is a partner at KPMG Advisory in a report.

“Another way of looking at this is that data analytics initially “supported” the decision-making process but is now enabling “better” decisions than we can make on our own.”

Here are some of the current trends that arealready shaping the future of data analytics in individuals and businesses.

  1. Growth in mobile devices

With the number of mobile devices expanding to include watches, digital personal assistants, smartphones, smart glasses, in-car displays, to even video gaming systems, the final consumption plays a key role on the level of impact analytics can deliver.

Previously, most information consumers accessed were on a computer with sufficient room to view tables, charts and graphs filled with data, now, most consumers require information delivered in a format well optimized for whatever device they are currently viewing it on.

Therefore, the content must be personalized to fit the features of the user’s device and not just the user alone.

  1. Continuous Analytics

More and more businesses are relying on the Internet of Things (IoT) and their respective streaming data—which in turn shortens the time it takes to capture, analyze and react to the information gathered. Therefore, while analytics programspreviously were termed successful when results were delivered within days or weeks of processing, the future of analytics is bound to drastically reduce this benchmark to hours, minutes, seconds—and even milliseconds.

“All devices will be connected and exchange data within the “Internet of Things” and deliver enormous sets of data. Sensor data like location, weather, health, error messages, machine data, etc. will enable diagnostic and predictive analytics capabilities,” noted Maurice.

“We will be able to predict when machines will break down and plan maintenance repairs before it happens. Not only will this be cheaper, as you do not have to exchange supplies when it is not yet needed, but you can also increase uptime.”

  1. Augmented Data Preparation

During the process of data preparation, machine learning automation will begin to augment data profiling and data quality, enrichment, modelling, cataloguing and metadata development.

Newer techniques would include supervised, unsupervised and reinforcement learning which is bound to enhance the entire data preparation process. In contrast to previous processes—which depended on rule-based approach to data transformation—this current trend would involve advanced machine learning processes that would evolve based on recent data to become more precise at responding to changes in data.

  1. Augmented Data Discovery

Combined with the advancement in data preparation, a lot of these newer algorithms now allow information consumers to visualize and obtain relevant information within the data with more ease. Enhancements such as automatically revealing clusters, links, exceptions, correlation and predictions with pieces of data, eliminate the need for end users to build data models or write algorithms themselves.

This new form of augmented data discovery will lead to an increase in the number of citizen data scientist—which include information users who, with the aid of augmented assistance can now identify and respond to various patterns in data faster and a more distributed model.

  1. AugmentedData Science

It is important to note that the rise of citizen data scientist will not in any way eliminate the need for a data scientist who gathers and analyze data to discover profitable opportunities for the growth of a business. However, as these data scientists give room for citizen data scientists to perform the easier tasks, their overall analysis becomes more challenging and equally valuable to the business.

As time goes by, machine learning would be applied in other areas such as feature and model selection. This would free up some of the tasks performed by data scientist and allow them focus on the most important part of their job, which is to identify specific patterns in the data that can potentially transform business operations and ultimately increase revenue.

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Waterloo drone-maker Aeryon Labs bought by U.S. company for $265M






Waterloo’s Aeryon Labs has been bought by Oregon-based FLIR Systems Inc. for $256 million, or $200 million US.

The acquisition was announced Monday. 

Dave Kroetsch, co-founder and chief technology officer of Aeryon Labs, says not much will change in the foreseeable future.

“The Waterloo operations of Aeryon Labs will actually continue as they did yesterday with manufacturing, engineering and all the functions staying intact in Waterloo and ultimately, we see growing,” he said.

“The business here is very valuable to FLIR and our ability to sell internationally is a key piece of keeping these components of the business here in Canada.”

Aeroyn Labs builds high-performance drones that are sold to a variety of customers including military, police services and commercial businesses. The drones can provide high-resolution images for surveillance and reconnaissance.

The drones already include cameras and thermal technology from FLIR. Jim Cannon, president and CEO of FLIR Systems, said acquiring Aeryon Labs is part of the company’s strategy to move beyond sensors “to the development of complete solutions that save lives and livelihoods.”

‘A piece of a bigger solution’

Kroetsch said this is a good way for the company to grow into something bigger.

“We see the business evolving in much the direction our business has been headed over the last couple of years. And that’s moving beyond the drone as a product in and of itself as a drone as a piece of a bigger solution,” he said.

For example, FLIR bought a drone company that builds smaller drones that look like little helicopters.

“We can imagine integrating those with our drones, perhaps having ours carry their drones and drop them off,” he said.

FLIR also does border security systems, which Kroetsch says could use the drones to allow border agents to look over a hill where there have been issues.

“We see the opportunity there as something that we never could have done on our own but being involved with and part of a larger company that’s already providing these solutions today gives us access not only to these great applications, but also to some fantastic technologies,” he said.

Aeryon Labs has done a lot of work during emergency disasters, including in Philippines after Typhoon Hagupit in 2014, Ecuador after an earthquake in 2016 and the Fort McMurray wildfire in 2016.


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Inuvik infrastructure may not be ready for climate change, says study






The Arctic is expected to get warmer and wetter by the end of this century and new research says that could mean trouble for infrastructure in Inuvik.

The study from Global Water Futures looked at how climate change could impact Havipak Creek — which crosses the Dempster Highway in Inuvik, N.W.T. — and it predicts some major water changes.

“They were quite distressing,” John Pomeroy, director of Global Water Futures and the study’s lead author, said of the findings.

Researchers used a climate model and a hydrological model to predict future weather and climate patterns in the region. They also looked at data gathered from 1960 to the present. 

If greenhouse gas emissions continue at their current rate — which Pomeroy said they are on track to do — the study projects the region will be 6.1 C warmer by 2099 and precipitation, particularly rain, will increase by almost 40 per cent.

The study also found that the spring flood will be earlier and twice as large, and the permafrost will thaw an additional 25 centimetres. While the soil is expected to be wetter early in the summer, the study said it will be drier in late summer, meaning a higher risk of wildfires.

John Pomeroy is the director of Global Water Futures. (Erin Collins/CBC)

“The model’s painting kind of a different world than we’re living in right now for the Mackenzie Delta region,” Pomeroy said.

He noted these changes are not only expected for Havipak Creek, but also for “many, many creeks along the northern part of the Dempster [Highway].”

Pomeroy said the deeper permafrost thaw and a bigger spring flood could pose challenges for buildings, roads, culverts and crossings in the area that were designed with the 20th century climate in mind.

He said the projected growth of the snowpack and the spring flood are “of grave concern because that’s what washes out the Dempster [Highway] and damages infrastructure in the area.”

Culverts and bridges may have to be adjusted to allow room for greater stream flows, Pomeroy said. And building foundations that are dependent upon the ground staying frozen will have to be reinforced or redesigned.

Pomeroy said the ultimate solution is for humans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“This study is the future we’re heading for, but it’s not the future we necessarily have if we can find a way to reduce those gases,” he said.  

“It’d be far smarter to get those emissions under control than to pay the terrible expenses for infrastructure and endangered safety of humans and destroyed ecosystems.”


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