Thursday, November 12, 2009

Moosonee: Development Area to Town

When I first lived here, Moosonee was Ontario's only Development Area. It was not a town, village, city or even an improvement area. It was governed by the Moosonee Development Area Board, the MDAB.
Some day, I will know the story of why it got this unique status. How it got it is easier to answer, from a legal point of view.
I assumed at first that a Development Areas was a kind of municipality defined in the same manner as towns and cities. I was wrong. Moosonee had its own law.
In 1966, the Ontario legislature passed the Moosonee Development Area Board Act. It was revised a little over the years but remained mostly unchanged. The Act appeared in the 1970 Revised Statutes of Ontario and the 1980 Revised Statutes of Ontario. When it came time to do the 1990 Revised Statutes it was decided to save paper. The Moosonee Development Area Board Act was relegated to the "Table of Unconsolidated and Unrepealed Acts" along with such legislation as An Act to provide for the establishment of a Hospital for the reclamation and cure of Habitual Drunkards ( 1873), the Temperance Act of Ontario (1877)and An Act respecting Tithes (1897). Putting it on this list meant that nobody who looked in the 1990 Revised Statutes would find it.
The Moosonee Development Area Board Act provided for a board appointed by the Lieutenant Governor in Council. This nice phrase simply meant that the members were officially appointed by the government. In practice, what happened is that elections were held and the government appointed the people who won the election. That practice was modified a little bit when the Bob Rae government was elected. The next time Moosonee held elections, the winners were asked to submit resumes to the government. This request was generally seen as an insult to the voters.
The Act explained and set out the powers of the Board and listed the situations in which it was or was not treated as a municipality. It was accompanied by two schedules. The first set out the boundaries of the Development Area (see Note 3) and the second was list purposes for which the Board had all the powers of a township (Note 4).
Section 11 of the Act made clear that "The Development Area shall remain territory without municipal organization".
All this came to an end with the passing of the Town of Moosonee Act in 2000 which turned Moosonee into a town, pretty much like any other from a legal point of view.
Anyone can easily find the Town of Moosonee Act online, I think that it would be useful if the older legislation was online as well. The new Act makes reference, for example, to the geographic description of Moosonee but does not include. To someone, someday, knowing the exact boundaries may be a vital piece of information.
For now, I will do my best to make sure we do not throw out our old law books.
This posting is dedicated to Mary Etherington, long time secretary-treasurer and Maude Tyer, long time board member.

Note 1: Statutes are laws passed by the legislature of Ontario. They are numbered by year. In the past, approximately every decade they were consolidated into the Revised Statutes of Ontario to make things handier. The last edition of the Revised Statutes was 1990. Since then, people rely on the internet.
Note 2: One reason I hate writing about anything about is law is the compulsion to be precise. When I say approximately every decade I mean that they were consolidatedin 1990, 1980, 1970, 1960, 1950, 1937, 1927, 1914, 1897, 1887 and 1877. The province of Ontario dates from 1867 when it was created as part of the creation of the Dominion of Canada. Prior to then, it was Upper Canada or Canada West, etc. The Revised Statutes did not contain all laws, only the most likely to be used laws.
Note 3: Schedule A was a lengthy description of the land included in the Development Area. It starts off: "All and singular that certain parcel or tract of land and premises situate, lying and being in the District of Cochrane and Province of Ontario, being composed of the whole of the geographic townships of Caron, Horden and Moose, including the Moosonee Townsite, part of the part of the right-of-way of the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission and part of the Moose River, which said parcel or tract of land may be more practically described as follows:
Commencing at the southwest angle of the said Township of Horden;
Thence due north astronomically along the west boundary of the said township being along the centre line of the allowance for road between the townships of Winnington and Horden, as established by Ontari Land Surveyor H. W. Sutcliffe in the year 1932, a distance of 1 Mile (5,280 feet) to the 1-mile post;.......
Note 4: Schedule B included purposes such as fire protection, street lighting, licencing of cabs, sewage, cemeteries, library services and part 1 of the Dog Licencing and Live Stock and Poultry Protection Act.

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