A Ratepayer’s Response to RM of Keys letter

A letter sent to ratepayers of the RM of Keys the week of December 2 continues to attempt to blame a group of ratepayers (Friends of the Aquifers - FOTA) for the conflict that exists about development in the RM and also for the legal costs being incurred regarding action concerning Bylaw 03-2018, which would allow collective living anywhere in the RM without control by the RM as to where projects would be built. 

The situation began early in 2018 when the RM decided to approve the construction of a Hutterite colony town site and an Intensive Livestock Operation (ILO) in the most heavily populated division of the RM and right on top of two freshwater aquifers. 

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The Hutterian Brethren Church (HBC) purchased many parcels of farm land in the RM seven years ago and certainly has the right to live in this area. This is not disputed. However, a huge concern for many ratepayers is the location of the proposed colony/ILO. Water is Life.  Jeopardizing a major supply of water is unacceptable.

Attempts were made to get the RM Council at the time to reconsider its decision about the location. Unfortunately, the RM was convinced there was no danger of contamination of the water supply or of the surrounding environment for the following reasons:

  • The HBC would be using state of the art liners for the human sewage lagoon;
  • The mortality pit that would hold up to 10,000 composting birds would be filled mostly with quickly composting chick carcasses and
  • The barns would have concrete floors. 

The oil industry uses state of the art liners that breach often and pollute groundwater. Nothing is failsafe which, to me, is very disturbing when we’re talking about a water supply. These aquifers supply water to the Canora Rural Public Utility Board for distribution to a wide area and, eventually, this water supply will be affected.

The FOTA group is exactly what the name says, Friends of the Aquifers. The group represents hundreds of concerned citizens and has been consistent with its commitment to protect the water supply. 

Group members have been libeled, called bigots and Hutterite haters. There is nothing further from the truth. What it is doing is taking the only legal actions available to get the development moved, to rescind the Bylaw. There is no appeal process for the ILO approval. It is what is known as a discretionary use and the RM was able to approve that after government departments approved water supply and other permits. The FOTA group thinks the government was short-sighted and erred seriously by approving the permits required for this project.

The only way to bring about “sober second thought” was to try to have the Bylaw rescinded and then have the RM re-approve the bylaw and, this time, insert location controls into it. The colony and ILO could certainly be built in the RM but in another location, away from the aquifers.

Twice the group offered an option of financial support to the RM to hire a professional planner to work with council and ratepayers to create a long term, well thought out development plan for the RM.

I was very disappointed that the RM Council did not think it was important to get input from ratepayers before such a huge change in the composition of the RM was to take place. While the RM is correct in saying that the strictest requirements regarding notification about the change were adhered to (letters sent to five ratepayers within a one-mile radius of the proposed location), it was a serious breach of trust to proceed without input from the hundreds of ratepayers who live just outside of the required radius as well as everyone else in the RM.

It is unfortunate that this process has been lengthy but also very disturbing that it isn’t really “if” but “when” contamination of the water supply will occur. It may not be in my life time but for certain it will affect future generations and I, for one, am saddened by that.

Judith Young, Ratepayer

Division 6, RM of Keys #303