Trent Prioritizes Sports Over Consultation

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The city of Peterborough in partnership with Trent is planning to build a twin pad arena in order to continue bridging the gap between campus and the city, as well as enhancing sports tourism within Peterborough. The plan was officially approved on October 31st, 2017, although the process for new arena began in 2015 when Trent University ceded the land over to the city.

To those who advocate for the arena, the justification behind the project is self-evident. Peterborough is an urban centre with many rural towns on its periphery. Building arenas will draw in those from periphery towns, spurring economic growth from the money spent by little leagues for tournaments. Peterborough, because of its comparatively large tax base, has the money to spend on these large projects while the Lakefields, Douros and the Millbrooks of the world do not.

Andrew Beamer, city councillor of the Northcrest ward, where the twin pad arena will be located, emphasized community demand for hockey arenas: “The city currently has two arenas, and based on our population, we need 4.” He also believes that the arenas will “bring people who come here for tournaments downtown to enjoy the food, cafes, and culture scene.” The arenas at capacity can hold up to 1500 people.

Although Trent University does not have a varsity hockey team, there are numerous recreational teams that currently play games at Evinrude center. Gavin McKnight, a coach of one of these extramural Trent teams, believes in the benefits of the twin pad arena stating that “It’s extremely difficult to get ice time within Peterborough from all of the other organizations … There’s a clear lack of available ice for the Trent Programs.” Furthermore, Gavin believes that this project will “give Trent students a sense of pride for having an arena on campus.”

The twin pad arena will be completed in 2019 and will be less than a 10 minute walk from the First Peoples House of Learning, an institution that has been shut out of the planning process. ​The​ ​reason​ ​for​ ​this​ ​lack​ ​of​ ​consultation​ ​with​ ​Indigenous​ ​Peoples​ ​is​ ​due​ ​to​ ​the​ ​fact​ ​that the​ ​land​ ​is​ ​now​ ​owned by the city, and not Trent. Due to this, neither Trent nor the city is formally obligated to consultation.

The Trent Lands Plan, updated in 2013, is a document that outlines the process by which land owned by Trent is developed and mandates consultation with Indigenous Peoples. The official city plan for Peterborough makes no mention of Indigenous Peoples in regards to land planning.

Dawn Lavell Harvard, director of First Peoples House of Learning states that “the city just like Trent University has an obligation to consult with Indigenous Peoples for projects.” For what it’s worth, Councillor Beamer states “that the consultation process has been happening, and will continue to happen as we move forward.”

Of course there are some that question the legitimacy of the project, which will involve development over the wetland areas just south of Trent University. Victoria Kasur, a third-year Environmental Sciences and Studies student, takes issue with the project because “we go to a school that prioritizes environmental and Indigenous rights, and the school has ignored the obligation to consultation with Indigenous peoples.”

The city has made its environmental impact reports for the arena available to the public dating back to March 2016. They also held a public consultation session on October 10th, 2016 about the arena. It should be noted that there is a difference between transparency through making documents public, and meaningful consultation which gives citizens a real chance to veto the project.

High on the priorities of Matt, a Trent student, is the Western Chorus Frog, a threatened species that calls the wetlands just south of Trent University home.

By Benny Mazur (originally posted to Flickr as Little chorus frog) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons.
“It’s a tiny little tree frog whose population is threatened but is protected by the Species at Risk Act,” according to Matt. Matt cited how the federal government stopped housing development in June of 2016 in Quebec through the Species at Risk Act in order to protect the Western Chorus Frog.

Third-year environmental restoration student Emily Stewart faces being shut out of educational space due to the development. Emily is employed by a nature connection organization called Jumping Mouse.

“We run nature programs in the area… some of which include exploring wetlands, beaver dams, wildlife tracking,” according to Emily. Jumping Mouse is based in Peterborough and offers programs to those aged from 4-15.

“From the work that I’ve done I can say that this has a huge impact for the kids… and helps them to grow in a lot of ways that wouldn’t be possible without that time in nature,” says Emily on the importance of her work. The planned area for development for the new arena is where Emily takes her groups.

The arena will be up for debate again on Tuesday, November 14th at City Council, where it will potentially receive final approval from the city. At issue is which constituency this wetland should serve. This is a struggle between those who want to create community and commerce through organized sport, and those who believe that commerce shouldn’t come at the cost of their community and values.

Victoria Kacer believes “Students should be pissed off… so many people come to this school because of the green space, or because of the beautiful scenery that they see.” Emily Stewart is upset because “this wetland isn’t being seen for the value that [she] see[s] it as.”

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Josh Skinner is a loose cannon that gets results in the field of Journalism. He began in Radio doing interviews with local community members with his show Trent Variety, in 2015 he produced his own radio series for CanoeFM titled My Lands are the Highlands, both of which you can find at Soundcloud.com/trentvariety. He has since decided to pick up writing at Arthur Newspaper and can often be found lurking in the shadows at City Council meetings, observing high octane conversations about city planning and zoning.