New Muskoka Watershed Chair and exploring the link between environment and economy

How environment can drive economy focus of February 6 event; Muskoka Watershed Council welcomes Dr. Peter Sale as Chair; Robert Bateman to be keynote speaker for Muskoka Summit on the Environment

New Chair for Muskoka Watershed Council (MWC): Marine ecologist and noted author of Our Dying Planet, Dr. Peter Sale, has officially stepped in to Patricia Arney’s

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Dr. Sale with outgoing Chair Patricia Arney. Photo by Lyndsie McGregor

shoes as Chair of the Muskoka Watershed Council. Arney has completed her two-year term with the Council, which champions environmental stewardship in our region.  The change in leadership happened at the Council meeting held on Friday, January 24, during which Sale presented Arney, a Bala resident, with a certificate of appreciation in recognition of her commitment and dedication. (Arney has been involved with the MWC since 2001 and Sale joined the Council in 2010). Lou Guerriero has also been elected as Vice-Chair. He first joined MWC in 2004 as a representative for the Town of Gravenhurst.

The Environment is Good for Business Event Feb. 6: Do you have to choose between a healthy environment and a strong economy? Experts agree that Muskoka’s economy can serve as a perfect example of how they can go hand in hand. On Thursday, February 6, economic and planning consultant Rob Milligan will explore the opportunities that exist as a result of the environment–economy connection.  Milligan, who is also a member of the Muskoka Watershed Council, is the keynote speaker at the annual Bridges to Better Business event put on by the Muskoka Small Business Centre. It happens at the Rotary Centre for Youth in Bracebridge. To learn more and register, please click here or call the Muskoka Small Business Centre at 706-646-9021 (remember to tell them you read about it here at Muskoka News Watch!). The day also features a panel of businesses with close connections to the environment, and an afternoon series of popular speed mentoring sessions, where attendees can get business advice from experts on a whole range of topics.  For more information or to register for this important event, contact Muskoka Small Business Centre at 705-646-9021 or visit www.muskokasmallbusiness.ca.

Plans well under way for 2014 Muskoka Summit on the Environment: Resolving the Environment-Economy dichotomy is also the theme for this year’s Muskoka Summit on the Environment in May. Keynote speaker for this event is renowned Canadian wildlife artist, naturalist and conservationist Robert Bateman. He heads up a great line up news about muskoka, muskoka events, muskoka news, muskoka, environment, summit, watershed, save the bala falls, lake muskokaof speakers who will look at creative approaches to closing the gap between economic and environmental considerations.

So far, speakers for the event include:

  • Robert Sandford, Director of the Western Watersheds Research Collaborative and a leading thinker on the impact of climate change on freshwater resources.
  • Elena Bennett, from McGill University, who studies the connection between ecosystem services and human well being.
  •  Terre Satterfield, an anthropologist at UBC, whose work focuses on culture and justice as they influence environmental values.
  •  Daniel Simberloff, from the University of Tennessee, is a leading terrestrial ecologist and expert on the biology of invasive species.
  • Peter Victor, from York University is an economist who works on environmental issues.

The two-day summit will feature presentations by each of these experts and will wrap up with a panel discussion hosted by CBC’s Paul Kennedy (to be broadcast afterward on Kennedy’s award winning program, Ideas). Registration is now open for the Muskoka Summit on the Environment, happening May 8-9 at the Rene Caisse Theatre in Bracebridge. To learn more, visit the Summit site by clicking here.

 

Welcome February and more snow: we could get another 10cm Saturday night in Muskoka

Snow Watch February 1, 6pm: We could have another 10 centimetres before the snowfall lets up at midnight tonight and then we could still see some more flurries heading into Groundhog Day. We should see skies clearing by late afternoon Sunday and the good news: it’s warmer than we’ve experienced the past few weeks – Sunday’s high is near minus 6.

Blowing snow still causing problems in our region – Hwy 11 SB was closed at Stephenson Rd due to an accident there – now open at 5.17pm; Environment Canada suggests avoiding areas of snow squalls

Posted Jan. 29: 4:45pm: Snow squalls continue to cause dangerous winter driving conditions due to sudden zero visibility in whiteouts. The Ministry of Transportation reports one accident on Hwy 11 Southbound at Stephenson Road today that had one lane closed for an hour or so this afternoon until just after 5pm. Still be careful on SB 11 between Bracebridge and Utterson.

Environment Canada has updated its snow squall warning and it looks like we won’t get a break from those squalls until later this evening. It reports:

“Multiple snow squalls will continue in a stiff and cold west flow off Lake Huron, Georgian Bay and Lake Erie. Snow squalls are affecting primarily the Bruce Peninsula and areas east of Georgian Bay south to Midland.”

Snow is expected to pile up rapidly within the snow bands, and local snowfall rates of about 10 centimetres per 12 hours are possible, according to Environment Canada. The agency suggests drivers should consider adjusting travel plans including avoiding regions of snow squalls all together.

New Windchill Warning posted Monday, January 27

Extremely cold wind chills developing today and tonight. In the wake of a cold front, falling temperatures and strong winds will generate wind chill values into the minus 30s tonight and likely into Tuesday in most areas. Tomorrow the high is expected to be minus 15 with the windchill making it feel like minus 34. We could warm up heading toward the weekend – Saturday’s forecast from Environment Canada suggests the thermometer may make it up to a high of minus 4.

Southern Ontario cold front expected to move Muskoka way overnight. windchill could bring windchill of minus 35 on Tuesday

Posted Jan. 19, 8:35pm: That sharp cold front sweeping across Southern Ontario could make itself felt in Muskoka overnight and bring extremely colder conditions on Tuesday. As if Monday wasn’t cold enough with temperatures of minus 16 feeling like minus 26 with

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Wild turkeys take shelter from the snow squalls today at home near Milford Bay

the windchill.  Environment Canada says deepening cold air, combined with moderate winds, could result in even colder wind chill values ranging from minus 20 to as cold as minus 35 on Tuesday morning.

Historical average temperatures for this time in January are usually closer to minus 17. If weather forecasts are correct, the earliest we may see temperatures rise close to zero again will be January 28 (or possibly not until early February).

Along the front, bands of intense flurries developed today bringing periods of near zero visibilities in snow and blowing snow, along with a quick few centimetres of accumulation. The good news is that a snow squall warning for the Muskoka region ended tonight (Sunday) by 7:30pm.

Please stay warm and safe monitor the latest forecasts and warnings for the Muskoka region from Environment Canada. http://weather.gc.ca/city/pages/on-93_metric_e.html or click on the Weather Network button on the Muskoka News Watch home page.

Update: Hanna's Landing OMB hearing date set for September

OMB hearing about controversial Port Carling development set for September 22; ruling could come long after next municipal election

Update Jan. 22: The Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) pre-hearing at the Township of Muskoka Lakes took care of administrative matters quickly this morning. The meeting wrapped up within an hour of its 10 am start time with about 25 people attending. The purpose of today’s meeting was to see what the issues are and to find out who might be involved as a party or participant and to figure out how long it might take to hear all the issues identified. The Muskoka Lakes Association and Rick Spence have joined the Township of Muskoka Lakes as parties to the hearing, each with their own list of issues in regard to Hanna’s Landing Inc, which launched the OMB action by requesting the OMB take over the zoning approval process for its development project from the Township. Parties to the hearing will be expected to make presentations at the hearing which is scheduled for September. A handful of neighbours of the proposed project also asked to be listed as participants so they can be kept informed of the proceedings. Sources say the Township has hired an external planning firm that may have helped produce a list of up to 37 issues (including a draft plan of subdivision) given to Hanna’s Landing officials late yesterday. Muskoka News Watch has requested the issues lists provided to the OMB by all parties involved.  

Hanna’s Landing hopes OMB will take over zoning approval from Township; public pre-hearing of issues starts Wednesday, Jan. 22, 10am

Posted Jan. 19, 6pm: Taxpayers in Muskoka Lakes Township may learn why the Township is refusing to circulate a zoning amendment request about the proposed Hanna’s Landing development on Wednesday. That’s when the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) is holding a pre-hearing to uncover what’s caused Hanna’s Landing Inc. to seek help from the OMB — and to learn why the Township has dug in its heels.

Hanna’s Landing is a residential development planned for the former Glenwood Trailer Park on the Indian River in Port Carling, a property that can also be seen from Mirror Lake. The developers promise to provide future housing needs for year-round residents of Muskoka Lakes and for those seeking vacation properties. The OMB pre-hearing is scheduled for this Wednesday at 10am [CORRECTED TIME is 10AM] in the Township Council Chambers and is open to the public.

The OMB holds a public pre-hearing to:

  • identify the issues to be dealt with at the actual hearing;
  • identify parties who want to take part in the full hearing; and,
  • set the date for the full hearing.

Ahead of Wednesday’s pre-hearing, Hanna’s Landing has sent its list of issues to the Township (as well as the District, MLA and Friends of Port Carling as those groups may want to take part in the hearing). As of press time, the company had heard nothing back.

Township Planning Director David Pink confirmed Friday (January 17) that Hanna’s Landing had shared its list of issues to be raised at the pre hearing, and the Township had yet to reply. He added the pre-hearing will try to solidify issues and that he could not comment on anything else at this time.

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Hanna’s Landing and surrounding area

Here’s how the OMB proceedings have come about: Hanna’s Landing Inc.  appealed to the OMB last August after Township council refused to circulate a re-zoning application for its property. Under its regular procedures, the Township  staff would circulate such an application to the public (without intervention by Council) and applicable agencies for comment within a certain timeframe. But Council refused to send it out.

“Our application [for a zoning amendment] was submitted in March 2013, and certified as complete by Township Planning Director David Pink,” says Jeff Goldman, President of Hanna’s Landing Inc. He notes both Pink and the Muskoka Lakes Association (MLA) recommended that the application be circulated for comment to statutory agencies and the public (even though the MLA opposed some of what the application contained). Yet Council, under the Mayor Alice Murphy’s leadership, refused to do so, says Goldman. He claims Council has displayed a continued disregard for the advice of its own Planning Director and “flagrant violations of the procedures for processing planning applications as proscribed by The Planning Act.” As a result, he’d like the OMB to take the zoning approval phase of the development over from the Township.

Township Council heard the request to approve circulation in Planning Committee of the Whole (COW) Meetings held May 21 and August 15, 2013. In one meeting, Goldman says Council took about 45 minutes to try and rewrite the needed rezoning bylaw on the spot.  When that effort failed, Council then called for a second special meeting to rewrite the draft bylaw that had already been vetted by the Township planning department. Goldman says that meeting was never held. He adds the discussion during the public COW meeting raised questions that “came out of left field” from the Mayor and other councilors that he felt were irrelevant to the task at hand. By August 22, there was still no Council decision on the application that was received by the Township more than 120 days before: so Hanna’s Landing appealed to the OMB. (Note: Friends of Port Carling provides its perspective on how those meetings proceeded in a 2013 recap. See References).

In a letter dated August 22, 2013 to Murphy and all Councillors, the lawyer for Hanna’s Landing, Leo Longo, states Council’s actions, when coupled with its continued decisions to ignore advice of its own planning professionals, “undermines our client’s confidence in the inclination and/or ability of Council to deal with its application in a fair, objective and competent manner.”

This is not the first time Hanna’s Landing has been an issue in front of the OMB. Before the last municipal election in 2010, the MLA and Friends of Port Carling opposed part of the Township’s and District of Muskoka’s Official Plans that expanded Port Carling’s boundaries for properties (an expansion that would demand any future development to be on District sewer and water). The expansion of Port Carling’s eastern boundary also included the area proposed for Hanna’s Landing, a development the Friends of Port Carling oppose. A third appeal came from Hanna’s Landing itself as the District of Muskoka had approved less of an expansion than was sought by the developers.

Sidebar: Just prior to Murphy announcing her candidacy for Mayor in Summer 2010, Murphy also tried to launch a fourth appeal of the Official Plan. Her concerns were in regard to the proposed hydro development at North Bala Falls, but the OMB dismissed her application to appeal as there was no evidence of any previous objection. (See MNW article about proposed Zoning Bylaw overhaul that highlights importance of registering objections before bylaws are passed. Revisions to that zoning bylaw are being discussed tomorrow, Jan. 20, 2014, and Council has said it hopes to pass the bylaw in early 2014).

In August 2011, the OMB upheld the Official Plan (and boundary expansion), paving the way for Hanna’s Landing to move ahead. Murphy, along with the MLA, called the OMB ruling a victory as it also left a door open for further consultation and broader participation in plans for the Hanna’s Landing development.

The OMB decision required that the parties (i.e., The Township, District, Friends of Port Carling, MLA and Hanna’s Landing) through their lawyers and planners collaborate to finalize some technical details for the boundary expansion area.  “Unfortunately”, according to Goldman, “Mayor Murphy inserted herself into these discussions despite our objections. She was instrumental in introducing requirements for the site that were beyond the scope of the initial OMB hearing. and the discussions became deadlocked resulting in a second OMB Hearing in Toronto in November 2011.”

Mayoral intervention may have backfired

Goldman says the results of that November hearing upheld the positions taken by Hanna’s Landing on all matters. The OMB decision also made it possible for the number of residential units at Hanna’s Landing to grow from the original expected 250 to a minimum 295 (agreed to by the Township in those 2011 meetings) and to possibly more than 330 — an increase that will likely not sit well with those opposing the development in its entirety. That change, say some observers, begs the question about whether ongoing intervention by the Mayor and Township has backfired for those in the community who would prefer to curtail the size of the development. The OMB has essentially granted the developer with more flexibility: making the situation worse rather than better in the eyes of those who oppose it. Wednesday’s pre-hearing may provide insights into whether Hanna’s Landing will get the support it wants from the OMB.

MNW Readers, if interested, MNW has compiled a timeline of events regarding the Hanna’s Landing issue from the beginning OMB appeals to today. Click here to read that timeline. We look forward to feedback if any verified dates are missing.

To comment on this article, please use the Submit Comment form below. Please remember, we need at least a first name and email to know that you are a ‘real’ human. Only your first name will appear unless you request otherwise.

References

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Celebrate Muskoka features good news bites and pics

Bring Gary home benefit raises $20K so far; local hunters donate to Food Drive…Did you know you can read good news stories and see pictures of events on the Muskoka News Watch Celebrate Muskoka page?

Those who subscribe to our news lists see our “Open Session” news and commentary which focuses on breaking stories and articles about our local politics, economy and environment. Not all those stories are feel good ones, unfortunately. When you need a good news fix (and we all need more of those), check out the Celebrate Muskoka page where we post pictures of people doing good deeds and taking part in fun events happening all over Muskoka. Here’s a couple of news bites posted today, January 18, 2o14.

Celebrating those raising money for others in need

Bring Gary Home Update – over $20K raised so far: Community rallies to help; silent auction features works of prominent local artists; Ian Thomas and Marc Jordan rocked the house at the “Bring Gary Home” benefit concert. Read more.

Big deer hunt raises big money for charity: Thanks to local hunters, a Muskoka Lakes man has more money to help pay for his dialysis trips and the West Muskoka OPP Food Drive had an extra $2K to help needy families in December. Read more…

Note about Celebrate Muskoka: This page is dedicated to happy news and packed with rotating pictures. Depending on your Internet connection speed, it may take a moment to load up all the happy people pics! We accept submitted photos, too — just please make sure you have permission from people who might be in those pictures and give us your name for a photo credit. This way, we all take part celebrating great things happening in Muskoka.

Plans under way to install crosswalk beside Bala Falls bridge

Crosswalk to link boat walkway just south of township parking lot to Margaret Burgess Park

Posted Jan 14, 1:45pm: A new signalized pedestrian cross walk that aims to make the busy Portage Landing area crossing in Bala safer is a step closer to reality. Plans have been drawn up that show a proposed location for the crosswalk. It would be located right at the north end of the Bala Falls bridge, starting from the path where people come up from their boats and crossing directly across to the entrance to Margaret Burgess Park (See picture or click here to download bigger PDF image: ProposedBalaPXOlocation1).

Tony White, District Commissioner of Engineering and Public Works, says the District would like to get the crosswalk installed in the spring before the busy summer season. He says its location was requested by the Township of Muskoka Lakes, warrants for the crosswalk were confirmed by the District, and the location provides the required 85 metres of sight distance in both directions. The proposed crossover will mean the loss of some parking spots on the Margaret Burgess Park side beside the parking in front of the Bala United Church.

The crosswalk came about by way of resolution COW-10-05/02/13 of the Township of Muskoka Lakes, which asked That a Traffic Signal pedestrian Crossing be installed across Muskoka Road 169 in Bala, linking the Township Parking Lot and Margaret Burgess Park”. It was forwarded to District for approval on October 21, 2013. Just before installation was approved, Councillor Phil Harding was quoted in the Bracebridge Examiner as saying “we’d like to get the crosswalk in line with the boat parking for those people who come into town.” (Source: Bracebridge Examiner. See References).

This is not the first time the Township has considered a crosswalk for this area which often sees people darting from the parking lot over to the shops in the Portage Landing building, which include Don’s Bakery, Annie’s Café & Deli, Riot and most recently, Muskoka Bear Wear. As Harding has pointed out, the idea of a crosswalk has been enhanced by the Township’s purchase of part of the Portage Landing parking lot.

Crosswalk a long awaited feature

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Original Streetscape Crosswalk plan at Portage Street beside Don’s Bakery with still enough clearance to corner and connecting parking lot

Safer pedestrian crossings were recommended in a Strategic Economic Development and Urban Design Guidelines plan produced in 2002 that was funded by FedNor and produced by the Township, Planscape and the Muskoka Lakes Chamber of Commerce.

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Proposed 2006 Crosswalk toward Don’s from Parking Lot

In 2006, a study that looked specifically at a planned crosswalk was later prepared for the Township by a transportation design and engineering partnership (see References). It showed a crosswalk on the south leg of the intersection of Muskoka Road 169 and Portage Street.

Now the plan has changed somewhat with a proposed protected route for pedestrians arriving by boat that will direct them from the boat walkway across 169 to the park.

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Previous Xwalk plan at Portage Street, closer to Don’s Bakery

“A crosswalk at the location shown in 2006 might be a more conventional choice,” says White, “but there is a curve in the road immediately north. The Township’s preferred location provides the required visibility in a straight line in both directions.”

Do all roads lead back to Bala Falls?

When asked if the crosswalk could stop Swift River Energy Limited (SREL) from gaining an entrance permit into Margaret Burgess Park, White answered that any needed access will be only temporary for construction purposes. However he says Swift River (the company selected to develop Crown lands at North Bala Falls for power generation) will need to determine how the crossover and a short-term entrance can co-exist. He adds the Township has also asked for an opportunity to comment on any application by SREL for an entrance permit.

“This, in my view, is a reasonable request since the requirements of the District and the Township are usually coordinated through the Township’s control of the site plan approval process, and the District’s jurisdiction over access,” he explains. “However, site plan controls do not apply to this project.”  White confirmed the District is solely responsible for issuing an entrance permit.

Mike Webb, a director of the Muskoka Lakes Snow Trails Association, says he’ll be asking what the proposed crossover location means for the snowmobile trail there. Signage directs snowmobilers under the bridge on the boat walkway that will now mark the start of the pedestrian crossover.

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Crosswalk end point will mean these parking spots will no longer be available.

As a resident, he expressed surprise that the crosswalk would be placed down the street from where most people park to cross the road. The proposed location also raises a potential inconvenience for scuba divers who unload gear in the parking spots that may be lost. “Our shop doesn’t use that spot that often,” says Dean Mark, owner of Scuba Shack in Gravenhurst, “but a lot of other divers come up from Toronto to use it. The loss of that parking area would definitely affect the tourism aspect of that spot.”

Other Bala residents have questioned whether the updated crosswalk location is just another tactic to hamper access for Swift River – tactics some residents cheer on while others shake their heads. As one Township source put it, “all roads lead back to Bala Falls.”

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Bala Falls Update: Swift River Energy survey to gather input into potential plant design

Update: Survey closes as of Jan 29, 2014

Posted Jan. 30: 9am: Swift River officials say they are pleased by the response to the company’s initial design survey to get ideas for the look of the proposed North Bala Falls hydro plant. They say the company will be able to provide details of next steps soon.

Cottage-like wood siding or historical stone look? Lookout or no lookout? Windows to look in to the plant or murals on the side? Just some of the questions posed in Swift River’s initial design survey for proposed North Bala Falls plant.

Posted Jan. 13, 3:30pm: Swift River Energy Limited is gathering ideas from the public about various design considerations for the hydro plant proposed for the North Bala Falls site. The company sent an email out today announcing the survey was available for completion on its website at www.balafalls.ca.

Project manager Karen McGhee says there will also be ads in the local newspapers to spread awareness of the survey, which has an input deadline of January 29. Within the survey, sample hydro plants from other sites are shown to give people ideas on what a plant could look like. McGhee points out that any final design determinations will be affected by the size and shape of the Crown land site declared open for development back in 2003 by the Ministry of Natural Resources (Swift River was later selected to develop the site for waterpower in 2005).

The design consultation process is part of ongoing public input the company has received from residents and non residents of Bala alike (including government mandated input periods required before the proposed project gained environmental approvals). This initial design survey is expected to go to a stage two where more refined designs may be brought forward. McGhee adds the company has also been moving forward with permits it needs from various government agencies to bring it closer to the construction phase.

Meantime, the Township of Muskoka Lakes, the Ministry and Swift River are still waiting to hear the results of a township appeal for a judicial review the Township wants to determine whether the Crown land site can be blocked at all by development. A Superior court decision on whether to grant an appeal of an earlier decision that denied the judicial review is expected soon.

 

About Muskoka News Watch: Muskoka News Watch exists primarily on donations. If you appreciate us keeping you informed with comprehensive articles such as this one, consider tossing a few dollars our way via the Donate Button on the top right hand corner of our Home Page. Or tell potential advertisers about us. We also encourage you to submit comments to this story: please provide name and email so we know you are human: only your first name will appear on the comment.

Victims identified in Huntsville fire as a young Bracebridge mother and son

Victims identified as a 21-year-old woman and her 2-year-old son

Update posted Jan. 14, 9am: The victims of Saturday’s trailer fire in Huntsville have been identified as 21-year-old Brittney Hawkins of Bracebridge and her two-year-old son, Kail Wolfe. A 23-year-old male who was with them is recovering in a Toronto hospital.

The three people had been inside a trailer that was parked in the driveway at a Hoodstown Road home when the fire started. The man managed to escape but the other two were unable to get out. He suffered severe burns and was taken to a local hospital and then to a Toronto hospital by land ambulance.

The Ontario Fire Marshal’s Office (OFM), Coroner’s office along with Muskoka Crime Unit, and Central Region Forensic Identification Unit are working together to determine the cause of the fire.

Two dead in Huntsville trailer fire; one man in hospital with severe burns

Posted Jan. 11, 10am: Two people are dead and another suffered severe burns after a trailer caught fire in the driveway of a Huntsville home. Police, fire and EMS officials responded to the fire that started just before 2 am this morning (January 11).

Emergency services arrived to find that three people were inside a trailer that was parked in the driveway at a Hoodstown Road residence. One person managed to escape, but the other two were unable to get out. The man who suffered severe burns is now being treated in a hospital in Toronto.

The Ontario Fire Marshall’s Office (OFM), along with the Muskoka Crime Unit, and the Central Region Forensic Identification Unit are investigating to determine the cause of the fire.

Details of the victims are not being released until post mortem is complete.

Man stabbed during house party in Huntsville

Ending the year on a low note: Bracebridge man charged after man stabbed Dec. 31

Posted Jan 1, 2014, 10.42am: A 38-year-old man was taken to a Toronto hospital early yesterday morning after being stabbed several times during a house party in Huntsville.

Officials with the Huntsville OPP say the stabbing occurred just after 1am on December 31, 2013 at a house on Seeley’s Road in Huntsville. Police learned that a group of people were celebrating at a couple of different local establishments in Huntsville, and the party eventually ended up back at a residence.  They report that two men had been arguing during the evening and the argument eventually turned into a physical fight, which then led to one of them being stabbed several times.

24-year-old Wesley Bertin of Bracebridge faces charges of Aggravated Assault.  He was held for a bail and appeared in Bracebridge court on December 31, 2013 to answer to his charges, and will be back in court in Bracebridge on January 2, 2014.