History of the Gargantua Islands Preserve

Cape Gargantua with its imposing cliffs, ancient cedars, and screen of volcanic rock islands, is one of the most spectacular wilderness sections of the entire Lake Superior coast. The Lake Superior Water Trail runs right through the middle of the islands, and they are visited by over half of all Lake Superior Provincial Park's backcountry travellers. So it came as a surprise to the Park when three brothers claimed ownership and approached the Park about purchasing them. When neither Ontario Parks nor the Ontario government could assist, Lake Superior Provincial Park contacted the Lake Superior Watershed Conservancy to see what was possible.

As it turns out, the Conservancy was able to facilitate an agreeable outcome through a landmark “cross-border” gift to American Friends of Canadian Land Trusts. The largest of these is Nanabijou’s Island (also known by the derogatory name of Devil’s Warehouse Island). The archipelago contains high natural and cultural heritage values including arctic-alpine plants.

Photo by Gary McGuffin

Photo by Gary McGuffin, the Gargantua island archipelago

For thousands of years, the Gargantua island archipelago has held special spiritual significance to Indigenous people. Particularly as the red ochre for painting the Agawa Bay pictographs was gathered here.

In the early 1900s, a Detroit lawyer received the island archipelago in lieu of cash from a client who was unable to pay his bill. How this client came to "own the deed" to these islands is not known to us, but the islands remained wild and unoccupied. The deed was passed from great-great-grandfather to great-grandfather to father to mother and then handed down to the present generation of three sons. From 1944 onwards, the Park's establishment assumed, wrongly, that the islands were part of the Park.

When these three sons decided to dispose of the islands, LSWC, being a “donee” of American Friends, arranged for them to gift these islands to American Friends of Canadian Lands. Their donation was tax deductible in the U.S. and proved a better deal than selling them outright. Stewardship of the islands is the responsibility of Lake Superior Watershed Conservancy.

American Friends of Canadian Land Trusts is a U.S. charity created to facilitate the permanent protection of Canadian lands owned by conservation-minded Americans. Until very recently, Americans hoping to conserve properties they own in Canada were thwarted by tax barriers created by both U.S. and Canadian laws. Significant problems could arise if cross-border conservation gifts are not handled properly.

American Friends of Canadian Land Trusts is a U.S. based publically supported 501 (c) 3 charity which allows U.S. taxpayers to benefit from tax incentives aimed at protecting the environmentally significant land. The cross-border program created by American Friends has two essential elements to it.

First, the U.S. taxpayer receives a charitable receipt which allows them to obtain a U.S. tax deduction for the charitable gift. Secondly, based on AFCL’s status as a ‘prescribed donee’ under the Canadian Income Tax Act, the Canadian capital gains tax is eliminated. Thus, two significant impediments to donations to environmental preservation are eliminated when donors work through American Friends.

Since LSWC is a donee of American Friends of Canadian Lands, the owners are able to receive a tax benefit in Canada and the U.S. for their donation.

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