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Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Haudenosaunee Confederacy says end to potential violence in Ontario’s hands By Donna Duric, Writer

The Haudenosaunee Confederacy Chiefs Council says it will not attend a summit of political leadership being called by Ontario but instead, calls on Ontario to follow an established Communications Protocol in an effort to quell disturbances at Kanonhstaton.

Ontario called for a summit of political leaders from Six Nations, Haldimand County and the province to find a solution to the constant disruptions at Kanonhstaton, the former Douglas Creek Estate housing development.

At the same time Haldimand County is calling on Ontario to keep everyone off the site, regardless of race, says county mayor Ken Hewitt.

The Haudenosaunee Chiefs Council, in a press release Tuesday said council received an invitation from Ontario Aboriginal Affairs Minister David Zimmer's office to attend a summit meeting Wednesday, July 9, 2014 that is expected to include representatives from Ontario, Haldimand County and the Six Nations Elected Band Council.

The press release said “ It is unfortunate that a few of Ontario’s citizens with the seeming assistance of Haldimand County are taking steps to threaten the peace that we have worked hard to maintain. The release said the Confederacy has attempted to mitigate the situation.

“On a number of occasions we attempted to avoid this situation through our recommendations at the Communication Protocol discussions. It is within the authority of the Province to determine that Haldimand County has no interest over the land in question.”

The relase said the issue was addressed by the confederacy at the Main Table negotiations of 2006 where it was agreed that the Province of Ontario would remove ALL third party interests with the purchase of the land in question without prejudice to the Confederacy position that the land in question is Haudenosaunee land.

The release said Confederacy Council, at its July 5th meeting declined the invitation.

Instead, the Confederacy called on Ontario to “begin the process of reconciliation between our peoples. We remain hopeful that our recent Communications Protocol, and the attendance of the now Premiere Wynne and Minister Zimmer at our council was a positive step forward.”

The release also reminded Ontario of a recent Supreme Court decision in the Tsilhqot’in title and rights case which determined that Band Councils do not have the ability in Canadian law to represent the collective rights and interests of the original peoples of this land.

“We find ourselves in agreement with the Supreme Court of Canada’s endorsement of the Honourable Justice Vickers following statement: “While band level organization may have meaning to a Canadian federal bureaucracy, it is without any meaning in the resolution of Aboriginal title and rights for Tsilhqot’in people.”

The Rotiyanehson, the release says wants to maintain a “path of peace and friendship” and a return to the agreed upon resolution process i.e. the Communications Protocol discussions.”

The release says the “Rotiyanehson are deeply concerned that there will be grave consequences for all people involved should the Crown’s inaction continue. We will make ourselves available to meet with your Ministers through the Communications Protocol negotiation process at which time we will meaningfully consider how best to continue with our reconciliation efforts.”

Just two weeks ago Mayor Ken Hewitt had proclaimed his council was going to try and forcefully remove a safety barrier blocking the front entrance to the road (also known as Surrey Street) in order to maintain public access to the road.

The announcement resulted in calls from Six Nations band council warning of the potential for problems if the county tried to forcefully remove the safety barrier. The barrier was put up a few weeks earlier by Six Nations in response to recent confrontations by non-native activists at the site.

At a meeting on July 4 (last Friday), Haldimand County reviewed a draft by-law that could remove public access rights on the roads leading into the former Douglas Creek Estates housing development site.

“Such action is aimed at eliminating the unnecessary, negative disruptions that are occurring at the site,” reads a press release from the county. “This by-law will be further considered at a future council meeting.”

Hewitt said the by-law won’t be passed until the county discusses its plans with Six Nations and the province.

“Without us meeting with the province and with Six Nations, and discussing further some options, that by-law is just sitting as an option available to us,” said Hewitt. “That’s why it wasn’t passed. We recognize there’s confrontations that occur on the site and it doesn’t do Haldimand any good and it doesn’t do Six Nations any good.”

Six Nations people have maintained a protective presence at the site since it reclaimed the land in 2006.

Hewitt could not say if the by-law would apply to both Six Nations people and non-native activists, although he hinted that it might apply to both.

“The problem is you can’t write a by-law that picks race or colour or culture,” said Hewitt. “If nobody’s there then there’s no stage for any issues. I understand the argument of (Six Nations) people being there as the protector of land but if there’s an agreement between us all that all people are unauthorized on that land then there’s no need to protect it at this point.”

This past Saturday, Binbrook activist Gary McHale and about 10 non-natives confronted about 50 Six Nations people at the front entrance of the site on Argyle Street.

“It doesn’t serve our long-term agenda as a county or community any more than anyone being there,” said Hewitt of McHale’s actions on Saturday.

McHale said on Saturday he would still walk on the road even if the by-law passed.

Hewitt responded, “A by-law is a by-law. If council decides to pass the by-law it’s up to either the by-law officers or the police to enforce that particular by-law if anyone tries to contravene it.”

A summit was planned for today somewhere between Toronto and Six Nations.

“We’re at a critical juncture with the people of Six Nations to try to accomplish a common goal and that is to bridge the communities together not divide them and having confrontations on that site serves nobody’s purpose,” said Hewitt. “Our hope is...we can come up with something that will meet all of our needs. The dilemma we have is it requires participation of the province, the participation of Six Nations and the participation of us.

“If we pass just simply that by-law we only have control of just the piece of property that we own (Surrey Street and Thistlemoor Street). We have no authority over the land that’s owned...by Ontario.

We can’t execute a by-law on provincial land. When we say we might restrict access it’s only speaking to Surrey Street and Thistlemoor Street. It doesn’t even resolve any of the issues on the land that we don’t own.”

Thistlemoor Street runs off Surrey Street on the north side of the property.

The by-law consideration is just one idea of many, said Hewitt, to minimize disruptions at the site.

“We asked staff to look at a number of options. We’re looking at what are some potential options and solutions. That’s just one.”

Hewitt said he’s had a number of positive conversations with Six Nations leaders in the past few weeks.

“I really felt charged with positive feelings after talking to several leaders of Six Nations and...I was very excited that there seems to be some room for some discussion for us to move this thing along a lot further than it has been.”

Six Nations Elected Chief Ava Hill and a councillor will be attending.

“I believe that Haldimand County’s draft by-law is still just that - a draft. I am hoping to have further discussions with Mayor Hewitt about this draft by-law,” she said in an email.

“If their proposal to restrict public access to Surrey Street is implemented, discussions will need to take place as to who will then be responsible to provide access to DCE for emergency vehicles as there is someone living in the house on the property.”

The Ontario Aboriginal Affairs Ministry did not return requests for comment again.

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