Ontario summit with Six Nations Band Council and Haldimand County result in more questions than answers By Donna Duric, Writer
SIX NATIONS OF THE GRAND RIVER, ONT - The Haudenosaunee Confederacy Chiefs Council are "deeply concerned for grave consequences" that could erupt at Kanonhstaton over the ensuing summer months as the Ontario legislature takes a summer break.
The statement comes after Ontario ministers met with Six Nations Band Council and Haldimand County at a secret location on July 9th to discuss the on-going issues at the former Douglas Creek Estates in Caledonia.
It is not known what resolutions were made at the meeting as Ontario officials and Haldimand Mayor Ken Hewitt are remaining tight-lipped about the discussions that took place.
A statement from the province is hailing the meeting as "productive" and a "significant milestone" but there is no word on what will happen to the hydro tower blocking the front entrance to the site, which was recently put up by Six Nations people in response to confrontations from non-native political activists.
"This meeting of the political leadership of the parties affected by DCE is a significant milestone for our ongoing efforts to reach a long-term, sustainable resolution for DCE," reads the statement sent out jointly by David Zimmer, minister of Aboriginal Affairs, and Brad Duguid, minister of infrastructure.
"We recognized that all communities impacted by the situation at DCE deserve to be treated with respect, and that solutions can only be found when all parties work collaboratively, respectfully and in good faith. We also recognized the need to reduce the potential for confrontation and risk to public safety. All parties at the meeting agreed to work together to build trust and stronger relationships to ensure a cohesive and meaningful approach to DCE."
Thursday afternoon Aboriginal Affairs Minister David Zimmer told reporters the federal government's presence is needed to resolve the issue. "All parties agree to work together to find a resolution and reduce risk to public safety but what is needed is support of the federal government to find a solution. That is one issue everyone agreed on, Chief Ava Hill or Mayor Hewitt or myself we all agreed we need a federal presence at the table because part of this issue deals with a larger landclaim so Minister Duguid and myself, agreed we are going to work to try to get them at the table.
Infrastrucutre Minister Brad Duguid, told reporters "it is a federal landclaim issue that is the long term solution to this. We need the feds at the table." The political leadership at the Wednesday meeting - which did not include the Haudenosaunee Confederacy Chiefs Council - committed to meet again later in the summer, and agreed to instruct their respective staff to convene in the intervening time to discuss proposals for both near-term and long-term issues at DCE.
The province says "only the settlement of the Six Nations’ land claim will provide a permanent and sustainable solution to DCE."
Hewitt has not returned numerous calls from the Turtle Island News seeking an update on the county's earlier resolution to remove an old hydro tower blocking the front entrance to Kanonhstaton, although rumours have been floating for the past two days that the county has contractors on stand-by to enforce the removal.
That's despite calls from the band council and HCCC for the county to reconsider that decision.
"I did not agree to remove the barricade at last night’s meeting," said Elected Chief Hill in an e-mail on Thursday morning. "I reminded them of SNEC’s position that we want them to reconsider their motion. I put forth the position that that land needs to be turned over to Six Nations. The Province agreed to go back and have more discussions with the Cabinet and Premier and there will be another meeting in a few weeks."
She told the Turtle Island News she had no answers on what will happen with the safety barrier.
"As to if the barricade is coming down and when, you need to ask Mayor Hewitt," Hill said.
Hewitt said his council is also considering restricting public access to the road leading into the former DCE, also known as Surrey Street, in order to mitigate disruptions at the site.
The HCCC declined to participate in the meeting, saying they want the province to renew a communications protocol it had established in 2012 under the leadership of then-aboriginal affairs minister Kathleen Wynne, now the Premier of Ontario.
The HCCC said in a statement that Ontario needs to meet with them outside of any meetings with the band or Haldimand County, citing a recent landmark ruling by the Supreme Court of Canada.
"We again would remind Ontario that Haudenosaunee lands and treaties are held by the Haudenosaunee Confederacy Chiefs Council," said the HCCC. "Ontario is aware of the recent Supreme Court of Canada decision in the Tsilhqot’in Nation title and land 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.
"Supreme Court of Canada’s Honourable Vickers said: 'While band level organization may have meaning to a Canadian federal bureaucracy it is without any meaning in resolution of Aboriginal title and rights for the Tsilhqot’in people.' The Haudenosaunee Confederacy Chiefs Council agrees with that statement."
The HCCC says it is encouraging the province and the Crown to work with them to reach a "peaceful and respectful resolution" to Six Nations' land rights issues.
"The land rights issue, in relation to Kanonhstaton, the former Douglas Creek Estate housing subdivision at Caledonia, Ontario, has been settled as third party interests have been removed with the land now registered in the Haudenosaunee Confederacy Chiefs Council land registry," said the HCCC. "While the land is now under the sole jurisdiction of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy Chiefs Council, for the use and benefit of the Haudenosaunee people, the Haudenosaunee Confederacy Chiefs Council is always open to discussions in relation to Haudenosaunee uses of the land and would encourage the Province of Ontario to return to the communications protocol process that was established in good faith, with now Premier Wynne, to advance those discussions."
Six Nations people reclaimed the land at Kanonhstaton in 2006 and have maintained a protective presence on the site since.