Premier wants land claims 'peace'

September 14, 2007
PHILIP JALSEVAC
Kitchner Record

KITCHENER

Premier Dalton McGuinty acknowledges the Ontario government has some role to play in a dispute over native land claims along the Grand River.

But he didn't outline specific steps his government might take on an election campaign stopover in Kitchener.

"My job is to keep the peace," McGuinty said.

"The federal government has to resolve a land claim that's over 150 years old."

Traditional chiefs of the Six Nations said this week that they plan to control development of land along the Grand River.

Specifically, they will require developers to meet certain criteria and obtain building permits from the Six Nations.

Just moments before stepping on his campaign bus, McGuinty was asked whether he is troubled about the position taken by the chiefs.

He declined to reply directly, instead deflecting attention to the role of the federal government. "You know, we've got to get the feds to come to the table and stay at the table, manage it and resolve this," he said. "The only way we're going to resolve these things is through negotiation at the table."

By contrast, Progressive Conservative leader John Tory took a more aggressive stance in an interview yesterday with the Hamilton Spectator.

Tory was commenting on organizers of native protests like a longstanding one in Caledonia, in which negotiations are continuing between Ottawa, Queen's Park and the traditional government to resolve that dispute.

Aaron Detlor, a spokesperson for the chiefs, said no protests are planned in this area. Nevertheless, Tory suggested a Conservative government would take a hardline approach if any were to occur and would launch its own civil suits or fund court actions by the public against organizers of such protests.

"I believe in the importance of respect for the law . . . and in one law for everybody," Tory said.

Detlor, a Mohawk lawyer, said the chiefs would rely on "good faith negotiations with the development community" and municipalities. And that "will mean that we don't have to take the next step of considering enforcement."

The Haldimand tract lands were granted to the Six Nations in 1784 and most of the lands were later sold by Mohawk Chief Joseph Brant. But Detlor and other natives questions whether the land was in fact legally sold.

The tract extends about 10 kilometres on both sides of the Grand River and includes much of Kitchener, Waterloo and Cambridge.

Meanwhile, McGuinty delivered a 20-minute talk without notes to about 300 boisterous party supporters yesterday at the campaign office of Kitchener-Conestoga Liberal candidate Leeana Pendergast.

He didn't make any announcements or outline new policies but gave what was essentially a motivational speech to rally party supporters.

Dressed casually in a short-sleeved summer polo shirt with an Ontario logo on it, the premier talked about the importance of families and his government's efforts to improve health care and the public education system.

He emphasized taking the high road and said: "We are optimistic, positive and we bring people hope."

McGuinty told the audience to "work hard" in campaigning for the Oct. 10 provincial election.

As for anything else they might do, he referred to five local Liberal candidates who stood behind him as he spoke and said: "Just follow the lead of your wonderful local champions . . . they're not in this for themselves. They're in this to serve others."