Ottawa gives Crombie a role in Caledonia standoff

Last Updated: Saturday, September 15, 2007 | 6:33 PM ET

CBC News

The federal government has appointed a former Toronto mayor and cabinet minister to give the community a voice in negotiations between the Six Nations and Ottawa over land claims in Caledonia, Ont.

David Crombie, who has experience in land-claim talks, "will be available to meet with interested third parties/groups" so negotiators can address local concerns, Indian Affairs Minister Chuck Strahl said in a release Saturday.

"Our government knows that a key element in reaching a negotiated solution is to ensure that fair consideration is given to local concerns," the release said.

But spokesman for the Caledonia Citizens' Alliance, representing business and community groups, wondered how effective Crombie could be.

"At this point, it doesn't leave us with anything to get too excited about down here," Ken Hewitt told the Canadian Press.

The appointment was announced just two days after a Sam Gualtieri, a contractor, clashed with native youths near — but not on — the Caledonia development that aboriginal protesters have occupied since February, 2006. He was hospitalized with a broken nose and bruises.

"The recent act of violence in Caledonia is deplorable," the government said in the Crombie announcement.

The Six Nations have asked anyone planning to build in the area seek their approval. Gualtieri was working on a house for his daughter several kilometres from the development occupied 18 months ago. 

Joe Gualtieri, Sam's brother, is very angry about the beating, and called on the Six Nations to produce the culprits. The police are investigating, and Six Nations leaders have expressed regret about the beating.  

Joe Gualtieri told CBC Newsworld Saturday that his brother is in a lot of pain. "And when he's awake, he cries. The  tears come out because he's in so much difficulty right now."

The federal talks with the Six Nations are difficult because they are rooted in transactions dating back to the 18th century. 

The alliance seeks to give citizens a voice and stems from "the growing frustration in the community related to the slow pace" of negotiations,  a county electronic bulletin board said. 

The aboriginals were given the land in 1784 by the British Crown, but Ottawa says the vast majority was surrendered or sold by 1850. The Six Nations claim the land was never surrendered.

Caledonia is southwest of Hamilton, Ont.