Why are natives protesting?

Letter - The Regional

February 25, 2009

Six Nations' protesters have been demonstrating at construction sites along the Grand River for the past few years. The protesters have stalled and stopped construction at numerous sites. They have forced Henco to abandon its plans to build houses on the Douglas Creek Estates near Caledonia and they have forced Kingspan to abandon its plans to build its Canadian headquarters in Brantford.

But why are Six Nations' protesters doing that?

Historical records show that, on Wednesday December 18, 1844, David Thorburn, the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, obtained an agreement with 45 Chiefs from the Six Nations of the Grand River. Those 45 Chiefs signed a document in which they unanimously agreed they would accept a reserve south of Brantford and unanimously agreed the Crown could sell land outside of the reserve.

That original hand written 1844 document is stored at Library and Archives Canada in Ottawa, Ontario on Reel C-1149 as RG 10, Volume 44, pages 83269-83279.

The Canadian Federal Government has said it will provide money but not land to settle valid claims presented by the Six Nations of the Grand River.

Mr. Chuck Strahl, the Federal Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, has said in recent letters "the Government of Canada's position is that the surrender of 1844 is valid" and "I can assure you that third party lands will  not be expropriated for the purpose of any settlement with he Six Nations".

So, does it make any sense for Six Nations' protesters to demonstrate and stall or stop development on land 45 Six Nations' Chiefs agreed the Crown could sell; on land the Ontario government has said was legitimately sold to third parties; on land to which third parties have legal title; on land the province has given third parties permission to develop and on land the Six Nations will not get as part of any settlement of their claims?

Other than scaring away investors and developers who could supply jobs and housing for people including Six Nations' people, what are Six Nations' protesters trying to accomplish?

Well, think about this. The federal and provincial governments have said the Six Nations can use any money they get in compensation for valid claims to buy land on a willing buyer/willing seller basis.

So, if Six Nations' people keep protesting, stalling or stopping development on any land and continue to scare away investors and developers, the land along the Grand River will become useless for development and will depreciate in value.

The more useless and the cheaper the land becomes the more people will become desperate and willing to sell their land and the more land the Six Nations can buy with any money they receive from settlements.

Furthermore, the longer the Six Nations can stall negotiations the longer they can protest. the longer they can protest the more they can scare away investors and depress the value of the land so they can buy more.

How sneaky can you get?

Given that scenario, it is imperative in my opinion that developers, builders and municipalities do everything in their power to prevent Six Nations' protesters from stalling or stopping development on land along the Grand River outside of the reserve.

In addition, police should protect the rights of legitimate third party landowners and prevent Six Nations protesters from entering private third party land uninvited to stall or stop development on that land.

Furthermore, people should contact their MPs and MPPs in an effort to convince the federal and provincial governments to place time limits on negotiations and to settle Six Nations' claims quickly before the land becomes so low in value it can be picked up for a song.

Garry Horsnell,