Council withdraws from liaison table

by Bill Jackson - The Regional

September 30, 2009

Haldimand Council is dissatisfied by a lack of progress made at the liaison table that was established back in 2006 to address issues connected to the Douglas Creek Estates occupation.

By unanimously withdrawing its participation, council is sending a message to the provincial and federal governments, according to Caledonia Coun. Craig Grice.

The liaison table was set up by the province in 2006 after the DCE protest began. Its composition included representation from all three levels of government, as well as provincial police.

The scope changed over time as related issues expanded and multiplied, but not much has been resolved, the councillor commented.

"We aren't seeing movements on the main issues that were existing at the beginning and that are continuing to pop up, ie, smoke shops," he said. "Full policing is still not on Sixth Line, the DCE is still not cleaned up. There doesn't seem to be a major hurry for resolve and the federal government continues not to partake."

Dates and times of meetings were changed to correspond with land claim negotiations,  however federal officials often failed to show up at the table, Grice said. Representation from Six Nations Band Council had also been requested, but never materialized. And, Haldimand's involvement at the liaison table had been reduced, from the CAO and three elected representatives to just one councillor.

"Again, the feds didn't show up for a meeting, so I took that back to council again saying 'We're spinning our wheels here,'" Grice noted.

The decision to withdraw from the liaison table was adopted unanimously during a closed session of council on Sept. 14. Haldimand Mayor Marie Trainer said that Ontario's Minister of Aboriginal Affairs was given advanced notice ahead of the story hitting the press.

Council will also consider dissolving committees that were set up to deal with development planning and economic recovery at its next meeting on Oct. 5. Councillors believe that more dialogue with Six Nations could better help to resolve local issues.

""We should be trying to create that dialogue on a more regular basis," Grice said.

"That way there, when we start dealing with the issues through dialogue and making progress, the province and feds have to buy into what we're doing, because if we wait for them we might (a) never get an answer, or (b) won't like it... There has been enough disrespect shown toward my residents going on three-and-a-half years with absolutely no new direction or resolve."

Council determined that the liaison table had "exhausted its usefulness" and will instead concentrate its efforts through the Haldimand County First Nations Relationship Committee, with a mandate of moving both the county and these communities forward from an "environmental, economic and social perspective." The province has been requested to take an active role.

Meanwhile, council is still awaiting a meeting with Haldimand-Norfolk MP Diane Finley that has been in the works for weeks.

"We have tried to convey that message across to the feds and the province that we need some direction and we need some help," said Grice, "whether that's direction on the need to consult and accommodate, direction on what they're going to do with DCE, or how they're going to help Caledonia recover. These issues weren't getting solved at the liaison table."

Trainer noted that the community advisory group set up for local residents to maintain dialogue with government officials and police remains active.

Warning signs

County council has also directed the mayor's office to contact the appropriate federal and provincial officials regarding the placement of signs along designated highways to inform and educate people about the negative consequences of purchasing untaxed tobacco.

A clamp down on buyers by Ontario's Ministry of Revenue has resulted in thousands of dollars in fines.

Grice said that the county could look at implementing warning signs if upper levels of government don't act.

"It's all about raising awareness because again, it's something we can do," he said. "Regardless of whether the federal or provincial government are going to do their job, we're going to try and do ours. If we can educate the everyday person that comes through Haldimand or the tourists, then great."