Relationship-building with Six Nations

by Bill Jackson - The Regional

February 24, 2010

While Haldimand Mayor Marie Trainer is  under the "impression" that the province is "leaning" toward giving the Douglas Creek Estates property to Six Nations, Coun. Lorne Boyko doesn't share such sentiment.

Both came away from an introductory meeting with Ontario's new Aboriginal Affairs Minister saying different things last week.

"I didn't get any sense that the ministry was saying that the property's reverting to Six Nations," said Coun. Lorne Boyko.

"I didn't hear what was allegedly said that's been bandied about. I found out later - not at the meeting - that the mayor had this particular take on it. I sure didn't."

Trainer and Boyko met with Minister Chris Bentley at a Tim Hortons in Brantford last Friday along with Haldimand's CAO Don Boyle. Discussion at the meeting, which lasted close to an hour-an-a-half, revolved around a wide range of topics, Boyko siad.

Trainer's "impression" regarding DCE made headlines the past two days and even stirred up some discussion in the Ontario Legislature on Monday.

The McGuinty government would neither confirm nor deny that there is a plan in the works to hand over DCE  to Six Nations, according to Haldimand-Norfolk MPP Toby Barrett.

"As Attorney General and Minister of Aboriginal Affairs, I can tell you that no decisions have been made with respect to the Douglas Creek Estates Property," Bentley said. "What we have done and what we continue to do is encourage people who live as neighbours to engage in productive discussions. The future of any relationship begins with those productive discussions and we will continue to encourage that."

Bentley wants Haldimand and Six Nations to work together, Trainer said.

"The main message was that if the municipality wants to move forward we must work with the Six Nations people. That was the message. If we want any help from them, that's what has to happen."

Boyko believes that step one is an agreement to clean up the DCE site.

"If we can't agree on that, we won't likely have success with a longer term solution," he said.

County Council plans on getting together with Six Nations elected council to follow-up on an inaugural meeting held last year concerning matters of mutual interest.

Trainer confirmed she talked with Chief bill Montour and expects to set up a date after both councils' members are apprised.

Haldimand Coun. Tony Dalimonte said there are a "myriad of issues" that can be discussed.

The county's council recently voted in favour of establishing a joint committee with Six Nations to discuss equally beneficial options for the Douglas Creek Estates property, however that motion was pulled from the minutes on last week's council agenda by Coun. Buck Sloat and was overturned by a 4-2 vote.

"It doesn't make sense to me to form another ad hoc committee, when to me we haven't even established a relationship or any strong ties," Dalimonte said. "To even start to get there is to get the two bodies in the room and start talking. To go off willy-nilly and set up another committee, I just don't see the logic in that at this point in time."

Caledonia Coun. Craig Grice tabled the original motion to establish the joint committee dealing specifically with DCE and was disappointed with council's decision.

"People have been asking for a return of normalcy for Caledonia," he said. "What you have right now (on ECE) is goldenrod, a trailer, hydro towers, and decreased property value."

Other items discussed at last year's meeting between the two councils involved waste disposal and potable water.

More recently, Six Nations signed a memorandum of understanding with the Samsung Corporation to contemplate opportunities involving renewable power generation.

According to a press release issued last week, "Green Accord partners" including Six Nations and the County of Brant, have united with the Brantford Brant Chamber of Commerce in support of their mutual efforts to achieve a Provincial Green Energy Hub designation. There was no mention of Haldimand.

Trainer said it's something she'd like to see the county be a part of, but she pointed out that Brantford has a Liberal MPP.

Samsung could put their new Canadian headquarters on DCE, Grice opined.

"Would taxpayers of Haldimand County be satisfied with that? I would be. Commercial property, no more occupation, the weeds are cut and a national conglomerate would be in Caledonia, in Haldimand County."

Haldimand has been hurt most since the Douglas Creek Estates occupation began in 2006, according to Coun. Leroy Bartlett.

"Three years I've been on council and we've only met with Six Nations once," he said.

"We've asked for meetings and meetings and meetings and we can't get meetings with them... Previously they never had very much interest in meeting with Haldimand County."

In Bartlett's opinion, Haldimand was used as a weapon to beat up on upper levels of government.

"They decided to use us as a pawn. It's created huge animosity between the two municipalities. Haldimand County never did anything wrong. We were innocent in this whole thing."

Meanwhile, Six Nations has received land and millions of dollars for projects such as a new water plant and a dialysis centre, he said.

"It's worked out beautiful for them, but they've devastated Haldimand County just for that. What they've done to us is almost unforgivable and that's just my opinion."