Letter - "Give it back"  not that simple

The Regional

December 1, 2010

Re: "We have to give it back" November 24 Regional News This Week.

The issues at play in Haldimand county have nothing to do with generalized "aboriginal land claims" or "First Nations peoples" or how this issue supposedly is "an old one that reeks of injustice" or isolated incidences of early settlers living on land by virtue of squatters rights.

Through the 1830's and 1840's land, in what was known as the Haldimand Tract, was surrendered in large blocks by the Six Nations leadership at the time to what would become the Government of Canada. Nobody was "tricked". Nothing was "taken without their say-so" and there were no "Nefarious sharp dealings" as Chief Montour has been quoted as claiming. The uncomfortable fact for Six Nations and their supporters is that the land surrenders are part of the historical record and why towns like Caledonia, Brantford and Dunnville exist today and why the borders of the Six Nations Territory have existed virtually unchanged since then. The time to vigorously protest that reality is now 160 years and many generations in the past.

Neither is this an issue of native "seniority" when the "natives" in question came to this area as refugees from the upheaval after the American Revolution and they had, over 140 years before the 1840's surrenders, "freely and voluntary surrendered delivered up and for ever quit claimed" to "our great Lord and Master the King of England" those same lands when they signed the Nanfan treaty on July 19, 1701 so it's  not once, but twice that these lands have been surrendered to the control of the Crown.

The only real issue is what became of the funds that were to be set aside after the sale of the land. If some were lost due to poor investments there are hundreds of thousands of Canadians living now who know how fickle investing can be but it has been suggested, for one example, that Six Nations be compensated for their lost investments from the failure of the Grand River Navigation Company in 1861 due to the advent of the Railroads.

If it's a case of outright theft or mismanagement of funds the case should be proven in court. The real issue is the desire of Six Nations and their supporters to ensure there is a never-ending pipeline funnelling money to Six Nations leadership to ensure, in Chief Montour's own words "our perpetual case and maintenance". In that same document he set down a very rigid and specific set of conditions he demanded must be met then in the same paragraph says "Six Nations comes to the table ready to negotiate while Canada only comes to the negotiating table with a predetermined solution". A child in Kindergarten could tell you that's not negotiation and one reason "negotiations" have accomplished nothing to date besides lining the pockets of the negotiations on both sides.

Christie Blatchford, as noted in both her foreword and in V. Brown's letter did not set out to debate the merits of aboriginal land claims, or specifically the genesis of this particular claim, but to point out how a protest degenerated into thuggery and was made worse by the inaction of the provincial government and the OPP simply because those responsible were native, which emboldened those responsible to escalate the situation further. Furthermore, to even suggest that the masked participants may not have been native is specious given those in charge of the protest on DCE were without doubt native and are therefore responsible for the behaviour, or lack of it, of those claiming to support them.

As for the issue of "give it back" we have to look at what that potentially means.

Does six miles on either side of the Grand become Six Nations territory and every non native living there finds their property is worthless on the resale market and that Canadian Laws no longer apply to them, or are we talking about forced expropriation and expulsion of non natives along what was the Haldimand tract? That's what "give it back" ultimately boils down to and follows Chief Montour's declaration that "any lands that become available must revert back to Six Nations title". How exactly does land "become available" except if the owner passes away or wants to move unless it is expropriated? I find it difficult to believe that anyone would be so foolish to think either of those two scenarios could possible end well.

The federal government stands by the 1844 - 1850 surrender and a judge in a recent court case in Brantford ruled evidence proved surrenders. I don't expect any of that to sway anyone who believes otherwise but it does mean this isn't going to be resolved any time soon so just saying "give it back" oversimplifies the real world implications and provides a kindergarten solution.

Donald R. Goodbrand