Government doesn't admit guilt but does admit facts

by Gary McHale - Regional News

July 20, 2011

The government press release regarding the Class Action settlement is quick to point out it is an agreement to compensate those who suffered loss during the occupation. Chris Bentley, Attorney General and Minister of Aboriginal Affairs, stated, "I really hope that it will provide some closure for the residents, the business owners, help them move forward with their lives".

This is not the first compensation payment the McGuinty government has provided to Caledonia. Just after the Class Action was filed in 2006 the government came up with some money for Haldimand Council and the business community. It wasn't until March 2007 that McGuinty compensated residents. The compensation was a joke where the government provided a mere $340,000 to 137 homes, the largest cheque was $6000.

At the time the government stated, "The provincial government recognizes that the residents have been affected. We share their hope to see the resolution of this situation... I want to thank the Caledonia Community Committee for the thoughtful and objective advice it provided on how to design and deliver a financial assistance program for residents in Caledonia."

Councillor Grice was part of the Caledonia Community Committee and signed a non-disclosure agreement. This appears to be the best deal Haldimand Council could get for all the residents of Caledonia - a mere $340,000.

The government also stated that they paid, "$100,000 to Haldimand County to fund community counselling and crisis intervention services for native and non-native residents. [They also paid] close to $1.4 million in financial assistance to businesses that suffered losses due to disruptions caused by road blockades and $210,000 to Haldimand County for economic recovery marketing."

For all the talk behind closed doors by Haldimand Council they failed to help the majority of people affected by the occupation. The fact that Council continues to refuse to speak out against McGuinty means little is going to change.

The current settlement of the Class Action divides the settlement into four groups - approx. $3 million to the Property Class representing 410 families, $6.3 million to the Business Class representing 148 businesses, $5.8 million to the Highway #6 Class representing 220 businesses and $387,500 to the Contractor Class representing 10 contractors.

The court ruled over a year ago that the Class Action could NOT sue for lost property value which is partly why the settlement is only $20 million. Another reason for the amount is because government lawyers can argue that the $340,000 and the $1.4 million already paid out is going to the same people. Unfortunately, for people and businesses there is a standard principle of law that prevents people from receiving compensation from multiple sources. Therefore, if anyone received any of these monies then their current claim will have been reduced by any money already received.

While the McGuinty Government doesn't admit guilt, I think most people in Canada understand governments don't pay out $20 million if they are in the right. However, the McGuinty Government does admit the facts of the case. The compensation is paid out to residents in amounts determined by zones in Caledonia. Six zones outline the level of harm each of the homes endured as follows:

Zone 1 - "Delegation of policing to Six Nations and subjected to frequent gunfire, loud noises, smoke, verbal assaults, personal property damage, ATVs, camouflaged protestors, high volume of traffic, checkpoints."

Zone 2 - "Adjacent to DCE and subjected to frequent gunfire, loud noises, smoke, verbal assaults, personal property damage, ATV traffic in backyards, camouflaged protestors, high volume of traffic, checkpoints, bright lights, surveillance of school."

Zone 3 is the same as #2 without personal property damage. Zones 4 to 6 quickly decrease harm level to where Zone 6 states, "Subject to smoke from brushfires lit on April 20, 2006 and infrequent ATV activity by protestors."

Four families on 6th Line opted out of the Class Action which allowed them to file their own claim. The number of families represented in each zone is 4, 68, 79, 108, 25, 126 respectively. These families will receive approx. $22400, $17200, $12000, $8200, $3900, $1700 based on which zone they are in.

This means the McGuinty Government is admitting that 259 homes experienced harm due to 'frequent gunfire, loud noises, smoke, verbal assaults, ATVs, camouflaged protestors, high volume of traffic, checkpoints'. The government is admitting that 72 families experienced property damage and that 284 families were affected by how the Native protesters did surveillance of the local Catholic school.

The Business Class receives approx. $6.2 million which represents only the 148 businesses in Caledonia affected by the occupation, the disruption in power or the blockade of the road. Primarily the compensation is to cover lost profits from 2006 to 2009 in comparison to their profits in 2005.

The Highway #6 Class receives approx. $5.8 million which represents 220 different businesses directly affected by the closure of the road. There are 43 Caledonia businesses, 129 Hagersville businesses, 42 Jarvis businesses and a few from Cayuga, Lowbanks and Nanticoke.

Both the Business and Highway #6 Classes have a maximum pay out. These businesses are compensated to a maximum of $100,000 each. Once everyone is paid and there is any money left then the max is increased by $25,000 step by step until all claims are covered. This stops a large company from receiving a large amount while small companies receive nothing.

The Contractor Class receives approx. $387,000 which represents 10 contractors and sub-contractors to Henco Industries who had invested money and resources into Douglas Creek Estates. Primarily these are trade people like plumbers, painters, landscapers and those businesses supplying material to DCE.

While the $3 million to the Property Class will be dispersed regardless of how many homes file a claim, any money left over from the Business, Highway #6 and Contractor Classes will be given back to the government.

The McGuinty Government is admitting that these businesses have suffered loss due to the violence and illegal activities of the Native Protesters. There is an admission that the affected area is more than just downtown Caledonia and that businesses throughout Haldimand paid a price for the criminal behaviour of these protesters.

The question now is when will the government, the OPP and Six Nations issue an apology?