Norfolk properties bargaining chips for native talks

Posted: November 24, 2007 in Corruption, Headlines, Land claims, Natives

Monte Sonnenberg SIMCOE REFORMER
Friday November 23, 2007

A Six Nations representative says provincial officials came up with the idea of freezing development on several properties in Norfolk and Haldimand while native land claims are being negotiated.

Brian Skye said provincial claims negotiators set aside the 14 parcels last month as potential bargaining chips in an eventual settlement of claims along the Grand River in an area known as the Haldimand Tract.

Skye, who is a frontline negotiator in talks with provincial and federal officials regarding native land claims in the Haldimand Tract, said the province drew inspiration from a similar dialogue involving Crown officials and Six Nations in the early-1840s. Back then, aboriginals also had concerns about the loss of land they thought was granted to them along the Grand River in 1783.

Records indicate the British may have suggested compensating Six Nations with land between the south boundary of the reserve and the Lake Erie shoreline. However, the idea wasn’t pursued to a formal conclusion.

“Yes, that is out there,” Skye said. “But we don’t believe the surrender was valid to begin with. There was no commitment either way.”

Skye said Six Nations is wary of pursuing this course because the reserve-Erie shoreline proposal has no official history and no standing in law. He said Six Nations doesn’t want to trade the solid claims it has along the Grand River for alternatives that could prove legally and logistically problematic.

Skye’s recollection of last month’s negotiations contradict the province’s account of the development freeze. A statement from the newly-formed Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs on Oct. 26 said the land freeze was approved at the request of Six Nations. Skye said that is not possible because Six Nations officials don’t know which land the province owns in the affected area. Last Friday, aboriginal affairs spokesperson Lars Eedy reiterated the province’s position that Six Nations requested the development freeze.

“Ontario is addressing Six Nation’s concerns about development in and around the reserve,” he said. “It is a short-term measure.” The development freeze affects huge swaths of land in the area of South Cayuga and Townsend and specific provincial properties in both counties. The province alone owns about 8,000 acres near Townsend and South Cayuga. The province bought the land in the early 1970s for the satellite city of Townsend, which never materialized.

Also frozen for the next two years is Selkirk Provincial Park, Rock Point Provincial Park near Dunnville, the Cayuga courthouse, the University of Guelph’s agricultural research station east of Simcoe, the Norfolk Business Development Bank office on Highway 3 east of Simcoe, the Sprucedale correctional facility on Ireland Road in Simcoe and assorted smaller properties.

Norfolk Mayor Dennis Travale expressed anger earlier this month when he learned of the land freeze in the media. Provincial officials have since apologized. They said the miscommunication was the result of an oversight. Travale said the freeze was “an indication to First Nations that the province was willing to show good faith.” “I was also assured that those properties would not leave provincial control,” Travale said.

Travale said Norfolk is not involved in disputes regarding the Haldimand Tract and should not be drawn into the controversy under any circumstance. Six Nations has long acknowledged, he said, that it has no claims in Norfolk. Meanwhile, local MPP Toby Barrett has been unsuccessful in his quest for an explanation of what the development freeze means and why it was implemented. Bobbi Ann Dwornikiewicz, Barrett’s executive assistant, said the relevant provincial officials have been unco-operative.

“This little game has been going on with them for several weeks,” she said. “They asked us to put our questions in writing so there would be no misunderstanding. The questions we are asking are very direct.” This is not the first time that land south of the reserve has been bandied about in native land negotiations. In the early-1990s, the Rae government put provincial land in Townsend and South Cayuga on the table in an effort to resolve dozens of disputed land claims in the Haldimand Tract.

  1. WL Mackenzie Redux says:

    More display for the official contempt for deeded land, private property, private investment capital and the taxpayer.

    When this ends is when the provincial budget leaks red and the tax burdens start an exodus of people and their private business capita from the province….I think I’ll join them. They don’t have these problems in Alberta.

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