The Hamilton Spectator
The Haudenosaunee Development Institute says a 300-year-old treaty gives it the right to charge fees for development in Hamilton.
This week’s demand for a fee from the Ancaster Agricultural Society appears to be the first time the HDI has ventured into the city.
But Hazel Hill, the institute’s interim director, says the group’s mandate ranges beyond land claims within the Haldimand Tract to all of “Turtle Island” — essentially “the whole North American continent.”
“It’s never been just exclusive to the tract,” she said of the land that ranges 10 kilometres either side of the Grand River.
“It was an error in the understanding.”
Protesters presented the society with a letter Monday saying the property at Garner and Trinity roads is disputed territory. That stopped work for a day.
The HDI has repeatedly said that those protesters do not represent the institute. But the society and the HDI met yesterday. Ancaster Councillor Lloyd Ferguson said the institute is asking for a $500 application fee plus a donation.
Kathy Smith, manager of the agricultural society, would not confirm yesterday if the group was going to pay the HDI a fee.
However, in a press release, the society said the HDI has agreed the fairgrounds “can proceed while both parties meet the requirements of their respective organizations.”
Hill said the mandate of the HDI has never been restricted to the Haldimand Tract.
“It’s never been just exclusive to the tract,” she said. “It was an error in the understanding.”
Haldimand-Norfolk Brant MPP Toby Barrett sees it differently. He says his understanding of the HDI’s beginnings is its interest lay in the Haldimand County portion of the Haldimand Tract.
“From the beginning they have collected fees under duress,” Barrett said last night. “We define that as extortion.”
Hill said the Haudenosaunee have a particular responsibility to ensure native law is protected and that’s what’s being done right now.
Protesters initially claimed the fairgrounds fall within the tract. The HDI now says it is outside.
Instead, the HDI is exerting authority under the Nanfan Treaty of 1701, which covers hunting and fishing rights in southern Ontario and into northern New York state, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan.
“If anything comes to the HDI as this (society) has then we’ll work with anybody … to resolve things in a peaceful way,” Hill said. “That’s our mandate.”
Ferguson said that, in addition to the application fee, the HDI was also looking for a donation.
“It’s a subjective fee that they’re applying and what’s it going to be for the next one?” he questioned. “This doesn’t just affect Hamilton, this goes way beyond that.”
Ferguson said he may raise the issue at council to seek provincial advice on how the city should handle these issues.
Premier Dalton McGuinty has said developers should not pay the fees.
Paul Mallard, director of planning for the city, said from his perspective, the issue is not a municipal one.
“It’s … between the agricultural society and the HDI,” he said.
Society officials said they will continue meeting with the HDI.
Some developers along the tract, including in Caledonia and Brantford, have experienced work stoppages as a result of protesters.
Several have been asked to pay fees to the HDI, but only one company located in the top portion of the tract, Windrush Energy, has confirmed paying.
Barrett, who visited various sites yesterday which the HDI has approached, said the situation is the result of “an unholy alliance between a government with no plan of action and a group of militants.”
This “militant greenbelt-ism” has taken the land claims issue to “another level,” he said.