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Caledonia deal could set precedent

Ontario to pay market value for land

Must settle more claims, minister says

Jessica Leeder - Staff Reporter
Toronto Star
Jun. 17, 2006. 11:48 AM

[SISIS note: The following mainstream news article is provided for reference only, as an example of how mainstream media treats indigenous resistance to genocide. Mainstream media often presents biased and distorted information, lacking pertinent facts and/or context. Inclusion of this article on our site should not be considered an endorsement by SISIS.]

Cayuga, ONT. -- An agreement by the province to buy Caledonia land valued at $45 million marks the beginning of years of settling Six Nations land claims, Natural Resources Minister David Ramsay said, and no one knows how much they will cost.

"These things have to be settled," Ramsay, the provincial minister responsible for native affairs, said yesterday after the province announced plans to bail out developers caught in the middle of a long-standing land dispute in Caledonia.

"There are a number of properties (along the Grand River) that are in particular dispute but overarching all of that ... is that there is a suspicion that they never got the true value of what they should have received as these lands were sold off to settlers," he said.

Dennis Brown, a lawyer for the provincial attorney general's office, announced the land purchase deal — an agreement in principle in which the government will pay "fair market price" for the land — at a special court hearing in Cayuga, near Caledonia, yesterday morning.

The court appearance was a continuation of a special hearing called at the beginning of the month by Superior Court Justice David Marshall. Then, Marshall ordered a line-up of lawyers for the OPP, the attorney general of Ontario, Six Nations, Haldimand County and developers Henco Industries Ltd., among others, to his courtroom to find out why native protestors were still occupying a construction site and a section of railway he previously ordered police to clear. The judge also demanded that everyone involved make suggestions on how to "restore the rule of law" in Caledonia.

Most of the lawyers who appeared before Marshall on June 1 urged him to have patience and allow negotiations to continue; Marshall decided to reserve judgment on an action plan and instead ordered federal officials to appear and help pitch in to find a solution for peace at a second follow-up hearing.

Yesterday, Brown told Justice Marshall that the purchase agreement is a "significant step in moving forward to resolve the Caledonia situation." However, Brown could not say how much the province is planning to pay. He said negotiations on final details are ongoing with Henco Industries Ltd., the Caledonia-area developers who own the land.

Michael Bruder, a lawyer for the developers, previously said the land was worth $45 million and would have held more than 600 new homes. Haldimand County officials have told the Toronto Star the subdivision would have met the area's housing needs for the next five years.

Yesterday, Bruder was careful not to disclose the amount his clients are hoping for. "We had indicated that the loss of the lot sales was 45 million dollars, but that's not the price," he said. "The price has yet to be agreed upon."

In court, Brown said no decisions have been made about future use of the land, although it's clear it will not be for housing. He said the province will hold the land in trust while negotiations between Six Nations and federal and provincial representatives continue.

In a telephone interview, Ramsay hinted that Queen's Park may go after Ottawa for the money. "It is only the federal government that can settle a land claim," he said. "The final disposition of that land will be negotiated at the long-term table that the province and the federal government attend."

Also at issue at that long-term table will be a series of claims for land that Six Nations insists it was not compensated for, dating back to 1784. Then, the Crown granted Six Nations 10 kilometres on either side of the Grand River, from the mouth to the source, for siding with Britain during the American Revolution. Over time, portions of the land was sold to settlers, but there is debate over whether Six Nations was properly compensated.

In total, Ramsay said there are about 20 outstanding Six Nations land claims along the Grand River corridor, and another 45 by other aboriginal groups across Ontario. But despite Ramsay's comments about the need to settle land claims, he later told the Star's Ian Urquhart that Caledonia wouldn't be precedent-setting.

In Caledonia, the province's announcement was met with mixed reviews by Six Nations' community members. While some argue the land should be turned over right away, others are happy to continue with negotiations, which resumed this week.

Six Nations spokeswoman Hazel Hill said the purchase agreement was a positive move to compensate the developers "because they are caught in the middle of a land dispute that has nothing to do with them."

Besides the Douglas Creek Estate property, Six Nations has put a claim on some 153 hectares, including 37 buildings near Brantford, and the former Burtch Correctional Centre, which is worth about $1 million. The institution was turned over to Six Nations for "interim use" in May in a letter from former Liberal premier David Peterson, who was appointed by the province to mediate the dispute.

In court, lawyer Brown said the province is in the process of handing more than 100 hectares of surplus agricultural land at the facility for Six Nations to use to grow crops this season.

He also announced the province will top up the $700,000 it has already committed to local recovery efforts for small businesses by an additional $1 million, in an effort to cushion the financial blows many suffered while protests in and around Caledonia dragged on.

The land dispute began to heat up last February when members of the Six Nations reserve took over a construction site called Douglas Creek Estates at the end of Argyle St., the town's main thoroughfare. A police attempt to evict the protestors backfired, causing a new flood of protesters to move onto the land.

They also erected a series of barricades around the county, including one severing Argyle St., one on Highway 6 and another blocking a section of privately owned railway track. The highway barricades were removed this week, but protestors are still occupying the Douglas Creek site.

Police presence in the community remains heavy, and six arrest warrants are still outstanding for natives involved in a violent clash in which one policeman and two cameramen were hurt last week. Yesterday, police made one arrest related to the scuffle. Audra Ann Taillefer, 45, of Victoria, was charged with intimidation and robbery and will appear in Cayuga court at a later date.

Ken Hewitt, a spokesman for the Caledonia Citizens' Alliance, said tensions in the community are unlikely to dissipate until protestors are off the land, regardless of who officially owns it.

"It doesn't change the tension until the people that are occupying the land remove themselves from the land," he said.

"We've got to take that visible blockade and visible protest away."

Haldimand County's deputy mayor, Tom Patterson, said some area residents will be relieved that land negotiations are progressing, but "others will have mixed feelings that the government is giving in to the natives. It's 50/50."

Progressive Conservative Leader John Tory said he fears the province has set a precedent that will cost Ontario taxpayers dearly for many years to come.

He argued the province should not have agreed to negotiate with the Six Nations until it turns over those wanted by the Ontario Provincial Police on a number of charges, including the attempted murder of an OPP officer.

"Again it's weak leadership (by McGuinty)," he said.

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