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Caledonia deal reached: Government to buy out developer

Osprey News Service
Welland Tribune
Local News - Saturday, June 17, 2006 @ 9:00

[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.]

The Ontario government announced Friday it will buy out the developer whose unfinished subdivision sits on disputed land in Caledonia. Following is an Osprey News Service exclusive by the federal representative the Hon. Barbara McDougall, provincial representative the Hon. Jane Stewart and Six Nations/Haudenosaunee Confederacy representative Chief Allan MacNaughton, explaining the background to the Caledonia standoff and the agreement.

For many years, the various communities in and around Six Nations/Caledonia have lived together in harmony: the people of the Six Nations, farmers working the rich lands of the beautiful Grand River, local business people and industry.

There have been tensions in the past, but they have been rare, and with "good minds" (kanikonriio in the Mohawk language) on all sides, and with responsible leaders who have understood the importance of peaceable relationships, they have been kept to a minimum.

Other communities have been less fortunate. Oka and Ipperwash, examples of tensions erupting and leading to death, are in many minds fresh and raw. Everyone involved in the current dispute - local authorities, national and provincial governments, Haudenosaunee/Six Nations leaders - wants a peaceful resolution to the tensions at Six Nations/Caledonia.

Issues unresolved over many decades have their breaking point. At Six Nations, the breaking point was the commencement of a housing development on land which is in dispute. In October, 2005, H/SN representatives handed out leaflets to local motorists and warned the developer that the land belongs to the Six Nations.

One H/SN group announced plans for a peaceful reclamation of the land which subsequently began in February and continues to this day. Police have been present from the beginning.

Over the ensuing weeks, barriers were erected, injunctions were issued, invective was hurled in all directions, isolated incidents of violence injured and frightened peaceful participants and bystanders. Much of the damage was done by outsiders on both sides - the usual testosterone-fuelled young musclemen who never saw a fight they didn't want to join.

Fortunately governments at all levels recognized early the need to respond to the growing tension with a process of discussion and negotiation.

Haldimand city council and local members of Parliament put forth ideas to Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs Jim Prentice.

Members of the Provincial Parliament and Ontario Minister Responsible for Aboriginal Affairs David Ramsay looked for ways to resolve the development issues. Minister Prentice appointed a fact finder. Everyone was casting about for solutions.

In the end, a proposal from aboriginal leaders for a meeting of all the parties led to a process that everyone could support: on April 21, 2006, agreement was reached that representatives of the H/SN, the federal government and the provincial government would be appointed to "develop a detailed workplan and agreement that will provide for the implementation of constructive and effective ways to address and resolve the various outstanding issues."

That's government-speak for let's negotiate.

Since that time, Mohawk Chief Allan MacNaughton of the Haudenosaunee/Six Nations Confederacy, the Honourable Jane Stewart representing the Province of Ontario and the Honourable Barbara McDougall representing Canada have led discussions at the "Main Table" of a negotiating process to resolve a complex series of issues.

These issues have been in existence since the early treaties made between the Haudenasaunee people and the Crown in the late seventeenth century.

A parallel process at the "Technical Table" works on agenda-planning and legalities.

At the base of the tension is land and accountability. Who owns it, who claimed it, who - if anyone - surrendered it, who leased it, who paid for it - or didn't pay for it - who had the authority to develop it or use it, who is accountable at the H/SN, who is accountable acting for the Crown.

The legal issues predate Confederation. Written records and decisions are in some cases non-existent. There are questions around the applicability of the Indian Act.

Unraveling this Gordian knot will take time, but all parties are committed to what could be a ground-breaking process in the long and weary history of disputes, misunderstandings and provocation between governments, police and aboriginal communities in Canada.

The gulf between the various parties has been narrowed by our discussions to date.

It would be unrealistic to expect those talks to move along without disagreements, and there have been some. The discussions are frank, but they are almost without exception courteous and polite.

We all recognize that each side has responsibilities: on the federal side, the constitution must be upheld, on the provincial side law and order must be maintained.

The Haudenosaunee/ Six Nations must uphold its own constitution: the Great Law of Peace. No party wants to impoverish, subjugate or humiliate another.

Those who are not at the Main Table but have a stake in the outcome of our discussions can help by exercising patience and having a good mind. Every racist remark, every act of violence is a setback to our capacity at the Main Table to "polish the silver covenant chain" between the Six Nations peoples and the Crown.

Everyone can view Friday's purchase of the disputed lands by the Province of Ontario as evidence of our goodwill and progress.

Our task, as set out by two forward-looking Ministers and Mohawk Chief MacNaughton is to find creative solutions, and not be hidebound by past mistakes, ignorance and misunderstandings.

We are confident that people will use their kanikonriio to find solutions that will restore harmony, peace and justice to the Grand River valley.

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