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Government spat hampers land claims

Marissa Nelson
Hamilton Spectator
(Jun 24, 2006)

[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.]

A confidential government report says the spat between Ontario and Canada over who should pay for native land claim settlements is preventing the resolution of the Caledonia crisis.

The report was written by the federal government's "fact finder" who was sent to Caledonia in March.

"Each takes the position that it is confident that if the Crown is liable for wrongdoing in relation to Six Nations' land claims, it is the other government that is legally responsible," Michael Coyle, an assistant professor at University of Western Ontario's faculty of law, writes in his 27-page report.

"It is difficult to see how the Crown will be able to reach a settlement of Six Nations' land claims unless Canada and Ontario can agree on a reasonable sharing between them," he says, adding the two governments can figure out "the issue of liability immediately."

Coyle, appointed by the federal government March 24, handed in his report on April 7 -- a report provided to The Spectator by the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development.

He was sent in to figure out the nature of the complaints, decipher jurisdiction and look for a possible mediation process.

Coyle was clearly surprised by the tension in Caledonia.

"In 16 years of mediating land claims (including at Ipperwash), the writer (Coyle) has never witnessed such a high level of sensitivity."

The paper delves into the history of the land and also suggests moves Indian Affairs Minister Jim Prentice can make.

He points out the federal government doesn't accept the history used by Six Nations people to argue a land claim they have filed on the area which includes the Douglas Creek Estates property.

Natives argue there was no lawful surrender for the lands in the area of Highway 6 and that Six Nations has never been properly compensated -- arguments both Ontario and Canada have denied.

Coyle points out that the land claims process has been sluggish and that, even in the current predicament, "parties' stated positions appear difficult or impossible to reconcile."

Coyle writes that neither the federal nor Ontario governments want to interfere or be seen to be interfering in police operations.

The report urges the minister to make sure a federal response doesn't "exacerbate divisions within the Six Nations community." Reducing tensions within the community reduces the likelihood of future occupations, he writes.

Coyle points out that several resolutions may be seen as rewarding illegal action, but he also writes that doing nothing may make relations worse with the Six Nations community.

As if foreshadowing the botched police raid on April 20, Coyle says that "no response to the continuing occupation means that the police may soon have no choice but to intervene."

If that happens without a previous response from the government, the atmosphere for future talks "could be jeopardized.

"This is the third significant occupation involving Six Nations' members on municipal lands in the past eight years," he writes, although he did not elaborate as to what they were.

Some Six Nations members were involved in an occupation of the Red Hill Valley in Hamilton, and annually occupy land in Caledonia during a fair and charge parking fees.

He raises one possibility of bending previously set-out rules that require any additional land the natives get to be directly adjacent to reserve lands.

"Given the amount of private settlement in the area, it may be necessary or desirable for Six Nations to acquire significant blocks of land that are not contiguous to the existing reserve."

Canada and Ontario aren't the only governments fighting -- the report outlines a disagreement between the traditional and elected governments of Six Nations. He says the government should steer clear of that internal argument.

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