BRANTFORD/SIX NATIONS – In Nov. 1997, an agreement was reached after weeks of negotiations and peaceful protest surrounding Brantford’s perceived need to cross the Grand River with a subterranean sewer and watermain. Running a sewer and water line to that part of the city was seen as essential to the growth of industry and jobs but it required a crossing of the River.
The project was stopped. But something else happened. Then young Mayor Chris Friel began to look closer at the unfair history of political and racial assumption and of anglo-arrogant attitudes shown towards Six Nations in the past.
Brantford had a mayor at the time who found that understanding and humility go a very long way in resolving even ancient disputes. He studied and read historical maps and agreements with Six Nations in an attempt to understand the worldview of the people of Six Nations.
Eventually, the Corporation of the City of Brantford agreed to discuss, consider and to address Six Nations concerns. Almost 20 years ago, on February 4, 1997, Six Nations and The Corporation of the City of Brantford formalized an Interim Use arrangement on a “without prejudice” basis to Six Nations claims or litigation to allow the crossing of the Bed of the Grand River and the Island therein.
There were several provisos to that agreement, one being that three other crossings had to be upgraded with shut off valves and monitors, as the new proposed one was to have.
At that time the City agreed that it would not object to the lands being held “in trust”. On October 1, 2001, the Six Nations Elected Council and The Corporation of Haldimand County entered into an Interim Agreement to allow Haldimand County to replace an existing waterline crossing the Grand River at Caledonia.
Concerns over the Brantford Landfill site were also included in these talks between the Elected Council and the City.
There was a reasonable time frame for both projects and they agreed to a long list of recommendations, safety precautions and upgrades all to be completed by 2017.
This agreement was an interim measure to last until the land claims on the area known as the Northwest Industrial Park are resolved.
The agreement stipulated that should the claim be resolved in Six Nations favour, they would receive $100,000 for each of five river crossings. But if resolved in the Crown’s favour, no further payment will be made for land use.
This, as well as 28 other registered claims, most involving Brant and Brantford, is still unsettled, but the agreement was based on mutual respect, and at least an attempt at understanding the Six Nations world view and true history of the relationship between the two. Money, you will notice, was secondary to the importance of involving Six Nations, in this case, Elected Council, to protection the river and the lands around it.
A lot has happened in the 20 years since this agreement was signed, including Caledonia and several Brantford land claim protests. However, it may be possible to move the yard sticks forward by taking a couple of steps backward in time.