BRANTFORD – Before meeting with the Brantford Chamber of Commerce last Tuesday, Ontario Deputy Minister of Aboriginal Affairs David de Launay met with Six Nations Elected Chief Ava Hill, Brant Mayor Ron Eddy along with Brantford Mayor Chris Friel.
Hill, Eddy and Friel delivered the same message to the province they gave to the federal government when the threesome went to Ottawa together in an attempt to get the Harper Government to speed up its dealing with outstanding land claims that affect development in both Brantford and Brant County.
“Two years ago we went to Ottawa together to convince the feds that it’s time to get back to the negotiation table,” said Elected Chief Hill.
According to Hill, they wanted to deliver the same message to Ontario, so de Launay was invited to the area to meet with the three elected community leaders.
In the closed door meeting, the trio told the Deputy Minister that the province needs to do more to apply pressure to the feds to re-engage in negotiations that the federal government broke off a number of years ago after making some small but slow headway.
De Launay later met with members of the Chamber of Commerce to announce that Ontario is working on a social media campaign designed to inform and educate Canadians about the special place Six Nations of the Grand River has through treaties and agreements, which Canada and the Province must abide by. He offered some advice to about 20 Chamber members on how to properly deal with issues involving Six Nations land claims, however he did not specify what that advice was.
“There is a deep need for a broader understanding of aboriginal issues in society,” Deputy Minister de Launay told media following his closed meeting with the Chamber.
“They have constitutional rights. They are a unique group with treaties and land claims.”
He said that the province is trying to promote better understanding of these treaties, as acknowledged and affirmed in the Canadian Constitution Act of 1982.
Although land claims are the domain of the federal government, de Launay said his provincial Liberal Government can do more to help to remove obstacles standing in the way of a mutually agreeable understanding between Native and non-Native cultures and their unique and specific needs for both now and into the future.
According to de Launay, that new understanding includes the commitment to honour the Constitution and the Crown, by honouring the principles of meaningful consultation and accommodation.
But when asked specifically about the former Douglas Creek Estates land in Caledonia, which has yet to be settled, de Launay was less committed and called the situation “complicated”. Although he did not exclude the possibility of transferring the land back to Six Nations, he said that a solution is not imminent.
The Province purchased the land from the developer after members of the Six Nations took over the construction site, which created front-page national and international news in 2006 and 2007. The land has remained in limbo ever since and is currently still occupied by Six Nations land protectors.
The Minister said that his government is fully committed to return the former Burch Industrial Farm and Detention Centre lands as an addition to Federal Reserve #40 lands. However, this too has been delayed time and time again as the province ensures the cleanup of areas of pollution on the lands caused by aviation fuel leaks and other pollutants when the land was expropriated by Canada for use as an airstrip for pilot training during the Second World War. He could not offer a time frame for that issue to be resolved either.