Six Nations of the Grand River Elected Council has begun the process of adding the former Burtch Correctional Facility to the reserve.
Council agreed to sign the application for the 378-acre property to be added to the reserve under the federal government’s Additions to Reserve (ATR) process at Monday’s political liaison meeting.
The decision is reversible if council changes its mind, said Six Nations Lands and Resources Director Lonny Bomberry.
The controversial property has been the subject of a tug of war between elected council and the Haudenosaunee Confederacy Chiefs Council since 2006 when Mohawk Chief Allen MacNaughton successfully negotiated with the province the return of the land outside of the ATR process.
The land underwent an extensive clean-up and remediation and has been alternately used by members of the Six Nations Farmer’s Association and farmer Kris Hill, who faced an injunction from elected council for planting on the property after being given permission by the HCCC to lease it.
Bomberry said elected council was set to start the ATR process last November but put it off due to tensions surrounding Land Back Lane, the name of the property where Six Nations people and allies stopped construction of the former McKenzie Meadows housing development in July 2020.
Six Nations is protected from paying taxes on the Burtch property for another 16 years, said Bomberry, but after that, if the land is not added to the reserve, Six Nations would be on the hook for taxes.
However, he said, the ATR process takes a long time.
“Let’s get it into system,” he said.
Coun. Helen Miller wondered if there was another way to avoid paying taxes on the property without going through the ATR process.
Bomberry said the ATR process is “the only game in town” when it comes to acquiring land.
Miller said the HCCC has bought a number of parcels of land back in recent years and is expected to head to court over one property due to non-payment of taxes.
‘If they are successful (in court and not paying taxes), then that would be a good answer for us, as well,” said Coun. Miller. “We could do the same thing. It might be good to keep an eye on that case.”
Bomberry said there was no mechanism in place to avoid paying taxes on the Burtch property other than the ATR system.
“You can’t declare this land is no longer part of the municipality or province. You’re going to run into an obstacle right away. The Additions to Reserve is the only game in town, presently. It’s always been beneficial for us to do that.”
He said he wished the HCCC the best of luck in its court case.