BRANT/BRANTFORD – When about 1,500 former County of Brant residents went to bed or headed out to celebrate the ringing in of the new year, they were suddenly Brantford residents. Some of them certainly do not like it at all.
Grass roots groups in Brant, Brantford and Six Nations have rejected the virtual expropriation of what Six Nations residents call the Johnson Settlement Tract, which has never been properly surrendered.
This makes it a much more complicated affair than some people might want to think, and some residents effected by the transfer believe neither the city nor the county took everything into account before reaching their agreement late last year.
Some 2,720 hectares (6,721 acres) of mostly farmland were transferred into Brantford in three areas. The first between Powerline and Governors roads. The second, east of Garden Avenue and the third is Mount Pleasant Road up to Tutela Heights.
City Council is still dividing the spoils regarding which Wards these new residents would be in and who their elected councillors were going to be.
There are also some farmers in the north end of the transfer, along Powerline Road, who are taking the county and the city’s arbitrary action to constitutional lawyers to determine if their pre-confederation rights have been violated.
According a new book by researcher Elizabeth Marshall, “Private property is not ‘in’ or does not belong to the provincial corporation, same for municipalities, because the soil or land belongs to the patentee (his heirs and assigns), which includes the patentee’s private property rights.”
Marshall goes on to say, “once a municipality has been created, by Letters Patent, it is not ‘In the Province’ and does not belong to the province and that is why Section #13 of the 1215 or Section #9 of the 1297 Magna Carta still stands.”
The statement given to those objecting to land development issues is that the municipalities are “creatures of the province” and therefor they have to do what they are told. But according to Marshall, that well used assumption may not be true at all.
“The municipalities were created at the petition of the property owners, they are the shareholders and they are the ones who have control, not the provinces,” writes Marshall.
Then there is the big elephant sitting right in the middle of it all. This is an action that further alienates Six Nations from its land. Although invited to the negation process between Brant and Brantford, it was allowed only under observer status and not as participants. This is not consultation or accommodation according to the Supreme Court’s decision.
Chief Ava Hill confirmed that Six Nations has not been a part of the deal and in fact have objected to it. That could place the whole deal under a different set of laws and rules and obligations.
A good part of the Johnson Settlement was involved in the transfer. According to well researched and documented historical evidence, the 7,000 acre Tract was never surrendered for sale, only to be leased on short term leases with Six Nations approval and with proceeds going to Six Nations. This land claim has been talked about for decades and is one of 29 land claims filed and accepted as legitimate claims in the 1980’ and is part of a legal action filed in 1995 and reactivated in the early 2000s.
“On Jan. 1, 2017 Brantford and Brant County will complete one of the largest annexations of prime farmland in southern Ontario in recent history with the approval of Minister Bill Mauro,” according to a document by Sustainable Brant, the National Farmers Union of Ontario and the Six Nations group Hodiskeagehda Men’s Fire.
According to Ella Haley of Sustainable Brant, the government that approved a deal that gobbles up about 9,000 acres of mostly prime farmland, with Brantford annexing 6,721 acres directly and Brantford extending services to adjacent rural communities (Cainsville) to enable another 2,150 acres to be available for development, is not acceptable.
“The government is not listening. It is not protecting our previous food resources for a growing population,” said Haley.
The National Farmers Union of Ontario, expressed discontent with the annexation of so much farmland as well.
“If the Ontario government cares that little about agricultural land, it’s a poor demonstration of their feeling of rural communities,” said Emery Huszka, NFU-O president.
The NFU-O mission statement is focused on sharing its core values with both rural and urban populations, highlighting the need for strong rural communities and sustainable local economies, prioritizing issues affecting farmers and promoting the economic, social, and environmental sustainability of family farms and rural communities.
“We may not agree on all issues, but we will engage thoughtfully and take action constructively,” notes Huszka. “We are known for asking hard questions, and I intend to continue on that path.”
Wilfred Davey representing the Men’s Fire issued a written statement that the agreement “has never been discussed with the Men’s Fire or the Haudenosaunee Confederacy Chiefs Council.”
Elected Chief Ava Hill has also confirmed that the Elected Council has not been properly consulted either. However, during the transfer talks, the question of Six Nations has come up more than once, and when it has, the stock answer has been that Six Nations has, indeed, been consulted. Not according to anyone at Six Nations.
Haley said Sustainable Brant and other groups mentioned will not give up their battle against the development slated for Tutela Heights, Powerline Road and Cainsville.
“Our farmland must be protected for future generations,” Hayley says.