WLU/YMCA plans to build on disputed Nathan Gage lands
A One-man delegation from Wilfrid Laurier University and a representative from the YMCA were before Six Nations Elected Council last week during a Committee of the Whole meeting in a duty-to-consult capacity to let them know their plans for building a brand new athletic center. Brian Rosborough, Senior Executive Officer for Wilfrid Laurier University (WLU) – Brantford Campus and Brian Webber, from the YMCA in Brantford, sat before Elected Council to give a presentation of their plans to build the athletic complex as part of the Brantford campus of WLU.
Back in 2010, Six Nations Elected Council (SNEC) signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Laurier and the YMCA. In that MOU, “Laurier/YMCA recognized and acknowledged the land claim,” stated Rosborough and even though the disputed property had not been settled, it was agreed that Laurier/YMCA would still build their athletic center with the agreement that SNEC would receive financial compensation for the disputed land which is situated on the south side of Colbourne Street in the city of Brantford. That financial compensation will either come from the federal or provincial government, not the City of Brantford itself.
Furthermore, in a move that may have sparked some frustration and anger among some SNEC district councilors, the City of Brantford sold the disputed property to Laurier/YMCA for a sum of two dollars. But according to Rosborough, “In order for us (Laurier/YMCA) to build, we were required to hold title of that land. In order to acquire the title, Brantford City Council, who acquired title several years ago, sold it to us for a sum of two dollars last month (July). It wasn’t intended to reflect the value of the land. It was to indicate municipal support in two important ways. One, by transferring the title and two, by also contributing 5.2 million dollars.”
The land in question includes part of the Nathan Gage Land Claim, which stems back to the early 1800’s. In a report released by Six Nations Lands & Resources, entitled Land Rights: A Global Solution for the Six Nations of the Grand River, “The purported land alienations of the Town Plot of Brantford (April 19, 1830) and part of the Township of Brantford (April 2, 1835) to resolve the problem of squatters on Six Nations lands are deemed by Six Nations as void as their purpose was never fulfilled.”
Furthermore, “failure to have the alienations deemed as invalid will result in a lot-by-lot analysis having to be done to determine if full and fair compensation was paid for each transaction and held in trust for the continued use and benefit of the Six Nations Indians.”
Five years ago, Canada acknowledged the land claim. “On February 25, 2009, Canada agreed with Six Nations that the 20 acres of the Nathan Gage Lands within the Town Plot of Brantford, were intended for leasing purposes and have never been paid for.” The Nathan Gage lands include parts of Icomm Drive, the Brantford Casino, the Branford Civic Centre and areas on the south side of Colbourne Street.
According to Rosborough, “We were conscious about the Nathan Gage claim from the start and that we would be building on land that is subject to a land claim. In 2012 we signed an MOU with SNEC which recognized the claim and also embraced our duty to consult. The land claim itself is with the federal and provincial government for compensation of the lands. The issue here is (not about getting the land back), it is about the fact that it wasn’t paid for.”
The anticipated athletic complex is set to have a large Two Row Wampum motif on the exterior of the building in which Rosborough explains, “It is intended to evoke the idea that we are creating a sense of place in the architecture. We are also recognizing the traditional territories of the Haudenosaunee people.” He also explained that if this wampum symbol on their building offends the Haudenosaunee community in any way, “We won’t use it.” Rosborough also stated that, “There will be quite a bit of green space around the athletic complex and we will reflect Native tradition by planting a medicine garden. We will consult with the communities of Six Nations, New Credit and our own Indigenous Studies faculty here on campus as well. This is an opportunity for us to honor those traditions. And we won’t do it without working together.”
Rosborough explained that aside from consulting with SNEC, they also plan on meeting with the Haudenosaunee Confederacy Chiefs Council within the upcoming weeks. Concerning archaeological assessments and contamination, Rosborough explained that some contamination has been detected on the site due to previous businesses and buildings but it is unsure as to what the source is. “I am not aware of anything hazardous and any contaminated soil will be removed.” Pertaining to archaeological assessments, “Phase 1 has been undertaken. As I understand, there might be some colonial material but we haven’t found any traditional artifacts. As we undertake excavation, we will undertake archaeological assessments as well, as we go along,” assured Rosborough.
Despite the MOU between SNEC and Laurier/YMCA which agreed that the project will proceed into its next stages, some SNEC district councillors didn’t seem to be in the know of what was going on. One councillor even offered to buy the land back. “I got five dollars in my pocket, I’ll buy it back,” stated Dave Hill. SNEC Chief Ava Hill told Rosborough and Webber that in the past few years, “things stalled for a while,” and went on to suggest to her council that they discuss this more in private before making any further decisions.
Rosborough told the Two Row Times in an interview that, “This is an exciting project. Our goal is it serves all communities and we’ve been very careful that we are working in partnership (with the Six Nations community).” Once complete, the athletic complex will be intended for not only Laurier students, but will also be open to the public. The YMCA will charge for membership but there is a program in place that if people cannot afford a membership, the cost can either be reduced or waived.