BURTCH – Around 50 people – including Elected Chief Ava Hill and several Elected Band Councillors – packed out a meeting room at the Chiefswood Road residence of Bill Monture to discuss the transfer of the Burtch lands back into Six Nations hands.
The gathering represented a wide cross-section of the community, including HDI lawyer Aaron Detlor and Elected Council lawyer Lonny Bomberry.
Monture and other residents present wanted to object to setting up a corporation to receive the land promised during the Caledonia standoff by former premier David Peterson, which is how the government has indicated they want the transaction to go.
“Going to the Band is a big mistake,” says Monture. “Now we’re talking taxation.”
Monture was questioning why Band Council and the HDI were both setting up entities to receive the land. They argue that if it is brought back through a corporation, the land would automatically be registered right back to the province through Ontario Realty.
But there is also a question about who would get use of the land once it is back in Six Nations hands.
“We have a disagreement about who should be allowed to farm the land once it is transferred,” said Monture, a member of the Men’s Fire.
“The Six Nations Farmers Association have had right to farm the land for the last five years and it has never been tendered out for other farmers to have an equal chance to farm the land,” he argues.
“It always goes to one specific group – the Farmers Association,” Monture Continues. “To me, that’s wrong. We are only going by what the confederacy has said; that any (Six Nations member) can farm it. After that – if the Farmers want it back – they can farm it again if they want, but anyone should have the right to farm the land.”
He also believes that if the land was to come back in its original state, it should be done through the Confederacy, but leaves room for a Community Trust arrangement be made representing all Six Nations people with representative board members.
Farmer Eddy Green – who is not a member of the Farmers Association – wants a shot at planting the land, but feels his interests are being ignored in favour of the Farmers Association.
Monture’s group also believes that the government has some kind of say over who uses the Burtch land and for what.
“Land is the one thing we shouldn’t be fighting over, but we are,” says Monture. There was no resolution, but it was an opportunity to voice concerns and expectations about the Burtch land from a wide range of local members.
“We need to have more meetings like this,” he added. “The province just needs to pass it over, but the million dollar question is to who and how?”
There is still no resolution to that question which is holding up the official transfer.