BRANT ‑ The people don’t want it. Now what? That was the clear message coming from the majority of both Brant and Brantford citizens during two public consultation meetings for those who may be impacted by the transfer and subsequent development of Brant County land.
The second of two consultation meetings on the Brant-Brantford land transfer, was held at the Grand Valley Church on Powerline Road on Thursday evening. As in the first meeting last week at Lions Park, it was full to the walls, and both Mayor Ron Eddy representing the County of Brant and Chris Friel representing Brantford were grilled by residents unhappy with the addition of Tutela Heights to the transfer of land from the County to the City.
Existing residents fear that high density development would ruin the esthetic appeal of their homes, and therefore, negatively impact the value of their property.
Six Nations Mohawk elder, Jan Longboat, backed up by members of the Men’s Fire, once again delivered to the mayors and councils a message and a warning about the transfer of the Johnson Tract lands, as well as Tutela Heights.
Men’s Fire member Lester Green challenged Mayors Friel and Eddy, to talk with the federal government and the province about proper consultation with the traditional government of Six Nations, and not the Indian Act-imposed elected system put in place after a takeover by the RCMP in 1924.
“We have our people lined up to make sure this issue will be taken care of,” said Green. “We have been writing (to all levels of Canadian government) and have been waiting.“
With that, it was Longboat’s turn at the mic.
“First of all, I would like to say that we are not citizens of Canada, and would you please refer to us as the indigenous people of these lands,” she began. “My family has lived at Grand River ever since we came here with Joseph Brant in 1784. The Haldimand Deed, or Proclamation, predates the creation of Upper Canada, which was 1791. Canada didn’t even exist when our people came to this territory under the Haldimand Deed.”
She reasoned that Canada does not have the right to adjudicate the Haldimand agreement. Therefore, Canada’s land claims policy does not pertain to the Haldimand Deed.
She went on to point out that under the terms of the British North America Act, Canada became a successor of treaties and arrangements made with Six Nations of the Grand River, which is different and unique among First Nations in Canada.
“Also, as a matriarchal society, the women of the Haldimand Tract have not been consulted and we declare your agreement null and void.” – Mohawk elder Janice Longboat.
“The BNA act gave Canada the right to only implement their laws to their settlers, not us as indigenous people,” said Longboat to a mostly attentive audience. “To date we have no documents pertaining to the present land claims. If either Brant or Brantford can come up with any documents proving their ownership and authority over Haldimand Tract lands, I’d like to see them.”
In the past, Canada has stood on two so-called surrenders of title — one in 1841 and another in 1844. The first was set aside because it was proven to not represent the people of Six Nations under the rules of engagement set up by the Crown in the Royal Proclamation of 1763.
The second is under a great deal of scrutiny since it supposedly carries the marks of 48 chiefs. That alleged surrender was petitioned against by many of those same chiefs’ only days after it was signed. The complaint by the Six Nations was that there was no understanding by the Chiefs Council, Clan Mothers, or the people of Six Nations that they were giving away almost a million acres of Haldimand Tract land in exchange for what is now Six Nations Reserve #40.
The author of both the 1841 and the 1844 surrender, Samuel Jarvis, was removed from office less than a year later after several investigations by the government into misappropriation of funds, neglect of duty to protect Six Nations interests and the theft of money from the Six Nations Trust Fund.
Unfortunately, his surrenders remained on the books despite the strong speculation that Six Nations Chiefs were misinformed about the nature of the document they were signing.
“We, the indigenous people of the Haldimand Tract, request your documents to prove ownership of the land in question,” challenged Longboat to the applause of several non-Natives in attendance.
The government has also used the 1793 Simcoe Patent in its dealings with Six Nations. However, it was never accepted by Joseph Brant and the Six Nations and was left unratified.
“Without those documents, this is pure theft of our indigenous lands,” she said.
Longboat presented a further explanation of how Six Nations true governance works.
“The Chiefs are not the Confederacy,” she says. “It’s the people. The Haldimand Proclamation can never be abrogated without the consent of the Grand River Mohawks.
Also, as a matriarchal society, the women of the Haldimand Tract have not been consulted and we declare your agreement null and void.”
The latest of these community sessions had Mayor Eddy on the hot seat as around 250 concerned people attended and many of them had outright objections. Eddy promised that all of these concerns brought forth would be addressed by his council before any binding agreement is signed with the city.
Two voices were heard that supported the deal and encouraged Friel and Eddy to complete the land transfer. One was Rod Buchalter, president of the Brantford Home Builders Association, who focused on the work his members would benefit from should the agreement go through.
The second was Rob Melick, who congratulated the City and County for working so hard to “get it done.” Until very recently Melick worked at a high level for Walton International, the developers and land bankers who stand to profit greatly from the deal. He is also on the board of directors for the Brantford Home Builders Association.
Aside from the two supporters of the land transfer, the vast majority called for more time to consider the proposal or for the removal of Tutela Heights from the package, which would suddenly place Brant citizens under Brantford’s domain.
Although MPP Dave Levac expressed in a recent letter how well received the transfer is by both communities, the two public meetings do not concur with his assessment — in fact, quite the opposite.
When asked what would happen if the people didn’t want this transfer, both Friel and Eddy passed the responsibility on, inferring that the Province would push it through anyway and the municipalities could suffer political fallout from the province by not doing as they are told.