Monday, 11 November 2013

Grand River Notification Agreement - Blessing or Curse?

For some time now I have been hearing about the "need to consult" with representatives of Six Nations when it comes, particularly, to land development.  I was not sure if there were formal or informal agreements in place, the scope of the mandate, and how binding the fruits of "consultation" were on the parties involved.

It was the manuscript by Garry Horsnell (2010), found here, which alerted me to the underpinnings of what is called the Grand River Notification Agreement (GRNA) - which seems to be involved in the "demands", confrontations, transfer of monies and so on which I read about in the media, and have experienced via my own work.

It has proven to be a difficult task to locate materials to shed light on the genesis of the first agreement dated 3 October 1996.  One article which did precisely that, is now removed from the Internet, but can be viewed as a transcript here.  Basically over the years leading up to the agreement, there had been numerous disruptions or protests, primarily at sites where developers where attempting to build homes.  The protesters were primarily members of the Hereditary Band Council, now known as the Haudenosaunee Confederacy Chiefs Council (HCCC) or their representatives.  So in order to address the issue, representatives of various groups such as the Crown (Federal Government), Ontario, municipalities in the Grand River Watershed, the Six Nations, the Mississaugas of New Credit, and other interested parties prepared a joint agreement.

Apparently the negotiations were acrimonious, but in the end, all parties at the table signed this agreement, with one notable exception - the HCCC or their representatives who, ironically, were the prime reason for installing the agreement in the first place.

The GRNA was renewed two years later, on 3 October 1998 as seen here, although the original Government link only yields a "Page Not Found" message.  Here the documentation pertaining to the renewal, prepared by the Federal Government, Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC), provides a comprehensive clause by clause record (7 pages) as to just what the parties were signing.  The signators included INAC, Ontario, the Grand River Conservation Authority (GRCA), various municipalities along the Grand River from The Corporation of the Township of South Dumfries, south to The Corporation of the Town of Dunnville, along with the Six Nations of the Grand River and the Mississaugas of New Credit.  There is a lot of verbiage here, but the parties agree to consult on matters that might impact the Grand River Watershed, including economic development, land use, and the environment.  The document for example lists "Activities for Which Notification Will Be Given", such as when a municipality is "considering approval of a plan of subdivision", "passage of a new zoning bylaw, plus development of any lands effected by the Environmental Assessment Act, and related activities.  It was further noted that the Term of the Agreement was to "remain in effect for 5 years ......... ".  Also interesting is that in terms of what is termed, "No Legal Effect", clause 9. (a) reads, This Agreement in not legally binding on any of the Parties, nor will it affect a whole host other other matters such as, the validity of any act of any of the Parties.  So basically this document is just a set of guidelines, and there is nothing at all which would require any party to comply with a request submitted by another party. 

The Six Nations Land and Resources, Eco/Centre, see here, informs that, The Grand River Notification Agreement was renewed on October 3, 1998, October 3, 2003, and is in the process of a third renewal with an expected date of October 3, 2008.  In addition they report that, The Six Nations Wildlife Management Office/Land Use Unit will continue to be involved with the GRNA ....... However the real issues of the unresolved Six Nations Specific Claims and the effects of uncertainty and impediments to economic development in Municipal communities continue to be a contentious issue.  So I take from this that once again the oft cited issue of "unresolved" land claims issues is a roadblock to real progress, but that the agreement is a positive step.

Sometime in 2011 a draft was written, with the date left out, apparently to be used as a framework for a further renewal, as seen here.  The document includes the logos of the Six Nations Elected Council, and that of the Corporation of the City of Brantford.  If the 5 year renewal clause is still in effect, then the date of the next agreement would be 3 October 2013 - a date that has come and gone.  It appears that the Federal Government was no longer an active participant, but as of February 2013 talks were still pushing ahead, as seen here, with the City of Brantford to try to bring the Federal Government back into the fold.

Reading between the lines, while the original intent was very positive, it must have become very evident after the events in Caledonia in 2006, that the agreement was something of a sham - or so it would seem.  Clearly it was all a paper tiger, and by not including the HCCC, or any of its constituents such as Men's Fire, or the Haudenosaunee Development Institute (HDI), or the independent minded Mohawk Workers, or who knows who else since there is a montage of players each claiming a stake, but some have no "standing" with other groups at Six Nations, or with a municipality or Government office who probably don't know what to make of them, so are reticent to act.

So the protests, and blockages of construction, and similar actions have continued, but rather ad hoc rather than via consultation.  Of course groups such as the HDI are only too willing to "consult", as long as the "application fee" is paid.  What developer would voluntarily tolerate working in such a chaotic environment?  An agreement forged with one group may simply irritate another group, and work stopages will happen irrespective of an agreement signed with say the Elected Band Council.  Developers must conclude that they are frequently beat no matter which way they turn.  Brant County and Brantford have recently been beset with further efforts to stop one or another development project, such as at Tutela Heights, and Birkett Lane (Erie Ave.).  It really does not matter whether the land developer contacts the representatives of the Elected Council (parties to GRNA), unless all the "right" people or groups are contacted, it will likely be a no-go, or problems will surface.  What a nightmare.  One can see why Brantford is now fully geared up to obtain Superior Court Injunctions - but there are still those willing to test the limits and see if the law has any teeth.

The "need to consult" seems to be morphing, sending out tentacles to engulf previously unimagined efforts.  The present legislation, as it relates to any development that might have an adverse impact of the archaeological resources of the Province, makes provisions to include those at Six Nations and New Credit trained as Monitors by the Association of Professional Archaeologists (see here).  They will be consulted when a site is known to, or suspected to, include a Native component, even if the site is in Hamilton (see earlier blog posting).  The above newsletter also mentions the difficulties (not resolved) as to how to work with both the Elected and Confederacy Councils since while the first is the legal entity of record, the second wields considerable authority, and a mechanism needs to be place to include them in the consultation.  In the past the HDI have sent their Monitors to sites - how well trained or not these individuals are is a matter of conjecture.  Native consultation is required by professional consultant archaeologists, but that does not stop "unrecognized" monitors from showing up and expecting a slice of the pie - holding the archaeological consultants as virtual hostages (with work stopages) until a fee that is deemed acceptable is forthcoming.  I have discussed the matter recently with one consulting firm and a City Planner who were involved with a site that was owned by a member of my family, situated well outside the Grand River Tract. I know "from the horse's mouth" what is going on in this aspect of land use - even outside the Grand River Watershed - probably justified by the Nanfan Treaty of 1701. 

Nothing is ever straightforward at Six Nations, factionalism is endemic, a point that is noted in almost every issue of every paper published at Six Nations (presently Turtle Island News and Two Row Times).  The bottom line is that there is a general feeling even on the Reserve that unity will continue to prove illusive.

So, one might imagine that for example the developer of the McKenzie Meadows Project (see earlier blog post) across the road from Kanonhstaton (Douglas Creek Estates), is at the nail biting stage.  Both abut Argyll Street.  The new project is situated on the south / east side of Argyll Street, but with the first phase being slated for a location on the property that is furthest away from Kanonhstaton).  So, having negotiated in good faith with the representatives of the Elected Band Council, in this case Six Nations Future, the developer would have the reasonable expectations that by following the new protocol, things will go smoothly.  Their agreement was undoubtedly done with the hope, on both sides, of avoiding the "unpleasantness" of an event such as occurred 7 years ago just across Argyll Street.  There must be lingering fears.  What if the HDI demands their cut of the action?  Will all the hard - earned good work be for nought?  One can only wait and see, because in this neck of the woods, expect the unexpected.

Therefore, to answer the question posed by this post, the GRNA is neither a blessing or a curse, it is really a non-entity in the sense of anything meaningful.  It does, however, give the illusion that something proactive is being done, so people can believe that consultation is occurring - so rest easier.


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