Sunday, 3 November 2013

Legal Title to the Former Henco Industries Ltd. Lands - the Site of the 2006 Caledonia Protest

The destructive "protests" of 2006, led by Six Nations activists, were focused on their belief that the lands upon which a large housing development (the Douglas Creek Estates) was in progress, had not been surrendered and were still part of the Six Nations land base.  Perhaps some believed this to be so, there are some who believe that the Haldimand Tract is to this day all Six Nations land.  However the reason given to me by Six Nations elders as to why the matter came to a head pertained to something quite different. I was told that there was a real concern at Six Nations about two related matters.  First, many felt hemmed in by encroaching development in Caledonia, which is relatively close to the northeast end of the Six Nations Reserve.  Secondly the question was asked, "where will we have space for generations of our people to come?"  The bottom line is, however, that the reason given to the press was that the land was never ceded and should not be developed without the say of the Six Nations, and later the reason was given is that the "protest" would bring renewed interest in getting all Six Nations land claims settled.

This is not the place to rehash the fall out from the disagreement, but a few representative items will be useful.  First illegal destruction of property such as the hydro towers used to barricade Argyll Street was common.  Subsequently the protesters required local residents to obtain passes ("passports") to be able to access their property on 6th Line and elsewhere.  Residents were harassed in every imaginable way, for example by having ATVs driven at full throttle across the area where their backyards were situated.  Masked men from the Mohawk Warriors group intimidated motorists and residents and there were direct and veiled threats of violence.  Perhaps the worse instance of violence was the Native bashing on the head of builder Sam Galtieri with an oak bat such that the man suffered permanent debilitating brain damage.  On and on.  Meanwhile the Ontario Provincial Police did nothing to defuse the situation - like enforcing the law.  Residents learned that the OPP were now "peacekeepers" not officers whose duty it was to serve and protect.  Phone calls for emergency service to the OPP or other first responders went unanswered if the call came from someone who happened to reside beyond the barricades.  The Stirling Street Bridge was torched and the Fire Department was forced to retreat when a series of death threats were issued.  Of course the overtime for the officers sent to the site, to wait and watch, mounted into the millions of dollars.  As noted in a previous post, anyone who wants to learn what the effect was on the population of Caledonia should read the book "Helpless" by Christie Blatchford.  Some sense of the suffering of the local residents, and the Provincial Government's "compensation package" can be found here.  It should also be noted that the issue continues to flare up even to the time of the writing of this blog.  One wonders if it will ever end.  A good overview of the land dispute can be found here.   An additional recommended reading is the article by Horsnell (2010).  Click here to view this excellent research report.

So all this, and for what?  If the Six Nations had a valid case in terms of their stated rationale (a land claim dispute), that would be one thing.  However, there are few who are willing to put the facts on the table for all to consider.  I have yet to see one single piece of paper in support of the claims of the Six Nations.  Those involved continually refer in an ambiguous fashion about lands being unceded.  However is this really the case?  What does the evidence indicate?  Is the matter clearcut? 

Actually all of these questions have answers, but the fact remains that many on the Six Nations side see true documentary evidence as irrelevant.  Many say they "know" that the claim is just and valid.  Well, just how do they know.  I say that I know that the claim is without any merit whatsoever.  What would make me willing to be so direct in my assertions?

The Henco Industries Ltd. lands were indeed part of a land claim for thousands of acres, including the Town Plot of Caledonia.  This case was filed on 18 June 1987.  It is listed as Claim 5 (of 29) and is described as, "Hamilton - Port Dover Plank Road Oneida and Seneca Townships".  Details of the claim are on pages 13 to 14 of the following document.  Click here to view.  However this is a claim that the Government has ruled to be without support in fact since the lands were part of a legal series of surrenders beginning in 1841.  Specifically,  Canada submits that Six Nations surrendered these lands for sale in 1841 and affirmed its decision to sell in 1843 and 1844 (p. 14).

I have direct knowledge of all of the key paperwork that pertains to the matter.  In an earlier post I cited three separate Court cases where in each instance the adjudicating party concluded that the surrenders (agreements) of 1841, 1842, 1844, 1848, 1850 etc. were valid and met every litmus test for being considered legitimate.  My own researches in the primary source documents from the National Archives in Ottawa support and confirm these rulings.  Thus an amateur historian with long experience in researching Native files has without prejudice and without malice and for no other reason that an attempt to seek the truth, agrees - the surrenders are valid in whole and in part.

The properties detailed in the 1844 Land Inspection Returns for Oneida Township describe all parcels of land in this township in exacting detail.  I have personally examined every page of this record.  There are no gray areas here.  The lands were surveyed, ownership documented and compensation provided to individuals if necessary and ultimately the lands were placed "on title" in the Haldimand County Land Registry Office in Cayuga.  There can be no doubt that the only part of Oneida Township not surrendered were the six lots in each of the six concessions between Indian Line (Town Line) near Hagersville, and VI Line Road, plus lots 1 to 12 in the River Range.  These lands are all adjoining Tuscarora Township in the west, and in the east along the west aspect of what was termed Range West of Plank Road (along what was the Hamilton and Northwestern Railway Line).  These reserved Indian Lands, described in Lord Elgin's report of 1850, were no where near Caledonia - there being 6 one hundred acre lots between the Reserve and what was to become the Douglas Creek Estates lands.  See here for a map of the DCE property and surrounding lands.

After the lands were surveyed, inspected, and surrendered in various agreements between 1841 and 1844, they were available for sale to buyers, who would then be given a Crown grant, each of which is registered in the Land Registry Office.  The first purchaser of the property in contention was one George Marlot Ryckman who received his Crown deed for the property in 1848.  Since that time the land has remained registered, without liens and encumbrances, and sold in 1992 to Henco Industries Ltd.  Anyone can check these records in the Registry Office, and they are microfilmed and available in locations such as the Archives of Ontario.  Anyone who is not prepared to go this route can simply view the H.R. Page & Co. Haldimand County Atlas for 1879 to see that all of the lots in that township were then occupied - including the property that was to become so problematic.  See here for a copy of this map.

I presently have all of the relevant documents in front of me - there are no irregularities, the Henco Industries Ltd. title was good, the Six Nations have absolutely no valid claim (by any stretch of the imagination) to the property (which is now owned by the Province of Ontario).  See also a legal perspective by a local lawyer here.

So the obvious question is, what could possibly possess the Six Nations to believe that the Douglas Creek Estates and other lands they have also recently pointed to as "unceded". There is not a shadow of a doubt that the Douglas Creek Estates were surrendered for sale by the 1844 agreement, and confirmed by the documentation noted elsewhere relating to the Land Inspection Returns for Oneida Township, 1844. There is no "wiggle room" here. The lands in question were purchased and sold as recorded in the Haldimand County Record Office. Hence why would the Province indulge the Six Nations, usurping the rights of the legal owner in favour of a party which has absolutely no legal claim to the property whatsoever (as acknowleded by the Federal Government)? I expect that the answer is politics, and without anyone in Government with a true backbone, the Six Nations may well get what it wishes which will make a mockery of the justice system, but "keep the peace". So threats and intimidation trump the law and the facts. Is this Ontario? It is not the Ontario of my youth - it is an Ontario brought to its knees by a handful of vocal radicals spurred on by anarchistic elements in society at large. Jolly - and the OPP stand by as enablers while the radicals run roughshod over those who would abide by the rule of law. If there is any place where this sort of situation is allowed to happen, I would not chose to live there. Alas, this is my home and I must make the best of it - and expect threats, intimidation and possible violence from any of a series of parties who would rather keep the lid on things and the truth be damned!

In but two pages, in a letter to then Mayor of Haldimand, Marie Trainer, he articulately and succinctly gives a reasoned and fact - based statement as why it is folly for local government and developers to feel pressured into negotiating with Six Nations - there is nothing in history or law that would indicate otherwise, as seen here

There is no shortage of those who have proposed "solutions" to the impass, although without an intimate knowledge of both the Caledonia and the Six Nations perspectives, simplistic ideas are likely doomed to failure.  As but one example of those who have offered a reasoned argument for solving the impass, is that of a recent article in the Undergraduate Journal of Anthropology, as seen here.

The complete set of relevant documents to literally prove what is asserted above will be the subject of a later blog post.

The "Caledonia crisis" should never have happened.  I am unaware of any acknowledged responsibility on the part of the Six Nations who, despite the undeniable evidence, continue to insist that the land is theirs.  Belief is a very powerful force - but should, one would hope, be subject to change when the facts are so entirely clear.  Hence I wonder whether facts and evidence, as is commonly understood the world over as the underpinning to the truth, will ever prevail in certain quarters.


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