Monday, 4 November 2013

The McKenzie Meadows Land Development Project - A Potential Nightmare for the Six Nations?

Frankly I had never heard of the "McKenzie Meadows Project" (MMP) until I read about it in small print under a title "Six Nations Future:  It's Our Community's Future, Let's Talk about it".  Clearly for me red flags went up immediately once I realized where the physical position of this "proposal" would be situated.  The article on page 3 of Turtle Island News, October 30, 2013 provides the location and details of the project as follows:

The lands are located on the west side of McKenzie Road, South of Fuller Road in the urban area of Caledonia.  The developer of the project is 2036356 Ontario Inc., a numbered company owned by Michael Corrado and others.  This two-phased residential development project will consist of a minimum of 700 residential units with a maximum of 1000.  The entire land holding is approximately 107 acres, in which Phase 1 will develop 25.2 acres and 200 residential units.

The project was announced by Chief William Montour of the Six Nations Elected Council (SNEC).  A set of three meetings has been set up for "community members" who wish to have further information, and to "have one - on - one discussions with staff".  Apparently, "Community members can visit here to get more information about the project".  Unfortunately the webpage says absolutely nothing about the project (although much can be found about the various wind generation projects here).

It would seem that something of this magnitude, within the County of Haldimand, would show up in various places on the Internet.  Hence I did a search using the name of the project and came up with many links to a golf course in Oregon.  When adding Haldimand County two hits were found.  The first led nowhere, so I clicked on the cached option and was led to a site that had no bearing on this subject.  The second one was also "dead" but using the cache option, I was able to go to the HTML version saved by Google.  Perhaps it is just me, but any time I find sites removed from the Internet, I get the impression that something odd, perhaps shady, is going on.

The one working link is found here.  Here it can be seen that it is a report submitted by the Haldimand County, General Manager of Planning and Economic Development, for Consideration of Council in Committee.  The date is 5 February 2013.  The report provides conclusions as to potable water and waste water implications, and as well concerns such as whether it conforms to various requirements such as housing density.  The MMP is one of four such applications that was being considered as equivalent proposals, all of which have a "Draft Approval Deadline" of 31 December 2013 (a little more than an month and a half from its public announcement - in the Turtle Island News.  If anything has been written about the matter in other local papers such as Caledonia's, The Sachem, I did not notice it.

It seems that great pains have been taken to keep this work quiet until the last minute, which makes me wonder if the parties in on the deal are well aware that it is bound to create controversy at both Six Nations, and in Caledonia.  What is mind boggling is that a stone's throw away is the festering sore of the Douglas Creek Estates development, a more restricted project, which was completely shut down by Six Nations members, trashed, and claimed as Six Nations land.  The violence and acrimony were so intense (as is well documented) that the Provincial Government had to step in and purchase the property from the legitimate owners and allow it to remain as a weed choked tick infested wasteland fit for nothing.  How could Six Nations possibly justify creating an even bigger conglomerate of homes to attract reasonably wealthy Hamiltonians or others to purchase these units, but without the spectre of a riot, and a work stoppage and the actions of thugs and hooligans hell bent on destruction and intimidation.  Wait, it is in some way "owned" or managed by Six Nations, so the Mohawk Warriors and other violent elements would have no reason to get fussed up.  So I guess Six Nations assumes that Caledonians will welcome this project in some way shape or form that I cannot fathom - once they find out.  See map below for locations of the MMP (Fuller Dr. and McKenzie Rd. at lower left of map); and DCE (south down Argyll St. below the Caledonia Baptist Church and nearby creek, where the road before 6th Line is situated).

Clearly before much else is said, I will need to attend one of these meetings and ask pertinent questions.  One of the major questions will be to what extent are Haldimand County Mayor Ken Hewitt, and Caledonia Councillor Craig Grice involved?  Is this akin to making a deal with the Devil?  Also, how does this project factor into the land claims dispute?  Who is the owner on title in the Land Registry Office?  Also, does everyone really think that after all that has happened, and that the true perpetrators of the atrocities of 2006 have never apologised, and that the Six Nations leadership did not come out personally and acted to defuse the "tense" situation in 2006?  Do the Six Nations feel "safe" because they see the lands in the same box as those of the Douglas Creek Estates.   Many questions remain unanswered and I simply cannot wrap my mind around how this could all be quietly permitted.  Am I wrong or is that an act of supreme hypocrisy of both Six Nations, and equally the local municipal officials?  Perhaps I have entirely misinterpreted the matter and it has a much more benign and nuanced aspect but for some reason I must be sporting blinders because I can't see it.

Update:.  I am in possession of documents handed out to individuals who attended one of the three meetings for "Six Nations Community Members", as noted in the above Turtle Island News announcement.  In the five page handout, never once is the County of Haldimand mentioned.  Specifically it outlines how the Developer purchased the land in 2003, and had commenced legal proceedings for a Court Injunction against possible work stopages - as was almost certain to occur as per the incident in 2006 across the road.  The document makes it sound as if both the Six Nations Elected Council (SNEC) and the Haudenosaunee Confederacy Chiefs Council (HCCC) were on board with this thing.  As was my suspicion, since it is almost unheard of for the two groups to consult and agree, in fact it is only SNEC that was at that point involved in the negotiations with the developer - at least that is how I read the information between the lines. 

The handout stated that, Six Nations asserted its rights pursuant to the Nanfan Treaty of 1701 [the Treaty is bogus - the Mississauga were the Aboriginal owners in 1701] and the Haldimand Treaty of 1784 [this claim is demolished by the Holmes Report of 2009].  So once again, one Six Nations group or another has "convinced" a developer that it is in his best interest to go with the plan, or face the prospect of a lot of annoying stoppages, or even some sort of conflagration.  There is a word for this in Canadian jurisprudence, and it starts with "ex" and ends in "ion".  Either you comply or .............  Did the developer have any real choice, since the OPP has shown that it will not enforce the rights of owners in Caledonia? 

So the developer has agreed to withdraw the legal suit against Six Nations that was pending, and "would be required to make financial contributions during the course of the development of the Project".  This funding is slated for a new "Private School" (see here for the specifics) which is to be built on Reserve land, thus offering job opportunities for Six Nations Members, and other benefits. 

So here a developer has agreed to pay $1,250.00 per residential unit.  This would reduce his profit margins substantially, so the obvious question is, who is going to be absorbing the "contributions"?  Something doesn't sit quite right.  I would wonder how a developer could agree to anything so outlandish, and "volunteer" to pay Six Nations (whoever ends up presenting the bill) when these stakes are so high.  A one time payment to the HDI of say $7,000 could easily be absorbed but not $125,000 for 100 units.  If all 700 get built - the costs to the developer will be staggering.  Further enquiries into this matter need to be made to determine the rest of the story - the part that is missing.  For example, it would be important to know if the developer is being "subsidised", and if so, by whom?

Clearly the implication is that parties to the agreement such as both the Six Nations Elected Council (SNEC) and the Haudenosaunee Confederacy Council (HCCC) will guarantee no interference with the project (such as happened at the Douglas Creek Estates (DCE) Project literally across the road) - but what guarantees are there?  As relayed by my contact, the difference here, according to the coordinator, is that the parties in the new project negotiated a mutually advantageous agreement, so the acknowledged title on record in the Haldimand County Record Office is considered valid by Six Nations (but recall that this was not the case at the DCE where SN would have received no "favours").  What is ironic, however, is that The individual who was at the meeting reported that the coordinator of this Project was aware that there could be opposition and resistance from some people at Six Nations and in Caledonia.  He did not say that HCCC had approved the project.

In one sense, the co-operative venture could have benefits and a net positive effect (although certainly not on traffic flow), but the chance of success would have been far greater had 2006 not happened - and the spectre of upcoming disruptive events such as road blockades was not hanging over everyones heads all the time.  There is one nagging problem though.  Six Nations in no way shape or form have any "Colour of Title" to any of the lands outside the consolidated Reserve (the final shape taking place in 1850 after the report of Lord Elgin).  So it is all really a sham. 

As to Haldimand County residents, it is probably too late to obtain the support of anyone who was adversely impacted by the most serious of the incidents.  I would not in the least be surprised if some citizens decided to use the same tactics that brought the developer of DCE to their knees.  Fair is fair.  What is good for the goose is good for the gander, or some such rationale.  Time will tell.

Update 2:  Well, my batting average has gone up dramatically of late, based on the article, Private school to reap benefits of development deal, Turtle Island News, November 13, 2013, p. 4.  Indeed, the organisers of the consultation group were disappointed in the turn out at the Community meetings - with just about a dozen members turning up in the 6 hours allotted for the event.

Secondly, as predicted, when the HDI got wind of the project, they made their oh so predictable comments.  So, HDI legal adviser Aaron Detlor called the meetings 'false consultation' and said that the Confederacy had not been consulted.  He accused Six Nations Elected Council of having made a deal, and then 'rubbing [sic] stamping it' through community costulation [sic].  Later in the article, Detlor stated that the HCCC had not been consulted, and thus, We were not aware that this was going ahead.  So, as night follows day, the HCCC takes exception to something that SNEC has done without going through what Detlor, and his HCCC and HDI employers, believe is a mandatory part of the process.  Apparently one must play by their rules, or not at all.

We get back to the obvious question, when one mega housing project is the subject of the most horrendous and vitriolic dispute Canada has ever seen; will the one next door be expected to go smooth as silk?  Apparently not.

Stay tuned.


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