Friday, 4 April 2014

8th Anniversary of the Douglas Creek Estates "Reclamation": What Has Changed?

On 28 February 2006, a small group of Six Nations activists occupied the Douglas Creek Estates (DCE) housing development at the southern entrance to Caledonia, Ontario.  I don't think that they, or anyone else at the time, could have foreseen how this seemingly insignificant protest by what was largely a small group of Six Nations women, could have escalated into an act of infamy, destroying forever the harmonious relationship between members of the Six Nations Community, and members of the surrounding Communities off the Reserve - particularly Caledonia.

Certainly, the main impetus for the events of 2006 and beyond was a claim to lands along the Plank Road.  This is what lit the fuse.  None the less, the Federal Government maintains, as it has consistently done, that there is no valid claim.  The Provincial Government is caught in the middle.  The OPP tactics are still the same, "peacekeeper" thanks to the "Ipperwash Inquiry" - to "serve and protect" went out the window in Haldimand with the "rule of law" and has yet to return to pre 2006 days.  Stuck in a rut.  Spinning wheels.  Passing the buck.  Local Haldimand County officials are powerless.  Local residents angry and afraid and wondering whether it is possible to return to normal; and even what normal is.  Driving by the site of DCE, the same mess is there as seen in 2006.  A hideous southern entrance to Caledonia.  It would appear then that nothing has changed.  At one level that is true, but upon closer inspection we see quite a few changes that are noteworthy.

I will present only a short summary of events, since there is ample data reported within the 90 postings to this blog.  However, if one wished to get a sense of what transpired between 2006 and 2010, probably the best single source of information is Christie Blatchford's book, Helpless: Caledonia's Nightmare of Fear and Anarchy, and How the Law Failed All of Us, Doubleday Canada, Toronto, 2010.  In her book Blatchford focuses on the sufferings on those residing closest to the DCE, and how the rule of law disappeared, leaving them to cope in a situation where a 911 call would bring no response (safety, medical, fire). 

There are those who see Blatchford's book as "racist", and who have even prevented her from speaking at University campuses (the supposed bastion of free speech), and who are clearly afraid of, or ignorant of, the truth.  In the days since 28 February 2006, Six Nations and their supporters, the latter largely drawn from the Sociology, Political Science, and History Departments of local Universities, as well as union supporters (Canadian Union of Public Employees and others), as well as radical groups of every stripe such as the pro - Palestinian (and vehemently anti - Semitic) groups, have done everything in their power to silence "the opposition".  Anyone who challenges the perspective of Six Nations is labelled a "racist" or similar epithet.  A book which reflects the views of these leftist groups is by Laura DeVries, Conflict in Caledonia: Aboriginal Land Rights and the Rule of Law, UBC Press, Vancouver, 2011.  Instead of interviewing the local residents who suffered by virtue of the criminal behavior on the part of Six Nations radicals, she interviewed the radicals themselves, apparently perceiving that they were long aggrieved victims merely defending "rights" which had been ignored by the Federal Government.  The events were then woven into various theories (actually dogma) used by academics to radicalize students and indoctrinate them into politically correct leftist ideology. 

A more "user friendly" effort, with ample pictures, and presenting the Six Nations viewpoint is Lynda Powless, Douglas Creek Reclamation: A Pictorial History, Turtle Island News, Ohsweken, 2006.  It provides what some might say constitutes a very radical take on the land rights controversy - heavily laden with "rights" and nothing about "responsibility".  So, comparing the first work with the latter two, we see the operation of very different perspectives.  

What has occurred between 28 February 2006 and 28 February 2014 is part of the historical record, but the question here is, in 8 years what has changed, what has been resolved, what is still outstanding?  The discussion can be divided into two parts:  Effect on Haldimand County, and effect on Six Nations. 

Haldimand County - Living Under a Cloud of Uncertainty:  In the Sachem issue of 20 March 2014, is found an article entitled, Douglas Creek Estates: The economic impact eight years later (p.4).  The reporter, Jennifer Vo, subtitles the article, While some see reason for optimism, others see only uncertainty eight years after Caledonia land claim protest.  The article focuses on the climate for economic development.  While Major Ken Hewitt talks about being, "positioned well for the future", he also notes that there are "challenges".  It is expected that the Mayor is going to try to put a positive spin on things, that is his role.  It is, however, difficult to dismiss the reality of people who have been unable to sell their property due to the fear that the land title is not secure.  The owner of the "Grand Island Bar B-Q" falls into this category since his property is under direct threat of action by Six Nations since they registered a claim (effectively a lien) against his property in Dunnville in 1995.  To this date, the matter is unresolved leaving the owner in the lurch. 

More common are the owners of property that has yet to be developed.  There is always the veiled threat of "action" should they build anything on their property.  As an extreme example, Gene Ruzsa abandoned a 56 acre proposed residential property development in 2006 as the implications of the events in Caledonia became clear.  As a consultant he now advises his customers to look elsewhere for investment opportunities, "because the land claims are not settled".  He realizes that developers could seek "anticipatory injunctions" against work stoppages by Six Nations, but that the way things work today, some sort of "agreement" with them is needed before any guarantee of "smooth sailing" can be expected.  Uncertainty is a definite buzz killer for anyone contemplating relocating to Haldimand, and developers worry that Ontario will not stand behind its Land Registry title system.  As Haldimand-Norfolk MPP Toby Barrett has said, "Unfortunately, people in the housing business have lost confidence that their buying and selling of land has the full support of government when there's native activists involved".  There are no such issue in for example Oakville or Welland.  Their fears are justified in that Lonny Bomberry, the Six Nations Lands and Resources legal advisor has said, "Our mandate is to be accommodated - whatever that accommodation turns out to be".  Hence, uncertainty.  Whether the Lands and Resources people have a leg to stand on (they don't) is of no consequence, they know that they can halt development by sending in a few vans full of "activists" and the message is received, something like, "play the game by our rules and the problems will vanish, your choice".  The law is irrelevant here if it is not applied via injunctions and fines levied against the illegal protesters.

Mayor Ken Hewitt is very clear in his expectation that the Crown (Federal Government) needs to take responsibility for "accommodation" or whatever is needed to get legal issues settled.  He said, "As a county, [accommodation] is not something that we support".  Furthermore, "I don't believe that development or communities or infrastructure should be held at ransom to achieve those goals".

Mayor Hewitt is entirely correct.  It is the Federal Government whose responsibility it is to state emphatically that there is no validity to any of these land claims.  Their researchers know the specific dates when each township or part of same was ceded (all before 1848) and could provide the references to the Council Minutes where the relevant land was discussed and agreement reached (in the 1840s).  So to this very day, although the land was alienated, sold, surrendered, ceded or however you want to express it, the perception is that it is still "contested".  If there is one outstanding matter related to these parcels of land, it is how the monies derived from their sale were dispersed - which would involve a study of the Six Nations Trust Fund - a prodigious task that may have already been completed by the Federal Government - it would be helpful to know one way or the other.

8 years later the residents of Haldimand have no reason to trust that the Ontario Provincial Police will come to their assistance - it is more likely now in 2014, but not assured.  There is a very evident two tiered policing system with a double standard with one set of rules for natives and another for locals.  If your are a local, and you are at a rally over say illegal smoke huts or the right to carry a Canadian flag in front of the DCE property you will be hauled away in a paddy wagon.  Meanwhile no native is ever arrested at a rally, and there are Confederacy and Mohawk Warrior flags everywhere in the vicinity of DCE.  No, it is not fair.  Something about the rule of law, one law for all - that goes out the door in Haldimand and that has not changed.  If anyone doubts that this double standard exists, please read the book by Gary McHale, Victory in the No-Go Zone: Winning the Fight Against Two-Tier Policing, Toronto, Freedom Press, 2013.

Six Nations - Empowerment Due to a Series of Enablers:  Right now there is an up side and a down side (Haldimand County, entirely down side) to the circumstances in which they now find themselves 8 years after they decided to "reclaim" DCE.

First, the down side.  Since 2006 a festering problem at Six Nations has become much much worse.  While in the early days of the Six Nations tenure on the Grand River there were swirling cross currents of factionalism (e.g., Upper vs. Lower Mohawk; Christians vs. Longhouse), after 1924 the primary factions were the Elected and the Hereditary Councils.  While in 1924 the Elected Council was recognized by the Federal Government as the legitimate governing unit, the Hereditary Council still held considerable power with the ability to influence circumstances at Six Nations.  The intransigence of the two, never being able to see eye to eye and always disagreeing on just about any matter, now pales in comparison with the number of "new groups" that have emerged since 2006, each claiming to represent this or that segment of the population (or the whole population).  So now we have the Six Nations Elected Council (SNEC), the Hereditary Confederacy Chiefs Council (HCCC), the Mohawks of the Grand River (formerly the Mohawk Workers, or Kanata Mohawks), the Haudenosaunee Development Institute (HDI), Men's Fire, Women's Fire and so on. 

2006 showed Six Nations that they could push the envelope, which they did at every opportunity, and frequently no one would say no.  During the negotiations with the Ontario Government subsequent to the "reclamation", former Premier David Peterson hammered out a deal where Six Nations would get 250 acres, the former Burtch Correctional Centre, on lands that were "contested" (Burch Tract, ceded in 1848).  The only stipulation was that the Caledonia barricades be removed, the burned out big rig trailer removed and the site made to look less like a war zone.  Well, 8 years later the barricades are still in place, and last I heard the Government was cleaning up the Burtch site of contaminants before giving it to Six Nations.  Actually a problem surfaced here.  The Government did not know who to hand over the land to since the then "Mohawk Workers" claimed it was Mohawk land and that they had the rights to the property.  A swirling ball of confusion.  The various levels of governments have maintained that due to the infighting / factionalism at Six Nations they did not know who to negotiate with.  On paper it was SNEC, but HCCC was asserting their rights.  For a while, the former backed away but legally the government could not turn over assets to a body that was not legally recognized.

In the meanwhile, emerging out of the HCCC was the HDI with the Interim Director perhaps the most radical of the radicals, and the legal advisor someone claiming to be Mohawk, but who is unknown to most in the Community.  Anyway, they went about strong arming developers into paying an application fee to ensure there would be no work stoppages (yes that is what the Mafia does), and collected monies that have disappeared into a fund or who knows what.  They even claim the right to send monitors to every archaeological site within the (fraudulent) Nanfan Treaty area (basically all of Southwestern Ontario), in addition to the "official" monitors from SNEC who were trained by the archaeological regulatory body in Ontario.  More money please.  Also any development in this area such as an expansion of Hydro One's transmission lines, or the establishment of wind turbines, all require HDI approval (they demand to be consulted - as their right).  Recently they have been hampered by Court injunctions and fines imposed due to illegal work stoppages in Brantford, Cayuga and Hagersville.  The recent fines have been so stiff, and the individual protesters are responsible for paying, that HDI may be faltering on this score. 

It appears that post 2006 no one was going to ask the "hard questions", such as the validity of the Nanfan Treaty or the claim of ownership of unceded land up and down the Haldimand Tract.  Thus every time, for example, a power company was about to begin work (e.g., at Port Ryerse well outside the Haldimand Tract) on setting up wind turbines, Six Nations would demand to be "consulted", sending in vans of goons if necessary, and typically the companies yielded to Six Nations rationalizing that the payouts were just the cost of doing business.  As to lands within the old Haldimand Tract boundaries, Six Nations had the gall to claim that Provincially owned land (originally expropriated from the farmers in whose family the land had been for generations), and that around the old Royal Canadian Air Force base in Dunnville, was all unceded land.  It was ceded in the 1840s but once again, it was probably perceived that "making a fuss" by taking the matter to Court would only result in bad publicity and Court costs so everyone (Provincial Government and developer such as Samsung) just ponied up and now one sees clusters of huge earth movers and a constant stream of gravel trucks behind the old hanger at the former RCAF base.  No mystery as to what will rise toward the sky in a few months.

Since 2006 Six Nations members have learned that they can often claim land owned by third party legal owners, they can make the lives of the owners or residents entirely miserable by harassing them with ATVs sans mufflers, using high powered spotlights, requiring Canadian citizens to show Six Nations passports to access their own lands, issue arbitrary curfews to locals, and the Ontario Provincial Police are brought to a standstill due to policies arising out of the "Ipperwash Inquiry".  Any attempt by local residents to gather and defend themselves or their neighbours will bring forth a thin blue line of OPP officers who will face the local residents.  So in the crazy world of this area post 2006, the OPP are there to protect the Six Nations and their Communist and other supporters - actually facing the locals - meaning that they are the designated potential perpetrators.  Thus the OPP act as enablers, allowing activists to basically do what they want, and like little children, keep pushing, testing the limits - there are no limits outside of serious assault (e.g., Sam Gualtieri who was left permanently brain damaged by protesters who broke into his daughter's home and beat him unconscious).  Six Nations have learned that they can laugh at the residents, taunt them, disrespect and disobey police officers, and even shout profanities in Court (as in Cayuga) where normally talk above a whisper results in ejection by the bailiff.  Six Nations at the trial of a protester, different standard, no response from the Court.

Since 2006 some Six Nations have used the opportunity (since there will be no consequences) to set up illegal smoke huts (selling contraband cigarettes), and unregulated food establishments (no permits, no inspections) on private property (e.g., Hydro One land).  The flaunting of the law goes on because it is not challenged.  Any challenges tend to be limp wristed and without teeth (e.g., the ability to shut down an illegal "restaurant").

So now around here Six Nations are in the driver's seat - although Bill C-10 which will crack down on contraband tobacco will have a serious adverse impact on Six Nations, and despite all the bluster, there is nothing they can do about it.

The irony is that prior to 2006 Six Nations had a lot of support in relation to land claims, if not locally, at least among those far enough away not to be able to see that they are not victims.  Now support is dwindling, and the Federal Government has now come out with direct statements that there is no valid claim over land, it was all ceded in the 1840s.  Also they nor their Provincial counterparts will have nothing to do with expropriating land owned by a private third party.  The only thing left is the claims over "costs" - money, that may have been misappropriated from the Six Nations Trust Fund 170 or so years ago.  Since 2006 the Federal Government attempted to settled a claim about flooding of Six Nations land in the 1830s by the Dunnville Dam and Welland Feeder Canal.  Some seem to forget that by the mid 1840s none of this land belonged to Six Nations.  At any rate, the Federal Government offered to settle this for about $125 million dollars!  Incredibly the offer was rejected by the legal council for the HDI with the counter demand for one billion dollars!  Recall that the legally recognized body at Six Nations, SNEC, had turned over land negotiations to HCCC, whose activist arm the HDI took it upon themselves to speak for all Six Nations.

It appears that this was the time for a missed opportunity for Six Nations.  Due to the circumstances they had a great deal of leverage to obtain redress for matters that stand on a shaky leg, but they could have used the desire of all levels of government to show that they were acting in good faith and "cashed in" - the best example being the "Feeder Canal" claim.  Now that door has been effectively closed, and millions if not billions of dollars are likely now out of reach.  Considering the mega dollars in costs to the Canadian taxpayer resulting from events of 2006 to 2014 (Caledonia was known as "Cashedonia" to the OPP officers who were paid big overtime dollars), it is truly amazing that citizens are not going to question the disbursement of these funds.

Another area where Six Nations had an opening to work with local developers to obtain funding for projects that will be difficult to make fly otherwise - lost.  An example, the McKenzie Meadows Development across the road from DCE.  Here last year representatives from SNEC had quietly worked with the developer and hammered out a deal which would see money from each unit constructed on the site go towards a language immersion school.  The school would have addressed the wishes of the most "conservative" element at Six Nations (HCCC) for more language (Mohawk and Cayuga) and culture instruction in the curriculum.  The group heading this initiative had three open meetings for Community members to provide feedback, and despite the dismal turnout at each of these well advertised events, HCCC supporters (who would ironically have been most likely to benefit from this endeavor) ensured that the deal was cancelled.  It all seems so self - destructive.

Hopefully if there is a concept of justice which does apply in Haldimand, the true costs to taxpayers arising from events of 2006 to 2014, and the payouts from developers for unwarranted costs arising out of assertion of fraudulent Nanfan Treaty rights, and from lands that were ceded in the 1840s, will be tallied up.  Then when the matter of potential Six Nations Trust Fund irregularities dating back to the 1830s (Grand River Navigation Company claim) are assessed, that the taxpayer costs are deducted from any monies owed.  One wonders whether it would be wisest to simply dispense with all claims to this or that dating back 170 years.  It is highly likely that when all is tallied that Six Nations owes many millions of dollars back to the Canadian taxpayer - with interest.  It is the old can of worms problem, and the solution is sometimes to "let sleeping dogs lie".  Does one really want to "awaken the sleeping giant" and in the process be in debt up to the collective eyeballs.

Some Afterthoughts:  The date of 20 April 2006 is another which will go down in history - actually it was even more significant.  It is the date of the failed OPP attempt to oust the protesters (who had been causing a great deal of harm especially to those who lived in the south end of Caledonia), and the "operation" was an abject failure.  If only, if only ..................... if only a local person was there and would remind them that nothing will work this close to the Rez unless Stirling Street and the 6th line are blocked so reinforcements would be unable to arrive.  The sheer mass of protesters doomed the OPP action.  It is interesting that the above Lynda Powless said that this was, "the day that the peace died".  That is true, but there is so much more.  All that can be read in the "Reclamation" book is accolades of pride in what Six Nations accomplished.  Indeed, even old foes came together, overcoming the bane of political life at Six Nations - factionalism.  Unity, at least for one day.  But at what cost?

I think it worth noting that despite the wanton destruction of property, and the physical and psychological abuse doled out to the residents of Haldimand, not one voice has been heard uttering the words "sorry" or "regret".  Considering the magnitude of the circumstances and their effect on Haldimand, this is indeed a very telling observation.  The citizens of Haldimand are victims, Six Nations do not necessarily deny this, with the anger more properly directed toward the Ontario Provincial Police (who initiated the botched raid), the Provincial or Federal Governments - but it is friends, neighbours, relatives who have borne the brunt of the conflagration.  No one in authority at Six Nations has the decency or common courtesy to acknowledge that those most directly impacted were those who deserved nothing like what was dished out to them.  Local residents were targeted not just by thugs, and outside agitators but by supposedly responsible prominent members of the Six Nations Community - there are scars that will never go away - I cannot for a minute believe that if the tables were reversed that the residents of Haldimand would have behaved in such a callous manner.  Why, under these circumstances should there be forgiveness.  There is no apparent remorse.  You don't forgive someone who doesn't acknowledge that they did anything wrong. 


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