Many Brantford residents would say they saw it coming.
Last week, a small group of Six Nations land claims protesters gathered at the First Gulf property at Wayne Gretzky Parkway and Henry Street in a display of opposition to development taking place on the site. A Leon’s Furniture Store and Harvey’s restaurant, among other projects, are planned for the property.
It wasn’t the first time land claims activists have demonstrated at the First Gulf site – which they say is Six Nations land – and we’re willing to bet it won’t be the last.
The group of four protesters – which included Ruby and Floyd Montour, well known for their role in local land claims protests during recent years – identified themselves as supporters of Six Nations Confederacy government.
“These developers need to be informed by the city that this is Six Nations’ land,” Ruby Montour said. “It is still an empty field and it will stay that way until they talk to us.”
Floyd Montour said development on the First Gulf property can go ahead as long as Six Nations receives “royalties” from each one of the entities planning to build on the site. Another protester, Six Nations resident Wes Elliott, said there is an obligation on the part of the city and developers to consult with the Six Nations Confederacy about plans for the property.
The action and statements by demonstrators offer much to consider.
First and foremost, it should be made clear that four people do not speak for the entire Six Nations community. While some members of Six Nations may support the action taken at the First Gulf property, many others do not.
Most unfortunate for Brantford is the fact that four activists can bring the problems the city has faced due to land claims protests back to the forefront. After a period of relative calm, it seems some on Six Nations are once again ready to make a statement in the City of Brantford.
It’s no secret that land claims protests have led to a local development chill. Last week’s action – even though undertaken by only four people – will serve to reinforce the notion, whether true or not, that Brantford is a less-than desirable place to build and do business.
The issues of royalties from development and consultation were also raised by protesters. With both the elected band council and Confederacy government, as well as other groups, laying claim to stake in the issue of Six Nations land claims, knowing who to talk to in an effort to prevent such actions in the City of Brantford is a cloudy issue at best for municipal policymakers.
Brantford Mayor Chris Friel is right when he says the city has taken steps to extend its hand to both Six Nations elected band council and Confederacy government. In this week’s Brant News, the mayor says the city has received “positive responses” from both councils and that meetings are being organized so Six Nations and the city can “come to an understanding on how to proceed.” That statement begs the question: Why are some Six Nations residents launching protest actions when the city is working to address land claims concerns? Is their real beef not with the federal government?
The sad part in all of this is that such protest actions will likely continue until the federal government once and for all resolves the issue of Six Nations land claims. Right now, the government is saying (through Brant MP Phil McColeman) that Six Nations needs to come to the negotiating table with a “single voice.” As we recently noted on the Brant News Viewpoint page, that will likely be a long time coming.
If last week’s action and continued inaction on the land claims file are any indication, we might be in for a long, hot summer when it comes to land claims protests at development sites in Brantford. Because the only real way to stop these incidents will be movement toward the resolution of outstanding Six Nations claims.