CALEDONIA – Aboriginal Affairs Minister David Zimmer convened a summit meeting Wednesday with Six Nations and Haldimand County leaders to find a solution to escalating tensions surrounding the former Douglas Creek Estates property.
The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the tensions that have arisen since Haldimand council passed a resolution to hire a contractor to remove a security barrier erected at Surrey Street, an entrance to the site, in response to alleged mischief incidents.
The meeting at an undisclosed time and place included Zimmer, Infrastructure Minister Brad Duguid, Haldimand Mayor Ken Hewitt and Six Nations elected Chief Ava Hill.
Details concerning the outcome of the meeting were not available Wednesday evening.
The Six Nations Confederacy was invited to send a chief to the meeting, but the day before issued a statement that it “must respectfully decline the invitation to meet with Minister Zimmer, Minister Duguid, Mayor Hewitt and the representative of the Indian Act system” (the Confederacy’s terminology for the elected council chief).
“The Haudenosaunee Confederacy Chiefs council have, through the communication protocol established with Ontario, repeatedly expressed their concerns to the province over the disruption of peace that continues to grow from the Crown’s side of the Two Row Wampum,” the statement says.
“We would remind Ontario that this issue was dealt with in 2006 when Ontario agreed to remove all third party interests with the purchase of the land in question, without prejudice to our position that the land in question is Haudenosaunee land.
“It is within the authority to Ontario to rectify any outstanding issues with regard to third-party interests that affect Haudenosaunee lands at Kanonhstaton.”
On the morning of the meeting Scott Cavan, a spokesman from Zimmer’s office, expressed disappointment that the Confederacy would not be attending it.
“The province intends to proceed with the meeting and remains hopeful the Confederacy will reconsider their decision not to attend,” Cavan said at the time. But the Confederacy did not change its mind.
Hewitt said he has glad the meeting was taking place.
“It’s been a long time coming,” he said. “Hopefully we can take some steps to get in a direction we need to go.”
The former Douglas Creek Estates property has been the site of recurring disputes since Haudenosaunee activists occupied the site of the incomplete housing subdivision in February 2006, declared the action a “reclamation” and called the site “Kanonhstaton.”
The Ontario government bought out the developer and has kept control over the property. A relative peace had prevailed through most of the ensuing years. But, more recently, the site has been the scene of mischief and acts of agitation by activists opposed to the natives.
Haldimand council decided in a closed-door meeting June 23 that it wants the barricade removed because of concerns about emergency access to the property. Hewitt said a contractor was hired to do the job and the OPP would be on hand to keep the piece while the work was done.
Hill issued a statement on behalf of the elected council asking that Haldimand reconsider its move, citing the potential to re-open controversy.
Hewitt and Hill have had some discussions since then, leading up to the meeting.