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Haldimand Tract Moratorium: Dufferin Politicians Respond

DUFFERIN COUNTY POLITICIANS RESPOND TO MORATORIUM ON LAND DEVELOPMENT

For those who haven’t heard yet, a moratorium on new development has hit parts of Dufferin. The question is, will the concerned municipalities respect it?

On April 20, 2021, the Haudenosaunee Confederacy Chiefs Council (HCCC) announced that construction along the Haldimand Tract would not be permitted to proceed without their consent. The HCCC is the traditional government of the Six Nations. Federally recognized, elected chief Mark Hill later supported the prohibition, saying it would not be responsible to proceed with building on disputed land while there were unresolved claims in the court system.

“We reiterate and acknowledge their call for the moratorium,” remarked Hill. “We also need to keep in mind that we have a major land claims case coming before the courts in 2022 and it would not be responsible to allow continued development in an uncertain legal environment.”

The Haudenosaunee’s ban on development followed a $222-million claim by Foxgate Developments against Canada, Ontario, the Ontario Provincial Police, the Ontario Federation of Labour, and thirty individuals. OPP Commissioner Thomas Carrique is among those listed as a defendant in Foxgate’s court filings. Negligence and failure to act in a reasonable manner were just some of the accusations made in the court filing.

“The result is that the Losani Homes’ family and companies have now been branded by the general public as having stolen the land from Indigenous persons,” pronounces the legal document. “The reputational damage of that perception is permanent and catastrophic to the family name.”

The Haldimand Tract consists of 10km of land on both sides of the Grand River, from Dundalk to Lake Erie. The land was granted to the Haudenosaunee for their allegiance with the British during the American Revolution. Since then, there have been disputes over the exact meaning of those land rights and subsequent transactions involving sections of the tract. According to Museum of Dufferin records, the Dufferin County municipalities with at least some land lying upon the Haldimand Tract are Grand Valley, Shelburne, Melancthon, Amaranth, and East Garafraxa. Development is a significant focus of many of these communities, partly due to Ontario’s Places to Grow Act.

Map of the Haldimand Tract

“Protecting our ways of being for our children and grandchildren is a sacred responsibility that every Haudenosaunee person must uphold.” declared Deyohowe:to, Snipe Clan Chief of the Cayuga Nation, when announcing the moratorium on April 20, “No one, not Canada, Ontario, and certainly no municipality has any right to interfere in our right to protect the lands and waters that belong to our children.”

Dufferin News received several responses to its requests for comment on the matter from the local political officials involved.

“Six Nations of the Grand River commenced litigation against Canada and Ontario about the Haldimand Tract lands. It is anticipated that the trial of this action will begin in the fall, 2022,” said Stephen Warner, press secretary for Dufferin-Caledon’s Member of Provincial Parliament and Solicitor-General Sylvia Jones. “There are several recent legal actions regarding the situation with the McKenzie Meadows site. Given the legal actions that are before the courts, it would be inappropriate for Ontario to comment further.”

The McKenzie Meadows site that Warner referred to is the lands described in the legal petition filed by Foxgate Developments. The construction project is located in Caledonia, and since July 2020, has been the scene of protests by the Haudenosaunee and others over disputed land claims. Demonstrators have designated the site 1492 Land Back Lane. APTN News reported that the OPP spent more than $16 million policing the McKenzie Meadows during the first six months of protesting.

“1492 Land Back Lane is just one small part of our territory. Our rights were chipped away at over decades and slowly eroded.” said Skyler Williams, Spokesperson for 1492 Land Back Lane. “I think what we’ve shown is how committed we are as a people to take every action necessary to protect our lands and waters.”

As of this reporting, Member of Parliament Kyle Seeback had yet to respond to our request for comment. Some municipal leaders were willing to make remarks for publication.

“The short answer is I don’t know enough about the subject matter to comment on it with any degree of confidence. I hope to change that in the future,” Grand Valley’s Deputy Mayor Philip Rentsch told Dufferin News in an e-mail.

Rentsch continued to say that he would be approaching the Museum of Dufferin for more details surrounding the Haldimand Tract, in addition to consulting the town’s planner on the matter.

“It will be fun putting my Historian hat on again. Throughout this process I will do my best to set my biases to the side and examine this issue from the perspective of the Haudenosaunee.”

At Grand Valley’s April 26 meeting, council discussed the Haldimand Tract development ban and the town’s process for notifying the Haudenosaunee of new builds.

“We send a notice to the Six Nations of the Grand River territory via mail on every application that I have to give notice on,” said Grand Valley’s Planner Mark Kluge. “Unfortunately, we have the wrong spelling of the town, but everything else was correct. So nothing has ever come back to us through Canada Post. I’m going to correct that.”

In addition to the correction, Kluge said he would send all of the notifications to the Haudenosaunee Development Institute and return to Grand Valley’s council with any updates. The town planner informed council that all Grand Valley’s political boundaries are entirely contained within the Haldimand Tract.

Chris Gerrits, Deputy Mayor of Amaranth, made a similar inquiry to his Township’s planner at the council meeting held on April 21. Amaranth’s Planner James Johnstone confirmed that they too circulated all planning applications to the Haudenosaunee when it comes to land in the Haldimand Tract. 

“From the Township’s perspective, until we’re told otherwise by the province or the federal government, it is business as usual,” said Gerrits to Dufferin News following the council meeting.

Deputy Mayor Gerrits asserted that Amaranth would keep informing the Haudenosaunee of new builds, and the Township would change its practices according to what upper tiers decide when it comes to the Planning Act. He affirmed that the Township is open to the input of the Haudenosaunee yet acknowledged that these are long-standing issues that go back generations.

“It’s a bigger issue than something Amaranth’s going to solve,” confessed Gerrits. 

East Garafraxa’s Deputy Mayor John Stirk also spoke to Dufferin News, saying he had discussed the matter with Mayor Guy Gardhouse. 

“We recognize that the land claims and the issues to do with these treaties are complex and they’re ongoing for a long time, and obviously for the Indigenous community that brings a lot of frustration and we’ve never found resolution to them,” said Stirk. He went onto say that the Township would be waiting to see what updates come out “with interest” and how the higher-tier governments would respond.

When asked by reporters what would be needed to end the moratorium or what would be needed to constitute consent, the answers provided by Haudenosaunee leadership have been unclear beyond wanting to speak with provincial and federal governments. Indications have been made that there is the opportunity for new developments, but discussions with the Haudenosaunee would need to occur.

Dufferin News will provide more updates on the matter as they come through. It is expected that further information on the development ban instituted by the Haudenosaunee will be forthcoming.

References – Haldimand Tract Moratorium: Dufferin Politicians Respond

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