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Haldimand Tract Moratorium: Current Practices Insufficient

Haldimand Tract Moratorium: Notification is not free, prior, and informed consent."

“It’s their process. It’s their ground rules that they want to set,” iterated Melancthon’s Mayor Darren White at the May 6, 2021, Melancthon Council meeting.

After the Haldimand Tract Moratorium on new land development was announced by the Haudenosaunee, the old way of doing things may no longer be considered sufficient. That being said, at minimum, one of Dufferin’s municipalities seems to understand that significant change may be required and wants to get on top of it.

“Notification is not free, prior, and informed consent,” declared Skyler Williams, spokesperson for 1492 Land Back Lane, to Dufferin News through an e-mail. 1492 Land Back Lane, also known as the McKenzie Meadows site, is located in Caledonia and has been the scene of protests since July 2020 by the Haudenosaunee and others over disputed land claims.

Recently, on April 20, 2021, Haudenosaunee leadership announced that they would no longer consider it acceptable to develop land along the entire Haldimand Tract, which consists of 10km of land on both sides of the Grand River, from Dundalk to Lake Erie. 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.

Map of the Haldimand Tract
Haldimand Tract

“A lack of response to a notice is nowhere near the standard of relationship that’s expected in the treaty relationships we have with one another,” asserts Williams. “It’s not the standard of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and it’s not a standard that will see our kids and grandkids safe in our homelands.”

Dufferin News recently reached out to the county’s politicians, including leaders of the concerned municipalities, regarding the Haldimand Tract moratorium. Of those who responded, it was generally indicated that higher-tier governments should take the lead, although sympathy for the Haudenosaunee was communicated. Several of those who got back to Dufferin News also said they would continue to listen for any feedback on the planning applications regularly circulated to the Haudenosaunee when development is introduced on the subject lands.

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

Even if local councils sought to follow through with the moratorium, it would be complicated by legislation implemented by higher-tier governments, such as the county and, more importantly, the province.

“We understand there are many factors in Ontario and municipal law that disregard our pre-existing right to these lands,” said Deyohowe:to, Cayuga Snipe Chief, in the same e-mail from 1492 Land Back Lane.

Through the province’s Growth Plan, Dufferin County is mandated to hit growth targets. Grand Valley and Shelburne, along with Orangeville, are the areas where most related development is expected to occur in Dufferin. Smaller locations throughout the county, several of which are along the Haldimand Tract, are also expected to experience significant growth.

“The Planning Act, Places to Grow Act, and municipal plans all set up a system of land development that creates conflict between our people,” explained Skyler Williams to Dufferin News.

Despite the complexities of the issue, some local leaders in Dufferin have gotten the message loud and clear.

“What they’re talking about now is a moratorium on development. Period,” said Melancthon’s Mayor Darren White. “So I don’t think simply sending an application to them is going to cut the cheese any longer.”

Melancthon’s mayor suggested that the township take a proactive approach.

“My thought would be we reach out to the Six Nations Traditional Government to discuss what are the next steps and how we move forward,” counselled White. “I know, in the past, we have established a relationship with them, particularly around the mega quarry issue back in the day.”

Council agreed that they needed to make contact. Recently-appointed Councillor James McLean proposed that staff reach out to the Region of Waterloo, which initiated a Reconciliation Action Plan last August. This Reconciliation Action Plan is meant to ‘include recommended actions to address distinct needs arising from historic harm.’ McLean specified that Waterloo’s report is expected to be released by the end of the year.

It was asked whether they should request the Haudenosaunee to attend a future council meeting.

“I think asking them to come before us is the wrong approach,” contended Mayor White. “I think going to appear before them is the right approach and, quite frankly, to ask for their guidance moving forward on what we need to do to be using the resource appropriately and dealing with any number of issues in the context of reconciliation and moving forward.”

Discussion ensued between Melancthon’s councilmembers, but all agreed that they needed to act on this news.

“I think we need to take next steps to determine how we move forward in tandem. In any case, reaching out to them wouldn’t hurt. In fact, I would think it would do the opposite. It would show a willingness for us to to learn and engage and be a partner,” insisted Mayor White.

Councillor Margaret Mercer replied that there could be benefits, but it could be “in a total conflict with the way that things are done now, especially by this provincial government.” The councillor maintained that this undertaking should not be ‘taken lightly’ and that council needed to take an informed approach that recognizes where all sides are coming from.

“I think that it’s been totally disrespected,” said Councillor Mercer when it comes to the Haldimand Land Treaty.

Mayor White, who is also Warden of Dufferin County, agreed that doing more than ‘lip service’ would require significant efforts. Moreover, White briefly mentioned that there would be a report going to Dufferin County Council next week from the CAO regarding how the county deals with diversity, equity, and inclusion. White stated that it includes ‘a very broad swath’ of matters and would include concerns such as indigenous rights, with indigenous land use policy being an aspect of that. Dufferin County Council’s next meeting is on Thursday, May 13.

Melancthon’s council was united in wanting to be proactive in making contact with the Haudenosaunee.

“Municipalities should reach out to us. We want to build strong, respectful relationships and municipalities working in good faith will find we are ready to work together for the good of the generations to come,” Deyohowe:to stated to Dufferin News.

References – Haldimand Tract Moratorium: Current Practices Insufficient

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