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Dufferin Receives Notice of Development Moratorium

A clip from the Dufferin County Community Development and Tourism Committee meeting held on May 27, 2021.

The County of Dufferin has received formal notice that there is a ban on development in some regions.

“It’s them that own the property, they have the right to it, and I don’t have a problem with that,” declared Amaranth’s Mayor Bob Currie at a Dufferin County committee meeting. The statement was about the Haudenosaunee’s claim on the Haldimand Tract. “But one thing I do have problem with, and that is simply the fact, how much land tax have they paid since 1784?”

At the Community Development and Tourism Committee meeting held on May 27, 2021, Dufferin County received notice of the moratorium on development along the Haldimand Tract implemented by the Haudenosaunee. Chair Janet Horner encouraged a complete discussion on the subject. Melancthon’s response was mentioned, which suggested they take a proactive approach and go before the Haudenosaunee to learn how to move forward. Amaranth’s Deputy Mayor, Chris Gerrits, explained how he had an additional conversation at the township level after initially commenting on the matter. It was acknowledged that the current process of circulating the Haudenosaunee on planning applications was considered insufficient.

“It was suggested to me at a committee meeting that is obviously not working for them. ‘What do they want to see?’, and I had no answer to that,” remarked Deputy Mayor Gerrits. “We should follow what Melancthon’s doing. It can’t hurt to ask them what they want.”

Skyler Williams, the spokesperson for 1492 Land Back Lane, told Dufferin News, “notification is not free, prior, and informed consent” when asked if the Haudenosaunee considered current planning practices acceptable. 1492 Land Back Lane, also known as the McKenzie Meadows site, is located in Caledonia and has been the scene of demonstrations since July 2020 by the Haudenosaunee and others over disputed land claims.

“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.”

Shelburne’s Deputy Mayor Steve Anderson described how after receiving news of the moratorium, he had recently learned that the Haldimand Tract includes the west side of Shelburne.

“So I think Chris is right, I guess the notices were not enough,” stated Deputy Mayor Anderson. “They’ve now reasserted their position on this, so I think the only thing that can happen is a conversation. My only question is, how is that conversation going to happen? “

Anderson questioned whether each locality should be sending a delegation to go before the Haudenosaunee, as Melancthon indicated it would do. Now that more municipalities in Dufferin were engaged, it may help to take a more coordinated approach. Chair Horner, Mayor of Mulmur, agreed.

“Certainly, because not only Shelburne, but Grand Valley,” responded Chair Janet Horner, whose municipality is shown not to lie upon the tract. “There’s all sorts of lower tiers involved in this particular situation.”

Sandy Brown, Mayor of Orangeville, suggested that the scope of the matter may require the provincial government to take the lead.

“If there are treaty rights that need to be negotiated, it’s beyond the scope of Melancthon or Orangeville to be negotiating this matter,” asserted Orangeville’s mayor. 

When asked if local governments should make efforts to meet with the Haudenosaunee, Deyohowe:to, Cayuga Snipe Chief, told Dufferin News the following.

“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.”

Brown acknowledged that even if the Haudenosaunee had been circulated on planning notices when development occurs on the land, their lack of response does not constitute consent. 

“Notification to them, what does that mean?” asked Brown, rhetorically. “I mean, they haven’t been responding to these, so they’re not approving them.” 

Gerrits recognized that it is a higher-tier government’s responsibility to resolve the issues surrounding land rights, but ‘they haven’t done anything.’ 

“We see the ongoing disputes that have happened in the Cayuga region,” stated Gerrits. “To wait until something like that happens in Dufferin is perhaps not the best solution.

Amaranth’s deputy mayor affirmed how although they may not have solutions, engaging and listening to the requests and concerns of the Haudenosaunee would be worthwhile.

Shelburne’s Deputy Mayor Anderson was on the same page as Gerrits, saying they should not sidestep the opportunity to engage with the Haudenosaunee.

“It’s interesting when we talk about diversity and inclusion – this social justice movement. What do we hear often, we hear, ‘we just want to listen’ Right?,” proclaimed Anderson. “Even in the social justice movement, we don’t have the answers, but we want to hear what the issues are.”

Given the number of municipalities on the Haldimand Tract, the idea was put forth that the Western Ontario Wardens Caucus should form a sub-committee of officials from affected counties. Anderson announced that they should accept others who join them in their effort to communicate with the Haudenosaunee. Moreover, it would show respect to the Six Nations to ask what their position is when it comes to Dufferin County. This would allow county officials to further the issue with Dufferin-Caledon MPP Sylvia Jones. 

Warden Darren White, Mayor of Melancthon, explained how the town had a relationship with the Haudenosaunee, ‘although its not terribly active at the moment.’ White said that the township received support from the Six Nations when a request was last made.

“We started what we think is a very important dialogue, so I agree that we should be open to listen and to learn,” the warden pronounced. 

Ultimately, Dufferin County’s Community Development and Tourism Committee moved to received the correspondence from the Haudenosaunee and staff were directed to request an opportunity to communicate with the Six Nations. 

On April 20, 2021, Haudenosaunee leadership announced that they would no longer consider it acceptable to develop along the entire Haldimand Tract. The tract 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. At a minimum, Dufferin County, Amaranth, and East Garafraxa have received formal notice from the Haudenosaunee of the declaration.

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