Despite the letter to the editor today making some valid points, I thought the city’s response — such as it was — was quite measured to the land-claims protesters who showed up at one of the site accesses to First Gulf Corp.’s site on the southeast corner of Henry Street and the Wayne Gretzky Parkway.
I say this without speaking to the bigger issue— the Ontario Municipal Board settlement agreement between First Gulf and Wesley Elliott that spoke to consultation which hasn’t, we were told, yet occurred. That’s a matter, mostly, for First Gulf and the Haudenosaunee to work out between themselves.
Mayor Chris Friel sure sounded bothered by the presence of the protesters, who stopped some work at the site Friday but as far as I’ve heard haven’t returned. However, he was clear to state the protest would not stall, idle or otherwise derail the intent of the city to enter into discussions.
The city has been meeting with the Six Nations Elected Council through a tri-council shared-services committee, in addition to setting up one-on-one meetings between appointed members of each council. The city is also moving to meet with members of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy. What I’ve seen of the city’s end of these initiatives has to-date shown a patient approach— one that is willing to acknowledge the frustrations of the land-claims process while seeking to come to some understanding that allows land development in this region to proceed.
It’s one that will acknowledge what the city cannot change, but can possible help advocate for with other levels of government. One that recognizes that development — particularly on so-called employment lands — in the city, Brant County and/or Six Nations Territory benefits everyone in the region positively.
Why call it a measured response?
With a court injunction preventing the stoppage of work on development sites on the books, the leadership of the Brantford Police Service (which cannot take orders from city council) could have moved in and made arrests. It chose to monitor and observe. Given the scope of Friday’s protest, this can be seen as the appropriate response. The trio was gone by 2 p.m. and as I drove past the site at 2 p.m. today, work was carrying on.
This may be the site that tests the resolve of recent goodwill at the political and community leader level. For the benefit of all, it could set a positive precedent that would help get this region out of the development funk it’s been in of late.