Building a better relationship with Indigenous Nations has been an important priority of the current council. We’ve taken several steps to do that.
Some of the work involves building better day-to-day connection between councils and between senior staff. We’re looking for nuts-and-bolts projects and programs where we can advance mutual interests. We hope that as we improve the working relationship, we can also improve the consultation process and promote reconciliation.
There is also the big question that hangs over all of us: land claims. What can we at the City of Brantford do as an ally of Six Nations to help them resolve their claims?
There are several things we’ve done to build ties. The city contributed $250,000 to the restoration of the former Mohawk Institute Indian Residential School so it can be turned into a museum. Now that there is an investigation of possible child burials in the area near the school, we have turned over all our relevant records. We’ve urged the federal and provincial governments to do the same.
We’ve done a lot to build the working relationship between our staff and Six Nations administrative staff. We’ve gotten them together for recreational events such as canoeing down the Grand. Developing one-to-one relationships is a great way to build trust.
In August, Elected Chief Mark Hill and I joined together to lobby provincial government ministries at the annual conference of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario. We talked about the land claims process and the consultation process. The provincial government has the legal responsibility for consultation but often delegates it to municipalities without enough guidance or support.
We’re looking at projects we can do together with Six Nations. One is developing plans for the Mohawk Lake area. The canal goes through Six Nations land and the lake is next to the Glebe property. There’s an opportunity to work together to clean up the area and make better use of it for both communities.
Six Nations has other properties in Brantford so we’re talking to them about how we can support their ideas for use of those lands.
We’re also lobbying the federal government to finance a transit link between Six Nations and Brantford.
This year we hired an Indigenous Affairs Officer. He has several roles. One is to advise the city on how the city administration can be a welcoming place for Indigenous employees and how we can make it a desirable place to work for Indigenous people.
It is also his job to assist in developing cross-cultural projects and provide advice on Indigenous issues, consultation and accommodation.
In 2019 we had plans to hold joint city-county-Six Nations council meetings, but Covid got in the way. It’s something I definitely want to revive if I’m re-elected.
Of course, one of the biggest issues we face is the unsettled Six Nations land claims. The elected council filed a lawsuit in 1995 to be compensated for questionable surrenders or loss of revenue over a 200-year period. It may come to trial in 2023 but it will take many years to work through the trial and appeals processes.
It’s an unresolved source of tension between Indigenous people and the other residents of the Haldimand Tract lands.
Our council has been advocating on behalf of Six Nations, urging the federal and provincial governments to get this resolved as soon as possible
We passed a resolution in July urging them to get moving. It also included an idea to help resolve the lawsuit. We suggested that part of the Ontario land transfer tax, which applies on land sales, go to Six Nations.
It was our way of saying to the province: please engage. We’re willing to be a partner in this. Let’s develop a strategy to resolve it, instead of this do-nothing approach we’ve had for decades.