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Monday, July 28, 2008

Public squabbling won't solve land claims issue

Neither will ignorance of the law!


There must be something in the water in Ward 4. How else to explain the actions in the last few days of the councillors who have been elected in that ward?

Coun. James Calnan has managed to alienate most of council by breaking ranks on the issue of how to deal with the native problem. The brilliant, but erratic, Coun. Richard Carpenter has managed to do the same thing on many issues with a mixture of sanctimony and often sheer nastiness.

The councillors' personal foibles have been displayed in the recent defection of Calnan on the issue of how to handle native protesters. Calnan announced that he no longer agreed with council's decision to seek an injunction and to pursue a strategy of increasing pressure on native protesters. He said he now felt that this approach was a recipe for violence and that a more conciliatory approach would be wiser.

In an effort to find a way forward, Calnan suggested that development should be halted on disputed lands as a way of reaching out to Six Nations. Now, Calnan is a smart, well-educated guy. He has a PhD and is very concerned about social issues. He is often too slow to recognize the practical considerations that he is paid to manage as a councillor. He usually views real-world problems as case studies for a university credit and fails to see the practical problems that his opining about social causes will generate.

First, city council has not the power to do as Calnan suggests. If a property owner wants to build on his land and he meets all of the zoning requirements, the city has no choice but to issue a permit. Failure to do so will generate a fast appeal and reversal at the Ontario Municipal Board and possibly years of litigation and costs at which the city will not prevail.

Secondly, there is an issue of credibility for the city. Council has started a course of action that is reasonable and measured. While many people in the city want faster action to solve the native land claims issue, it is better to proceed slowly, using the tools the law provides, than go off half-cocked and wind up without the support of rule of law. Having gone down this path, the city cannot now reverse course without surrendering credibility.

The federal government has primary responsibility to negotiate a settlement with the natives and the provincial government is responsible for the land registry and law enforcement.

The city has no role in this dispute other than as collateral damage.

That is just not true: The city has a responsibility to ensure that Six Nations is fully consulted before any development permits are issued. That is the law.

While the native land claims issue is very complex, the citizens of Brantford are getting tired of native protesters thumbing their noses at court injunctions and it is an open question how long the situation can continue before it erupts into violence.

How long before the Brantford Court actually rules on the permanent injunction? Why the delay? A flimsy temporary injunction without a thorough ruling on the law is no good!

The recent Court of Appeal decision above has much to say about 'injunctions' and 'consultation'. Why is the Brantford Court delaying it's decision?

We have already seen on the front page of this newspaper two police officers arresting one protester who refused to obey a lawful order given to him by a peace officer. How much longer before Brantford is mentioned in the same breath as Caledonia? These actions are breeding disrespect for rule of law and the public's willingness to allow this to happen is wearing very thin.

Brantford City Council is already in the same category as Caledonia/Haldimand Council: Arrogant, ignorant Councils that would rather fight their neighbours and fight the law rather than consult according to the law.

Calnan says he would rather negotiate than make war -- a principled stand. It is always easy to negotiate when you are prepared to give away everything the other side asks for.

In any case, the city has no business negotiating anything with the native protesters. Negotiations are a federal responsibility. To do otherwise weakens the case that the city has that they are innocent bystanders in a feud between natives and the feds.

It's weak anyway ... In fact that 'case' is nonexistent. The writer reveals the City Council's strategy to play the 'ignorance of the law' card. We all know ignorance of the law is no excuse. What's Brantford's Council's excuse for its ignorance?

It is particularly rich that Calnan's wardmate, Carpenter, was most vocal in berating his colleague. He referred to Calnan as a backstabber whom he expected to break ranks with council. Calnan's stance is, regardless of how ill-considered, one of conscience and his views are honestly held. They are certainly not views of convenience to score a political point, something that some councillors have all too often been known to do.

These comments must be especially galling to Calnan coming from Carpenter, who is often seen at council debates to speak forcefully on one side of a question and then vote entirely opposite to his stated position. This happens so frequently at council that it has been the butt of jokes by councillors and the press who marvel at Carpenter's flexible positions that would do a circus acrobat proud.

Calnan is dead wrong in his reversal of opinion on this issue. However, public squabbling about his change of heart will accomplish nothing.

It will be interesting when the final court judgment on the injunctions comes down. What's the delay, I wonder?

Council is moving along the right course of action and both Ward 4 councillors should just shut up and avoid drinking any more Ward 4 water.

Tim Philp is a political observer who lives in Brantford. E-mail him at tphilp@bfree.

Article ID# 1132263

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My Canada includes rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Two Row Wampum Treaty

Two Row Wampum Treaty
"It is said that, each nation shall stay in their own vessels, and travel the river side by side. Further, it is said, that neither nation will try to steer the vessel of the other." This is a treaty among Indigenous Nations, and with Canada. This is the true nature of our relationships with Indigenous Nations of 'Kanata'.