TORONTO — A $26-million federal offer to compensate Six Nations communities for the flooding of their lands to build the Welland Canal almost two centuries ago is woefully inadequate, the aboriginals said Monday.
In rejecting the offer, the Haudenosaunee Six Nations said Ottawa had provided no rationale for its financial proposal given that independent evaluators had pegged the loss of use of the land at between $500 million and $1.1 billion.
"I'm disappointed with the hard stance that the federal government is taking," Chief Allen MacNaughton said in an interview.
"Their attitude is 'take it or leave it.' That's not negotiating."
In 1829 and 1830, Six Nations lands were flooded when a dam was built across the Grand River in southern Ontario as part of constructing the Welland Canal bypass around the Niagara Falls.
The land around Dunnville, Ont., was worth about $15,000 under an agreement reached in the 1830s, but the money was never paid, and the issue has now become how that translates into current values.
The $26-million offer made in December simply "doesn't reflect what's owed," MacNaughton said.
MacNaughton said Six Nations are prepared to keep negotiating but want $500 million in financial compensation for the historic loss of use of the area.
He said Ottawa must accept that it cannot seize land illegally then unilaterally decide on what is fair compensation.
"We've never surrendered that land and they're assuming they had the authority to just flood it, and we're saying, 'No you didn't'."
This issue is part of a broader land claim dispute involving the Six Nations.
One area of dispute involves a housing development in Caledonia, Ont., which has at times been a violent flashpoint between aboriginals who occupied the site more than two years ago, police and other residents of the town.
Ottawa maintains the aboriginals sold that tract, but the First Nations argue the federal government has never provided any proof of sale.
Aboriginal negotiators held 14 community sessions to discuss the flooding-compensation offer and MacNaughton said the "clear priority" that emerged was to have development on their traditional territory stopped and land returned to them.
Six Nations want to be able to choose which land they receive and Ottawa should buy it and then give it back, he said.
The federal government has said it understands the land issue is of "critical importance" to Six Nations.
However, it also said it would not expropriate private property to settle the land claims, so any acquisitions for return to the aboriginal communities would have to come from willing sellers.
(NOTE: Only 12% of Ontario is privately 'owned'. 88% is still held in 'trust' for Indigenous Peoples, as 'Crown Land', by Crown Treaties.
Calls to the federal government seeking comment were not immediately returned Monday.
MacNaughton said he remained optimistic of finding common ground in talks with both Ottawa and Ontario over the "complex" situation.
"I believe we're at the point where real negotiations can start," he said.......................
This first piece of land, now flooded, has huge significance as a precedent for many/all other Six Nations 'land claims' against Canada.
The missing element is the government's 'formula' for determining the 'amount', in both replacement of land and compensation for loss of use.The government is making it as difficult as possible, to try to avoid committing to a formula for resolving land claims. They prefer hard-nosed bargaining and dragging it on forever, with us taxpayers paying their salaries! The federal 'land claims industry's goal is simply to sustain itself - ie, not to resolve anything! Related post: Message from the Haudenosaunee Six Nations Confederacy, May 2008: STOP DEVELOPMENT AND NEGOTIATE! http://grannyrantson.blogspot.com/2008_05_01_archive.html