Settlements "stalled under Strahl" ... ?
Land claims talks could stay stalled under Strahl
Six Nations chief not thrilled with re-appointment
Posted By JOHN PAUL ZRONIK, EXPOSITOR STAFF
Posted 16 hours ago
Six Nations elected Chief Coun. Bill Montour doesn't hold much hope that land claims negotiations with government will move any quicker following Chuck Strahl's re-appointment as federal minister of Indian Affairs.
"I'm not feeling that positive," Montour said following the swearing in of Stephen Harper's new cabinet on Thursday. "It seems like Ontario and Canada are comfortable with creating this (negotiating) process and to keep it going low key, put about a million dollars a year into it and have Six Nations fight over it."
Montour said Strahl has a "distant relationship" with Six Nations, in part due to health problems that limited his ability to meet with native leaders. Strahl, who was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2005, became minister of Indian Affairs in August 2007.
"With all due respect to Minister Strahl -- and he is very ill -- there was a lot of protection around him from his senior staff," Montour said.
The chief questions if Strahl understands the Six Nations community. Following a meeting at the minister's Ottawa office last February, Montour invited Strahl to visit the reserve to see Six Nations needs first hand.
"He said: 'Do I need a protective escort?' I said: 'Why would you need that?'" he recalled. "But that's the mentality. It's just crazy."
Six Nations, Ottawa and Queen's Park have been holding land claims negotiations since May 2006 without resolving a single claim. Montour said the people of his community expect a greater sense of urgency from the federal government when it comes to negotiations.
LIKE JIM PRENTICE
The chief does see hope in the appointment of Jim Prentice as Canada's new Environment Minister. The chief said Six Nations is considering establishing its own environment department that would examine proposed developments on Six Nations land -- and deal with other issues -- and could use the federal government's help.
"Minister Prentice understands First Nations issues," Montour said. "He's well aware of on-the-ground situations in communities across Canada."
Prentice was minister of Indian Affairs from February 2006 to August 2007. He also served for 10 years as a commissioner of the Indian Specific Claims Commission of Canada, which conducts inquiries into land claims disputes, and is recognized as a land claims negotiation expert.