Six Nations elected chief not hopeful about land claims deal
Posted By John Paul Zronik
Posted 1 hour ago
Six Nations elected band council Chief Bill Montour doesn't hold much hope that land claim negotiations with government will move any quicker following Chuck Strahl’s reappointment as federal minister of Indian affairs.
“I’m not feeling that positive,” Montour said following the swearing in of Canada’s new Conservative 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 shared a “distant relationship” with Six Nations, in part due to health concerns 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 questioned if Strahl understands the Six Nations community. Following a meeting at the minister’s Ottawa office in February, Montour invited Strahl to visit the reserve to see Six Nations needs first hand.
“He said: ‘Do I need a protection escort?’ I said: ‘Why would you need that?’” Montour said. “But that’s the mentality. It’s just crazy.”
Six Nations, the federal government and the provincial government have been holding land claim negotiations since May 2006 without resolving a single claim. Montour said the people of Six Nations expect a greater sense of urgency from the federal government when it comes to negotiations.
Montour did say he sees 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, as well as other environmental 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 and northern development 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 claim disputes between first nations and government, and is recognized as a land claims negotiation expert.