Native protests jeopardizing medical centre
$6-million project 'very much at risk'
Posted By MICHAEL-ALLAN MARION, EXPOSITOR STAFF
Posted 7 hours ago
The builders of a medical centre in the city's northeast say that a work stoppage caused by native activists is jeopardizing an important health-care project.
"This project is very much at risk," Ted Ward-Griffin said Friday.
Ward-Griffin is a partner with builder Peter Vicano on the project. The two men sat around a boardroom table in the headquarters of Vicano Construction Ltd. and pored over maps and drawings for the $6-million project to be built at Garden Avenue and Sinclair Boulevard.
Ward-Griffin said that, under an agreement with a group of doctors and other practitioners from Brantford's only urgent care clinic on Fairview Drive and from the Toronto area, the centre must be completed by August 2009.
The centre is intended as a bigger replacement to the increasingly obsolete, landlocked facility on Fairview. It also will be capable of serving more people at a strategic point just off Highway 403, and will increase the number and variety of medical practitioners who would drive in from many neighbouring communities to serve Brantford.
The project's timetable was abruptly set back when a group of activists led by Floyd and Ruby Montour went onto the site last Friday and confronted a crew clearing the land.
The activists told Vicano, Ward-Griffin and the subcontractor to stop work immediately, remove all machinery, and go to the Haudenosaunee Development Institute, a Confederacy organization, to show their plans and be prepared to pay development fees.
Vicano said Friday that he and the contractor agreed to halt work and contact the HDI. Shortly afterward, the contractor moved the machinery to another scheduled job. No one has been on the site since, while the activists continue to monitor it.
"We have made contact with the HDI, and we will share details of our plans with them for courtesy purposes only," Vicano said Friday.
Mayor Mike Hancock said he is worried about the medical centre.
"This project is important to the whole area. We're terribly short of doctors and we're terribly short on medical facilities already, and to have the building of this centre stopped could worsen the situation," he said.
"I'm very, very concerned that any stoppage could potentially hurt a lot of people, native and non-native, and they could suffer as a result."
Floyd Montour said he realizes the political sensitivity involved in holding up the construction of a medical facility.
But he insisted that the activists have no other choice but to "defend" the land from development because it's in a native land claim area of the Johnson Tract.
"I understand the importance of a medical centre," he said. "It's going to benefit us, too. But it's native land. What are we supposed to do?"
Montour said he has no authority to allow the project to go forward.
"The only authority I have is to guard our land," he said. "They will have to seek authority from the confederacy council, the elected band council, or the HDI."
Montour also said the project leaders should have known the risks of attempting to build on land under claim during an intense dispute over development in the Haldimand Tract that is now more than 2 1 /2 years old since a group of activists took over a former housing project in Caledonia and reclaimed the property.
"The owners who bought the land two years ago knew it was native land in the Johnson Tract," said Montour.
Vicano said that, as far as project leaders are concerned, the land belongs to them. He also said he and Ward-Griffin, a realtor, searched for three years to find land on a major road off the 403, where a group of medical practitioners could build a facility with growth potential.
They put together a deal that would see the developers buy a parcel of city-owned land.
Vicano said the activists are misleading when they tell the media that they are halting work on construction of a hotel and gas bar.
Those uses and a medical centre were put in an early rezoning application showing a range of potential uses for the land, he said.
But since then the developer has filed a site plan agreement only for the medical centre.
The facility was designed with the help of Six Nations architect Brian Porter of Two Row Architects, then the team presented the drawings to some native organizations.
"They did not provide any help in clearing the way for us," said Vicano.
"This is the first medical facility to be built in Brantford in 20 years. We can't afford for it to fail."
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AT A GLANCE
What's at stake in the proposed Brantford Medical Centre:
A two-storey facility to hold offices, a pharmacy, a "preventure" department for urgent care and preventative education and services. X-ray, ultra-sound, a physio-therapy clinic.
More family physician space to handle the equivalent of seven new doctors driving in at various times of the week for one-or two-day sessions.
Space for an increase in the number of specialists.