When they hell did we ask to be Canadians? -
Haldimand County Mayor's suggestions draw ire from Six Nations
By Jessica Smith
Haldimand County Mayor Marie Trainer wants reserves abolished and First Nations people paid off to the tune of $2,000 for their rights. At least that’s the message she took to Ottawa last week in a meeting with Indian and Northern Affairs minister Chuck Strahl.
Trainer said “every native would love him for doing that." However, Trainer's ideas drew ire, not love, from Elected Chief Bill Montour and Haudenosaunee Development Institute spokesperson Hazel Hill while Mohawk Chief Allen MacNaughton said Trainer is turning Caledonia into an economic desert.
Mohawk Chief Allen MacNaughton said “it is unfortunate that she is concentrating on finding conflict with Six Nations instead of trying to get business back into Caledonia.”
Mohawk Chief McNaughton said “it is that kind of attitude from the county’s leadership that is causing the economic woes of Caledonia.”
Montour said Trainer loves the media. "Marie Trainer, in my estimation, is a media darling," Montour said. "She dearly loves to get in front of a microphone and start spouting off about a bunch of stuff that she's not researched, doesn't understand, or maybe doesn't want to understand."
Montour said abolishing reserves and giving native people money in return is "the most ludicrous statement [he] ever heard." Instead he suggested Trainer "crack open a history book." He offered a lengthy history lesson about Six Nations that began with the Royal Proclamation, covered Six Nations military service, residential schooling, gaining the right to vote, treaty rights protected by the constitution and the events surrounding the reclamation of the Douglas Creek Estates.
Montour said what bugs him is "we have people, that like her, who are ignorant of the history of the area that they live in. It's just unbelievable for me to fathom that there's that much ignorance still in this area, in 2009, 2010. And that begets racism." Trainer knew her ideas might not be immediately popular.
"I said, if they could finalize the land claims-and you might not like this-and then maybe, at that time, they could dissolve the Indian Status and treat everyone who lives in Canada equally," she said.
"We were just giving different ideas around, like divide the value of the land claims and the land of the reserves among the members of the band, giving each member personal ownership of their own homes, because right now they don't, have that."
Trainer wants to see the former reserves become municipalities and "a massive one-time payout" to First Nations. And, if that is deemed insufficient, she suggested paying all living native people $2000 a week for the rest of their lives. She admitted not knowing how many native people there are in Canada.
The 2006 census counted 698,025 First Nations people in Canada, which means the $2,000-a-week plan Trainer suggested would cost Canada at least $72.5 billion in the first year alone.
Montour was not impressed with Trainer's $2000-per-week plan. Montour asked: "Does she think that's going to satisfy us?" He said that money is too liquid to compensate for lost land. He talked about giving a presentation to the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs in Canada in 1991, in which he told parliamentarians Six Nations had valued the total worth of the 28 claims submitted at that time at $84 billion.
"When they picked their jaws up off the table, they said, 'We can't pay that,'" Montour said. "I said, 'We don't want money. We want perpetual care and maintenance.
We have to have our kids educated, we have to have the health of our people taken care of, we have to have social recreation.'" "For instance, if we'd have took the $26 million for the Welland Canal, how much do you think would be left now with this downturn in the economy?" he said, referring to a recent settlement offer from the federal government.
"I suggest very, very little. So money is not the issue here. We want to sustain ourselves from the good grace of land the Creator put us on." Trainer's plan requires the federal government to complete all the ongoing land claim negotiations. with a good kid bad kid approach.
"I did say to the federal government that they need to start negotiating with the less militant bands, like the Mississaugas of the New Credit, for example, to show that bad behavior gets slower results than good behaviour," Trainer said. Asked for an example of a militant band, Trained said Six Nations qualifies.
"Well the Six Nations for instance are occupying land, tearing up highways, burning tires, throwing vehicles over bridges, stopping developments from going forward," she said. "If that gets attention so that claims can go forward, I think that's the wrong message to send out."
Montour said "We're not militant just because we want to be, we're militant because of frustration." "How else would this have come to fruition, come to a point?" he asked. "They tried to have information blockades, give people understanding, it didn't work. The only thing that seems to get the attention of the federal and provincial government is direct action." "But that's what the people do," he added. "Leadership should be sitting down with leadership discussing rights, aboriginal rights, treaty rights, not making an assumption that those things are old, long gone, they should be done away with."
Confederacy technician Hazel Hill, said that Trainer needed to look at Caledonia's history. "They need to look at their own history, because a lot of how they got the land that they're currently residing on was done through violence, through force, through murder, rape and theft," Hill said. "That's the legacy of how they got it, and they continue with that legacy because it's all they know how to do. They call in armed forces. Caledonia wanted the army." Hill said that it's Caledonia that has been rewarded for its ongoing history of militant behaviour and Caledonia that has benefited the most from government funds since 2006.
"Talk about hand outs, talk about living off the coffers of the Canadian taxpayer," she said. "They talk about our people being nothing welfare people, who the hell's the welfare recipients?" Trainer compared how she believes the government should act with First Nations to how parents shouldn't reward the bad behaviour of their children.
"Often there's one in the family that's a little bit of a brat or whatever, and if he keeps being rewarded, 'Oh here's another toy,' and 'I'll buy you something,' and 'Here's another chocolate bar,' and blah blah blah blah, well then I'll be bad all the time when I'm in the store," Trainer said.
"But if you say, 'no, you be good, then you can have a new bicycle' or if you reward the good behaviour, or 'Do good in school, for every A you get I'll give you $10.' Everyone has different ways of rewarding, you know," she continued.
For Montour, that explanation called up the history of Indian Agents and residential schools. "For her to suggest that we're nothing but children is going back to the Indian Agent days," Montour said.
"You have to have my permission to go off the reserve, you have to have my permission to sell your produce from your farms, you have to have my permission for your kids to stay home because I'm going to put them in residential school." "We weren't even adults," he added.
"We weren't even humans at one time. And in 1960 somebody decreed: You can vote, now you're a Canadian. When they hell did we ask to be Canadians?" One area where Montour agreed with Trainer was the suggestion that the two communities work together to build a series of walking paths that link Six Nations and Haldimand County. He called it an "excellent idea," but acknowledged that ideology has gotten in the way when the two communities have tried to work together in the past.
Trainer also spoke to the Minister of Public Safety and senior staff in that department to discuss tobacco regulations. She said she learned of a plan to install highways signs that advertize that consumers of illegal cigarettes support organized crime and that she supports the idea.
Montour disagrees with Trainer, and said that legitimizing the tobacco industry within Six Nations' jurisdiction would benefit the community.
"If Marie Trainer and her people want to say it's illegal, it's her business, it doesn't concern me at all," he said.
A spokesperson for Minister Strahl said it would not be appropriate for him to comment on what was said in the meeting.