Ottawa promises to help pay for occupation cost
March 30, 2007 - (CP)
TORONTO —Ottawa is ponying up $26.4 million to help the Ontario government cover the cost of a year-long aboriginal occupation in the southwestern Ontario town of Caledonia, and giving federal negotiators leave to settle additional land claims in the region.
Indian Affairs minister Jim Prentice said yesterday the federal government recognizes the province is shouldering high costs for policing and buying the half-finished housing development that sits on the disputed tract of land.
“Because of what happened in Caledonia, the government of Ontario had to incur additional expenses,” Prentice told a news conference in Ottawa.
“The payment of $26.4 million includes $15.8 million towards the acquisition . . . of the Douglas Creek Estates property and $10.6 million to offset Ontario’s extraordinary policing costs.”
Ontario calculates the cost of the dispute at more than $46 million, with almost half that sum going to round-the-clock staffing by provincial police.
After loudly calling for a federal contribution to offset the rising cost of the occupation, Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty said the government is happy to hear Ottawa acknowledge the province’s financial burden.
“It’s an important symbol that the federal government does understand it has a valuable role to play,” McGuinty said during a stop in London, Ont.
“The other thing that’s really important here to note . . . is that the prime minister is granting an expanded mandate to his negotiators and hopefully that will lead to an accelerated process so that we can resolve this in a peaceful manner,” he added.
David Ramsay, Ontario’s minister responsible for aboriginal affairs, said the expanded mandate for federal negotiator Barbara McDougall—currently at the table with the province and Six Nations representatives—now has the authority to attack up to 26 outstanding Six Nations land claims in the region.
Rather than slow the pace of negotiations, Ramsay said it actually might help resolve the dispute more quickly since it addresses the real reason the occupation began in the first place over a year ago.
Six Nations protesters aren’t counting on that yet. The federal announcement came as a complete surprise to most.
“There appears to be a lot of money changing hands but nothing has changed hands with Six Nations,” Cayuga subchief Leroy Hill said in a statement.
Janie Jamieson, who speaks for the occupiers, said the announcement seemed more designed to placate taxpayers than Six Nations.
Six Nations protesters moved into the 40-hectare development last February, saying it was taken from them by the Crown 200 years ago.