Six Nations demanding fees from province: official
TORONTO - A Six Nations group demanding fees from developers over disputed land in southern Ontario is insisting that provincial taxpayers pay up as well if the government wants to continue talking about future development around the Grand River, a provincial official said Thursday.
Provincial bureaucrats met with the head of the Haudenosaunee Development Institute, a group set up by Six Nations to control development on disputed land in Caledonia, Ont., in November to discuss the municipality's proposed official plan for development.
After the meeting, the province's regional director of municipal services said she received a bill for $7,000 to continue the consultations.
"We don't pay a fee to the Haudenosaunee Development Institute and that's what we told them," said Micheline Riopelle, regional director with the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing.
"We said we don't recognize their jurisdiction and authority... The province just can't support that. The province can't pay a fee to meet with them."
The province then received a second letter, requesting the controversial payment once again, she said. The cash isn't the issue, Riopelle added.
"The issue is, you don't have the authority to do this," she said. "We're telling developers and everyone else they shouldn't be paying them."
The province is meeting with First Nations across Ontario, consulting them before approving the official plans submitted by municipalities. The hope is to nip any potential disputes in the bud and avoid disputes like the ongoing occupation of a former housing development in Caledonia, Riopelle said.
The province will continue to try consulting with Six Nations but won't pay a fee to do it, she said.
The demand for taxpayer dollars in exchange for consultation has some developers and Conservatives wondering what it will take for the governing Liberals to step in and stop what they're calling extortion on the part of Six Nations.
Mike Quattrociocchi, president of Mayberry Homes in Brantford, said he has received letters and phone calls requesting payment for his $1-million development along the banks of the Grand River.
So far, Quattrociocchi said he's refused to pay but he's been told not "one stone will be moved" on the development unless he pays the $7,000 development fee. After receiving the same letters, Quattrociocchi said it's time for the province to take a harder line.
"It's extortion," said the father of four. "How can the government just stand by? Until the province gets serious about enforcing the law . . . it's just going to go on and on."
The head of the Haudenosaunee Development Institute didn't return phone calls Thursday.
Haldimand County Mayor Marie Trainer said she's surprised Six Nations would argue so hard to be consulted on development and then turn around and present the province with a bill.
But Trainer said she's equally surprised that provincial officials would meet with the development institute in the first place given that they've said the body has no authority.
"Somebody has got to take a stand and say enough's enough," she said. "Who's in charge? Apparently the aboriginals are."
Conservative Leader John Tory said the attempted "extortion" of tax dollars is the last straw. The bill should be sent back with a strongly worded letter that warns Six Nations to stop intimidating developers and bureaucrats or suffer the consequences in court, he said.
"It's extortion and it's wrong," he said. "If you let people continue to do things they're not supposed to do, then they'll keep doing it and step up the pace. Now they're asking taxpayers to start sending them money. This kind of thing must be stopped at the beginning."