(This came to me with the note ‘Check out the last paragraph’.)
Land-claim deadline necessary, Strahl told
May 16, 2008
TORONTO — The Ontario government kicked off a new round of federal-provincial bickering yesterday, this time over a long-running land-claim dispute in the province.
Ontario Aboriginal Affairs Minister Michael Bryant called on the Harper government to live up to its responsibilities to aboriginal Canadians by setting a deadline to resolve the dispute between native and non-native protesters in Caledonia.
“The Harper government needs to get on with it and stop hesitating,” Mr. Bryant told reporters. “They need to set a deadline. I’m not going to do their job.”
But Federal Indian Affairs Minister Chuck Strahl said setting a hard-and-fast deadline at a time when negotiations are continuing is not the way to resolve an issue whose roots date back two centuries.
“This sounds like policy on the fly,” Mr. Strahl told reporters after a speech in Toronto yesterday to the Empire Club of Canada. “That is not a thoughtful way to address what is a 200-year-old problem.”
The McGuinty government has an on-and-off relationship with the Harper government. While yesterday was not the first time an Ontario government official has criticized Ottawa over its handling of Caledonia, it was the first time Mr. Bryant has stepped into the fight.
Mr. Bryant said in an interview that he spoke out because he has not seen any progress during the six months he has been Aboriginal Affairs Minister. He said a deadline is needed to give everyone involved in the dispute concrete hope that it can be resolved. But he said it is not up to him to suggest a date.
“It doesn’t bode well for the future,” he said in the interview. “In the absence of a deadline, where’s the road map to a resolution?”
Mr. Strahl has a different view. He said he does not see the benefit of setting a deadline, especially when progress continues to be made during negotiations.
“Frankly, negotiation rather than ultimatums, I think, is a better way to go,” Mr. Strahl said. “The idea that we will set an arbitrary deadline, give them a signal that it’s my way or else. … I’m waiting for Mr. Bryant to tell me how that’s going to advance the cause.”
Mr. Bryant said tensions are growing among residents of Caledonia, a town southwest of Hamilton. The standoff began more than two years ago when native protesters occupied a disputed tract of land adjoining a Six Nations reserve in Caledonia. But its roots date back to the early 1800s, when the federal government orchestrated a coup d’état, Mr. Bryant said, by replacing tribal councils with a band council system.