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The Consultation & Accommodation Agreement

It's a business decision, plain and simple.  Well, ok, neither plain, nor simple, but definitely a business decision.

The Consultation and Accommodation Agreement proposed between Brantford and Six Nations is exactly the right approach in how to address the stalemate that is affecting our communities.  The agreement itself is plain and simple and offers a mechanism to talk.  The committee that would be created by the agreement is a technical committee that is advisory only and has no decision-making power.

The mistake we made, and I will assume full responsibility for this mistake, was that we didn't take a fantastic agreement, an agreement that puts us on the right path for a positive and successful future, that we didn't take the agreement out for broader consultation.

The truth is we were excited; excited to have created the agreement, excited that we were going to get on with business and get our economic development moving again, excited that we were building instead of destroying, and excited that the natural relationship that exists between our two communities would right itself.

We should have proposed a consultation process that allowed people the time to review and understand, because now the instant-myth and histrionics around the agreement far outweigh the agreement.  That doesn't mean that we can't inject some logic into the process, and that is what we will attempt to do over the next number of weeks.  The agreement is sound.

Let me say, that there was always going to be opposition to this or any agreement with Six Nations.  There is a large percentage of the population that, driven by media events, have made their minds up about our neighbours – and it isn't particularly good.  There are those in the community who comb through the text of every contract, agreement, and speech looking for that out of place semi-colon, that turn of phrase, that one grey area that allows them to pronounce "in 1844, the such and such said something or other that clearly indicates that the decision you are making in 2011 is without merit."  This isn't a solution, it is repeating the problem.

There are tens of thousands of views on "why not," but only a handful of people working toward "what can be."  I stand firmly on the "what can be" side.

It is true that land claims and the relationship with the people of Six Nations has historically fallen into the sphere of the federal government.  Many people believe that it should be the federal government that resolves these issues.   But let's be serious, they've had 200 years with no success, and they care not one wit for the municipalities that are actually affected by the relationship that they created.  They don't talk to us, they don't consult with us, they don't understand local issues, and they don't care.  (And I say this of the bureaucrats that have been handed the relationship; I know that Phil McColeman and the Brant MPs that preceded him understand the local nature of the issue.)

Our economic development has been stymied as a by-product of the federal government's inability to understand local issues, and to act in a timely and logical manner.  Let's face it, with a totally Toronto-centric media events outside of the GTA are barely covered.  We fight amongst ourselves through protest, barricades and fist-waving and no one knows except us.  There is no point being made, except to those who experience the day-to-day frustration.  The federal government does not care about our communities or our issues – plain and simple.

If there is to be a solution to these issues it will be on a local level.  In fact, the only successful course of action was the 1997 Northwest Agreement that created the Northwest Industrial Park in Brantford.  That was a negotiated settlement that didn't cost millions of dollars (cost nothing but staff time), and was a model for how our two communities can make business decisions that are in both our interests.  We already created the model now let's build on our success.

Let me highlight for you the recitals at the beginning of the current Consultation and Accommodation Agreement:

Whereas the City and the Six Nations have a long history of cooperation and good relations that has in the past produced unique and imaginative initiatives such as the Grand River Notification Agreement;

And whereas the parties wish to build upon and renew the progress that they have made in the past, and develop a new framework that will help both the Six Nations and the City of Brantford to move forward while the underlying land issues are negotiated by the Six Nations with the two upper levels of Government who have constitutional jurisdiction over those issues;

And whereas the parties are willing to commit time and resources to the renewal of their relationship, the creation of opportunities for further discussion and consultation, and the reasonable accommodation of their respective interests.  The parties hope and expect that their work within this agreement will serve as a continuing example of the appropriate means to avoid and dissipate conflicts and disagreements.

You can go to www.brantford.ca and on the main page you will see  "Six Nations and City Delay Signing of Agreement;" once on that page click on link for the "new annotated agreement" to read the agreement and the explanation.  The annotated agreement is not a new agreement; it is the agreement with explanations to the intention of each clause in italics following each clause.

Please take the time to read the annotated agreement and to ask any questions, the Consultation and Accommodation Agreement is a positive step forward in the future of our communities as neighbours and partners.