Dear Mayor and Council in all your capacities,
October 10, 2023 (Thanks Giving, Ohenten Kariwatekwen)
I hope this message finds you well. We appreciate the City of Brantford’s commitment to understanding the aspirations of First Nations, including their desire for redress and reconciliation of known and provable harms. It is in this spirit of cooperation and mutual respect that we wish to address a matter of significant concern while also sharing our aspirations for a prosperous future.
It is essential to emphasize the distinct legal and political status of the Mohawk Nation of Grand River. The Mohawk peoples operate outside the context of the Constitution Act or Indian Act, which is a fundamental aspect of their sovereignty and self-determination, these fundamental aspects are embodied within the Two Row Wampum law and ethic, this embodiment was adopted in 1991 by letters patent and Arms of The Corporation of the City of Brantford. Additionally, for the sake of cultural competency, it’s important to note that the legislative terms “First Nations,” “Indian,” “Aboriginal,” and “Indigenous” are not applicable to the Mohawk Nation as they have their own distinct identity and should be addressed as such. These points underscore the unique political and legal position of the Mohawk Nation within Canada and their adherence to their historical treaties, such as the Haldimand Treaty of 1779 and Haldimand Proclamation of 1784
One of our most cherished aspirations is the realization of the Mohawk Metropolis within the Grand River territory, following our visionaries’ path. This vision emphasizes growth and prosperity for the Mohawk Nation while fostering harmonious coexistence with our neighbors near Brantford, Grand River, and beyond. The concept of a Mohawk Metropolis reflects the Mohawk Nation’s aspirations for self-determination, self-sufficiency, and the preservation of their culture and identity within their traditional territory. It is an expression of their desire to build a prosperous and sustainable community that respects their unique history and treaty rights.
We firmly believe that collaboration towards economic development can lead to mutual benefits for all residents.
With this vision in mind, we are excited to share and update two key initiatives that are central to our community’s well-being:
- Driver’s Program: We are currently in the process of developing a specialized driver’s program tailored to the unique needs and aspirations of our community members. This initiative aims to empower our people with essential skills and opportunities for safe and responsible driving, ultimately contributing to enhanced mobility and self-sufficiency.
- Housing Initiative: We acknowledge and appreciate the concerns expressed in your First Nations Policy regarding the dispossession of property owners. In line with our commitment to a peaceful and cooperative future, we are actively exploring innovative solutions to address our housing needs without causing undue hardship to existing property owners. Our vision includes the possibility of current homeowners willingly participating in our housing project, demonstrating their willingness to coexist within a Mohawk-led community.
While these initiatives reflect our vision for a prosperous future, we also recognize the importance of respecting property rights and legal processes. We aim to engage in constructive dialogue with the City of Brantford, homeowners, mortgage institutions, and other stakeholders to ensure that our initiatives align with broader community interests.
Our aim is not to create a tax loophole or engage in any form of tax avoidance or mortgage and levy removal schemes. Instead, we are motivated by our commitment to building a harmonious and cooperative future with our neighbors. We believe that by offering current homeowners the option to participate in our housing project, we are demonstrating our willingness to coexist peacefully and share in the lawful exclusive use and enjoyment benefits of our community.
It is important to emphasize that our housing initiative is rooted in our Nationhood, extraterritoriality, and cultural values, which prioritize collaboration and mutual understanding. We are not seeking special treatment based on race, but rather, we are striving to create an inclusive and diverse community where all Grand River Territory residents can prosper together.
We hope that through open dialogue and constructive engagement, we can address any concerns and misconceptions about our initiatives. Our goal is to work collaboratively with the City of Brantford and all our residents to build a brighter future that benefits everyone.
However, we are deeply troubled by a situation related to property taxation and land loss. Specifically, we would like to draw your attention to the case of a property located on 110 Gilkison Street. It was our understanding that this land was held in trust for the Mohawk Nation and should have been exempt from taxes, as it was acquired before the provincial Assessment Act was amended in c.1999 to remove the exemption. This case raises questions regarding the taxation and sale of this land, which subsequently led to a dual occupancy dwelling being erected on it.
During our investigation into this matter, we had the opportunity to speak with the current property owner, who assured us that had he been informed of the prior trust interests, he would have never purchased the tax-sale property. This conversation was video recorded, and we are prepared to provide a transcript of the discussion upon request.
Furthermore, we appreciate Mayor Kevin Davis’s expressed commitment to looking into this matter and providing us with insights. We believe that a thorough investigation into the circumstances surrounding the taxation and subsequent loss of this land is essential for us to move forward in a manner that aligns with our shared goals of reconciliation and understanding.
However, we are concerned that the City of Brantford voted against seeking clarification on this matter, as per the article we shared below. We believe that seeking clarity is crucial to ensure a just resolution.
From the Brantford Expositor, Councillors abandon native tax-exempt petition, February 09, 2014: “The move was seen as a way out of a problem in which land is turned over to natives in trust, taxes go unpaid and eventually the property proceeds to tax sale, creating a political problem for the municipality should it want to move to seize it. Before 1997, under the Assessment Act “property held in trust for a band or body of Indians” was exempt from municipal property taxation. On Jan. 1, 1998, the provincial government amended the Assessment Act, which removed the exemption. The resolution points out that as the Assessment Act stands, the city does not have the ability to provide the exemption.”
Lonny Bomberry, a legal representative of the Six Nations Elected Band Council, provided us with valuable information indicating that the property in question had no connection to the Elected Council and was originally held in trust by individuals who were Mohawks before the Assessment Act amendment. Lonny has also stated that the property should have retained its tax-exempt status due to its acquisition date, and he has no knowledge of how the property was ultimately lost.
The circumstances surrounding the property’s sale, and whether taxes were lawfully applied to it following changes to the Assessment Act, remain unclear. To seek the truth and ensure justice, we kindly request that the City of Brantford conduct an investigation into the disposition of this trust property. This investigation would clarify how the property was sold and whether taxes were applied lawfully after the amendments to the Assessment Act.
Given the implications of this case and the principles articulated in your First Nations Policy, we kindly request a thorough investigation into the circumstances surrounding the taxation and subsequent loss of this land. Clarity on this matter is essential, and it is in the spirit of seeking truth and reconciliation that we make this request. If there have been any wrongful actions in the sale of this property, we believe that transparency and accountability should prevail.
Notwithstanding the above-noted concern, it is crucial to emphasize the paramount importance of the Haldimand Proclamation and the Haldimand Treaty of 1779. These historical agreements hold immense significance and serve as the foundation for understanding the relationship between the Mohawk Nation and the Crown. They outline the rights, land rights, and responsibilities that have been agreed upon between the parties involved.
It is essential to recognize that these historical agreements predate any modern legislation or acts, and they continue to be relevant and operational. The treaty obligations should not be undermined by any legislative measures or municipal presumption. Those who take an oath of allegiance to the Crown, including your offices, are indeed bound by the obligations set forth in the Haldimand Treaty of 1779 and subsequent Proclamation of 1784, and any legislative or regulatory actions should be in alignment with the principles and provisions of the treaty.
The Haldimand Proclamation of 1784 and Treaty of 1779 are a testament to the enduring and perpetually binding relationship between the Mohawk Nation and the Crown. As such, they should be upheld and respected as the paramount authority when it comes to matters related to land, property, and sovereignty. It is vital that these historical agreements are not diminished by the application of modern legislation, which should be interpreted in a way that complements and reinforces the treaty rights rather than undermining them.
The commitment to honoring these historic agreements should be at the forefront of any discussion or decision-making process regarding the Mohawk Nation’s rights and aspirations. This recognition is crucial to building a future characterized by understanding, collaboration, and respect for the principles outlined in the Proclamation and Treaty.
We trust in the City of Brantford’s commitment to upholding the principles of fairness, justice, and collaboration. By addressing this matter and working together, we can create a future where our aspirations for prosperity and harmonious coexistence become a reality.
Thank you for your attention to these important matters, and we look forward to your response and cooperation.
CC. MPP Will Bouma
MP Larry Brock