A judge says he’s ready to agree to a negotiated settlement in a dispute that erupted last summer over farming on Burtch lands.
Judge John Harper raised several issues in Brantford Superior Court on Friday over a joint submission by counsel for the defendant, Six Nations farmer Kris Hill, and the plaintiffs, the elected Six Nations council and a numbered corporation created to oversee the Burtch lands. Hill continued to cultivate the land despite a court order.
An hour after ordering a stay to consider the submissions and documents, the judge announced that he would accept the settlement, if it goes as promised.
According to the joint submission submitted by John Mather, counsel for the plaintiffs, Hill will pay an amount which must be finalized but which both parties believe will be “substantial”. Hill will also accept full responsibility for the costs against Brian Poreba, another defendant in the action whose case has yet to be decided.
The parties must decide on a final figure by April 30. If this is not successful, the case will be sent back to court for a judge to decide.
Friday’s session was the last since September 22, when Harper granted an injunction to the elected Six Nations council and numbered company to evict Hill, its equipment and employees from Burtch lands in Brant County.
Hill was also found in contempt of court for disobeying an interlocutory injunction issued by Harper, forbidding him to go on the property to tend the crops while the injunction proceedings were pending.
Harper said at the time that Hill “willfully” violated four parts of his order: failure to evacuate the land; continue to operate the property; failure to remove equipment; and direct security to prevent authorities from gaining access to the property.
The Burtch Lands are the subject of a dispute between the elected Six Nations Council and the Haudenosaunee Confederacy Chiefs Council, with Hill caught in the middle.
The Chiefs Council had previously signed a lease with Hill, allowing him to cultivate the Burtch lands while the provincial government negotiated with the elected council to turn the property over to the Six Nations. Land is held in trust by a band council corporation until it can be formally added to the reserve.
Mather told the court on Friday that representatives for the Six Nations and Number Company and Hill, as well as the HCCC, had arranged a successful conciliation before another judge on March 22. And the elected council approved the settlement on March 27, he said.
“We understand that the amount of the penalty will be substantial,” said Mather.
He noted that the penalty will allow the elected council to be reimbursed for its legal fees to obtain an injunction.
Scott Hutchison, representing Hill, said the settlement will lead to difficult proceedings.
“They provide a way forward for this particular litigation,” he said.
“This is the kind of settlement that I think the court will want,” Hutchison said, adding, “It will come at a substantial cost to Ms Hill.”
Harper noted that there are “aggravating circumstances” in the case.
“There was a clear and blatant disregard for my order. What are the mitigating factors? “
Hutchison provided several, noting: “This is no ordinary court case.”
He told this judge that joint submission is in the public interest.
Hill declined to comment on Friday’s decision.
The conflict has its roots in 2006, when the land of Burtch, a prison farm that closed in 2004, was one of three plots that the provincial government offered to cede to the Six Nations in a series of occupations by civilians. Haudenosaunee activists, in particular their takeover of the former Douglas Creek Estates subdivision then under construction on the outskirts of Caledonia. Activists also blocked bridges and the Highway 6 bypass.
The land transfer negotiations included representatives from the HCCC, the elected Six Nations Council, and the provincial and federal governments.
The HCCC maintains that it, and not the elected council, was the main negotiating party of the Six Nations. The HCCC also said it was working with the government to manage Burtch’s lands, overseeing their environmental cleanup. He also recorded the property in his land register, even though the provincial government still had title to the land.
For five years, the province allowed members of the Six Nations Farmers Association to plant crops on the property during the cleanup. In 2014, the government did not allow any plantings during the final clean-up.
The Haudenosaunee Development Institute, a branch of the HCCC, signed two leases, first with Hill and her then-husband Ed Green, and later with Hill alone to cultivate the land.
In 2015, the government signaled that it was ready to transfer Burtch’s land and wanted to speak with both the HCCC and the elected council.
After failed consultation attempts, the government proposed that the elected council form a federal corporation that would accept the transfer of the lands in trust until they could be included in the reserve in accordance with the addition to reserve process. from the federal government. The HCCC was offered a seat, which it refused.
The elected council created 9646035 Canada Ltd. and, in March 2017, the government transferred the land to the company.
Last May, the elected council served Hill with a notice to vacate Burtch’s land, which Hill planted until June.
At the beginning of last June, she received a notice of injunction that triggered a series of one-summer hearing dates. Hill continued to cultivate the property, which led to Harper’s injunction and contempt ruling.
Brantford Exhibitor 2018 ©