Calnan quits Brantford's Six Nations Issues committee
By Jim Windle, BRANTFORD
Renegade Brantford City Councillor James Calnan has once again drawn the ire of his colleagues at city ball by resigning from the city's new "Six Nations Issues Committee" after his first meeting.
About a year ago, at around the time the city was working on its injunction strategy, Brantford set up the committee to, supposedly, discuss and deal with the relationship between the city and Six Nations.
In November of 2008, Calnan was asked to sit on this committee alongside Councillors John Bradford and Jennifer Kinneman, both known to be pro-development and staunch supporters of Brantford's injunction strategy against Six Nations.
Since accepting the posting to the committee it wasn't until last week that they had their first meeting, despite Calnan's prompting. It is his opinion that the only reason this meeting took place at all was because of the Empire Homes protest by members of the Haudenosaunee Men's Fire and others.
When he arrived at the meeting, one of the first orders business seemed to have been to immediately fit Calnan with a pair of handcuffs and a muzzle.
"They told me I could not discuss Six Nations issues with anybody," he says. "Not with the public, my constituents, MPP Dave Levac, MP Phil McColeman, the media, or anyone from Six Nations. They put it to me in the form of an ultimatum, as a condition of my participation on the committee."
This was something he refused to do which prompted his resignation.
Calnan became the center of controversy after a Tekawennake News interview during which he questioned Brantford's handling of Six Nations' land claims issues and protest actions at various construction sites within the city.
Since June 2008, he has had serious reservations about the injunction actions against specific Six Nations' individuals, the HDI, and the people of Six Nations at large. Although he did initially vote in favour of these actions, he later broke ranks and recanted after deeper consideration. He was roundly and publicly criticized by his colleagues for doing so and has been somewhat marginalized and ostracized since.
Calnan explained that this committee is very informal and although notes are taken, there are no minutes recorded. This is to facilitate open and honest dialogue but Calnan finds the purpose and the practice of the committee at odds.
"I must say, through all of this, that Mayor Hancock has never told me that I can't talk to anyone," says Calnan.
The councillor finds an ironic parallel to the demise of the federal Truth and Reconciliation Commission announced earlier this week. New Credit's Justice Harry S. LaForme resigned as chair of that commission, due to federal interference and disagreements with the other two assigned to the task of gathering first hand stories of
residential school survivors. Restrictions placed on the survivors angered many who wondered who the Commission was trying to protect, the perpetrators or the victims. This week the other two members of the Commission have also resigned.
Calnan believes the attempt to micromanage the truth in this case parallels the integrity of this committee as well.
"The Truth and Reconciliation Commission was designed to help Canadians sleep at night. It certainly isn't going to help those who've gone through that living nightmare when the truth is controlled like that," says Calnan. "I don't believe the truth should be managed. It is way too big for anybody to think they can manage it. That, effectively, is just lying when you start hiding things."
He feels many of his colleagues are not open to consider creative options regarding the tensions over development.
"I understand that if you take a course of action and you really believe that to be correct, you do whatever you can to see it through," says Calnan. "But, there is a real danger of tunnel vision in that mode. We must retain an open mind and encourage dialogue while we seek solutions."
Calnan's love for history has caused him to research matters through the eyes of historical knowledge, which is what caused him to break ranks with his colleagues in the first place.
He finds parallels in two moments in American history during the Kennedy years.
"I've studied the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba," he says. "In that case there were a lot of assumptions about who they were dealing with, the effectiveness of American intervention and actions. The result was a disaster."
"But then a short while later, during the Cuban Missile Crisis, there was a very different scenario involving the same people. They had learned from the Bay of Pigs experience and instead chose to keep an open mind and constantly looked for opportunities for peaceful resolution and in doing so, saved our planet from a nuclear war."
To Calnan, these lessons are all to clear in light of the present situation regarding Six Nations.
"I believe in the present context, what we can do here is use an open minded model of willingness to consider all options that would lower the temperature and de-escalate the situation on the ground. I believe it is possible - we have to."
It was for that reason Calnan signed on to the Six Nations Issues Committee.
"I was hoping through this committee, I could convince them of the rightness of this approach," he says. "But there are people on that committee who refuse to hear it."
On a more practical side, Calnan is concerned about the mounting legal bills attached to City Hall's injunction path.
"Legal costs are now more than a half a million," he says. "There are development opportunities still coming our way that could also benefit Six Nations. We can best solve these problems by learning how to work together."
He points to several times over the recent past that Brantford and Six Nations have been able to work together.
"We've proven in the past it is possible to achieve good by working together in our relationship and move ahead in peace and cooperation," says Calnan. "We have made alliances before and we can do it again."
But this path will take political will to do and Calnan isn't sure if his colleagues are even interested in finding that path.
Although Calnan finds the proposal published in both the Expositor and Tekawennake last week "very interesting", he believes it was dismissed by his colleagues far too early and without consideration that this could be an important first step to be worked with, despite a couple of areas that may create concern to developers and home builders.
"It's a good start," he says. "But to dismiss the possibility of a parallel land tenure as something totally outside the realm of possibility? I don't think that is constructive. It needs more thought."
He gives Montour's proposal full marks for realistic consideration.
"It represents the first offer we've had that is serious as a basis for working relationship. We should discuss it and not just dismiss it. It has merit. As far as I'm concerned, lets start talking."
Mayor Hancock has met recently with the Provincial Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and although what was discussed has not been made public, Calnan is encouraged that there may
be hope that they could broker substantive meetings between Six Nations and the City of Brantford, if there is political will shown by both parties to do so.