May 30, 2012

Councillor “we got suckered into Samsung deal”

By Donna Duric, Writer, Turtle Island News |

At least one band councillor is charging band council may have been pressured into a questionable deal with Samsung C&T Corporation that will make millions for the company. Another says Six Nations made a “bad deal” getting “peanuts” for tying up its unceded lands for two decades. Six Nations Elected Council signed an agreement behind closed doors with Samsung C&T Corporation to build a 515-acre green energy park on Six Nations’ unceded lands last Friday. Council met with its negotiating and legal team who advised council to go forward with the project despite “due dilegence” not being completed. Council voted 7-4 to sign the deal. Councillor Ross Johnson, who voted against the deal commented, “we got suckered into the deal.” Councillors Dave Hill, Lewis Staats and Melba Thomas all voted against the deal. Councillor Roger Jonathan was absent. “This is a historic agreement,” said Montour after the media was invited to attended the open portion of the hurried meeting. “We finally got Ontario to realize we have a vested interest in those (lands). It was a very intensive two years of negotiations. It was a long time coming.” Ontario has a land lease agreement with Samsung for the land and have agreed to provide some of the lease money to Six Nations. How much Ontario is actually collecting was not released nor was the portion they are sending to Six Nations. “Although this is one project, I anticipate many, many more on the whole Grand River Tract. This is a template we can use,” Montour said. He added, “We got the free, prior informed consent (as laid out in the United Nations Declaration of Indigenous Rights).” Six Nations was pulled into the agreement after Ontario had already signed an agreement for Samsung to lease the lands last year. Samsung attended one Confederacy Council meeting after community members voiced loud concerns during a community meeting that they had not met with the traditional chiefs. Samsung told Confederacy chiefs they had to get an agreement signed with Six Nations to develop the project or face a fine from Ontario. Ontario realized at the last minute that it had failed to consult with Six Nations prior to signing with Samsung. Economic development officer Matt Jamieson also said the signing was historic.“I think that today represents an historic day for Six Nations people to finally realize the benefits (of its lands),” he said. “Maybe it’s not the be-all and end-all but 20 per cent of something is better than 100 per cent of nothing.” Band council pushed the project through despite loud opposition at a handful of community meetings held on the topic. Band council opted to hold what it called a “quality” survey on the issue. Only 354 people attended public meetings, out of 135 written comments received, 95 were in support of the project, 20 opposed and 20 were undecided, the band said. Samsung has been meeting with the elected council since 2008. Samsung executive JT Lee said he is “very excited” about the project and they expect to break ground within the next few months. “Samsung, together with our development partner, Pattern Energy Group, welcomes the decision by the elected council of Six Nations to join with us in building a world-class wind and solar farm in Haldimand County. After almost two years of negotiations with Six Nations, we are proud to have reached an agreement for the first renewable energy partnership in Six Nations’ history,” said K.J. Kim, vicepresident of Samsung Renewable Energy.

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