Six Nations man in Brantford, Ont., who occupies golf course faces land claim charges

An Oneida man from Six Nations of the Grand River is facing criminal charges after months of helping lead a protest to stop the sale of a golf course in Brantford, Ont., which Indigenous leaders say will found on their land.

Trevor Bomberry, 48, surrendered on Tuesday and was released on a promise to appear in court, Brantford police said.

Bomberry is due in court in February on charges of breaking and entering and mischief. His attorney, Tim Gilbert, declined to comment publicly.

Bomberry is accused of cutting the lock on the entrance gate to the Arrowdale golf course on October 9, 2021, to start land use, where he and others stayed for months.

“This is our land. Almost all of Brantford belongs to our people,” Bomberry previously said.

The arrest is the latest in a series of growing developments following the city’s decision to try to sell nearly 13 acres of Arrowdale property.

Brantford City Council voted to close the golf course and put it on the market in December 2019, saying the money would be used to create affordable housing. He also said he would use almost seven hectares to create a park.

The occupation began after the city attempted to sell land

But some community members protested the decision to sell land, criticizing councilors for their lack of transparency and dialogue with the local indigenous community.

A citizens’ group, Know Your City Inc., called for the golf course to be saved for the enjoyment of the game, but also as a green space, a community space and because it is on Indigenous land. The group sought a judicial review of the sale, but it was denied by the Ontario Divisional Court, which also denied an appeal.

Elite MD Developments made a bid for $14 million, but the court granted a stay, meaning the sale cannot go through.

The land is part of the Haldimand Tract, which includes 10 kilometers on either side of the Grand River. It was granted to the Six Nations of the Grand River in 1784 for allying with the British in the American Revolution.

The Haudenosaunee Confederacy Chiefs Council, the traditional government of Six Nations, has called for a moratorium on development in the area.

A previous protest by people from Six Nations lasted a year and forced the cancellation of a major housing project in Caledonia.

The City of Brantford says it wants to sell part of the Arrowdale golf course and turn part of it into a park. (Commercial Real Estate Services)

Brantford Mayor Kevin Davis said Dec. 10 that the Arrowdale property was ungifted — it had been legally acquired by the city in the 1920s and 1930s.

“There are no restrictions on the property that prevent the city from selling it,” he wrote in a previous statement to CBC News.

“I appreciate the relationship Brantford has with Six Nations of the Grand River (SNGR) and call on the federal and provincial governments to resolve the long-standing land compensation claims filed by SNGR.”

Stimulated by the Mayor’s comments, which were included in the Brantford Exhibitor, Bomberry released their own declaration, claiming that indigenous people “have no place in the Brantford dream”.

“There exists in this country a national amnesia for the treatment that has been and continues to be perpetrated against Indigenous peoples,” Bomberry wrote.

The injunction led to the end of the occupation

The Ontario Superior Court of Justice granted Brantford an interim injunction in late December that city spokeswoman Maria Visocchi said led protesters to leave Arrowdale on December 31.

The injunction names Bomberry, preventing him and others from being on the golf course.

The case is before the courts and they will appear on January 20.

Bomberry first became involved in the occupation of the Arrowdale golf course in October 2020. (Bobby Hristova / CBC)

Since the end of the occupation, a charge of assault and mischief has been brought in connection with the protests.

Brantford police spokesman Robin Matthews-Osmond said a 19-year-old who was part of the Occupy allegedly assaulted a 45-year-old man on December 10 after a verbal altercation escalated between several people. The 45-year-old man was not injured.

Officers were there when it happened, to keep the peace, but they issued a warrant on December 31. The 19-year-old was arrested on January 6.

When asked why police have decided to execute warrants and charges now, Matthews-Osmond wrote: “As it is our duty to ensure the safety and welfare of the public, officers have concentrated their efforts to defuse any potential situation, however, if someone commits a criminal offense, they can be charged and arrested.

“The proper exercise of police discretion should not be confused with a lack of law enforcement. Police can often wait for a lower-risk opportunity to lay charges rather than escalate a situation.”

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