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Six Nations man in Brantford, Ont., golf course occupation faces charges related to land-claim protest

An Oneida man from Six Nations of the Grand River faces charges after months of helping lead a protest to stop the sale of a Brantford, Ont., golf course that Indigenous leaders say sits on their land.

Trevor Bomberry, 48, turned himself in to police on Tuesday and is set for court in February

Trevor Bomberry, a 48-year-old Oneida man from Six Nations of the Grand River, is seen as a spokesperson for the months-long protest at the Arrowdale Golf Course in Brantford, Ont. (Bobby Hristova/CBC)

An Oneida man from Six Nations of the Grand River faces criminal charges after months of helping lead a protest to stop the sale of a Brantford, Ont., golf course that Indigenous leaders say sits on their land.

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

Bomberry is set to appear in court in February on charges of break and enter, and mischief. His lawyer, Tim Gilbert, declined to comment publicly. 

Bomberry is accused of cutting the lock on the front gate of the Arrowdale Golf Course on Oct. 9, 2021, to begin occupation of the land, where he and others stayed for months.

"This is our land. Mostly all of Brantford belongs to our people," Bomberry previously said.

The arrest is the latest in a series of escalating developments following the city's decision to try to sell almost 13 hectares of the Arrowdale property.

Brantford city council voted to close the golf course and put it on the market in December 2019, saying the money would go toward creating affordable housing. It also said it would use almost seven hectares to establish a park.

Occupation started after city tried to sell land

But some community members protested the decision to sell some land, criticizing councillors for a lack of transparency and discourse with the local Indigenous community.

A citizens' group, Know Your City Inc., petitioned to save the golf course for the sake of the game but also as a green space, community space and because it sits on Indigenous land. The group applied for a judicial review of the sale, but it was dismissed by Ontario's Divisional Court, which also denied an appeal.

Elite M.D Developments has made a $14-million offer, but the court granted a stay, which means the sale can't close.

The land falls within the Haldimand Tract, which includes 10 kilometres on either side of the Grand River. It was granted to 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 the Six Nations, made the call for a moratorium on development of the area.

A previous demonstration 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 on Dec. 10 that the Arrowdale property wasn't gifted — it was legally acquired by the city in the 1920s and 1930s.

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

"I value the relationship Brantford shares 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."

Spurred by the mayor's comments, which were included in the Brantford Expositor, Bomberry released his own statement, saying Indigenous people "have no place in Brantford's dream."

"There exists in this country a national amnesia as to the treatment that has been, and continues to be, perpetrated on the Indigenous people," Bomberry wrote.

Injunction led to end of occupation

Ontario's Superior Court of Justice granted Brantford an interim injunction in late December that city spokesperson Maria Visocchi says led the protesters to leave Arrowdale on Dec. 31.

The injunction names Bomberry, restraining him and others from being at the golf course.

The matter is before the courts and they'll make an appearance on Jan. 20.

Bomberry first got involved in the occupation of Arrowdale Golf Course in October 2020. (Bobby Hristova/CBC)

Since the occupation ended, an assault and mischief charge have been laid in relation to the demonstrations.

Brantford police spokesperson Robin Matthews-Osmond said a 19-year-old who was part of the occupation allegedly assaulted a 45-year-old man on Dec. 10 after a verbal altercation between several people escalated. The 45-year-old was uninjured.

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

Asked why police decided to carry out warrants and charges now, Matthews-Osmond wrote: "As it is our duty to ensure the safety and well-being of the public, officers have been focusing efforts to de-escalate any potential situations however, if someone is committing a criminal offence, they can be charged and arrested.

"The proper exercise of police discretion should not be confused with lack of enforcement. Police may often wait for a lower-risk opportunity to lay charges rather than inflame a situation."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Bobby Hristova

Reporter/Editor

Bobby Hristova is a reporter/editor with CBC Hamilton. Email: bobby.hristova@cbc.ca

With files from Christine Rankin

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