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Ontario Hansard

Legislative Assembly of Ontario
Ontario Hansard
June 14, 2006

Members' Statements - Native Land Dispute

Mr. Norm Miller (Parry Sound-Muskoka): One hundred and six days after protesters occupied a residential building site in Caledonia, and the McGuinty government is still showing no leadership. By the government's inaction, this situation has been allowed to go on for far too long. The McGuinty government maintains that the conflict centres on an outstanding land claim. The government is trying to shift full responsibility to the federal government rather than showing real leadership.

Public sources and documents show the Six Nations council agreed to surrender the land on January 18, 1841, on the agreement the government would sell it and invest the money for them. On May 15, the land currently occupied was sold to George Ryckman and a crown deed was issued to him. The same land was purchased by Henco Industries in 1992 and registered on title in July 2005.

There is a lawsuit by the Six Nations with regard to the land; however, the McGuinty government is on the record as saying, "The dispute really is an accounting claim, by and large." Six Nations council agreed on August 20, 2004, to discussions with Canada and Ontario to explore reaching an out-of-court settlement as an alternative to litigation. None of this relates to an active land claim.

What kind of precedent is the McGuinty government setting for all of Ontario by its taking the position that any existing land treaty or agreement can be reopened or ignored?


Mr. Tim Hudak (Erie-Lincoln): Today marks day 107 of the crisis in Caledonia. Dalton McGuinty's weak and ineffective leadership has seemingly led to the rule of law being suspended. The problem, as the people of Caledonia and Six Nations and families and businesses from Dunnville to Mount Hope have learned, is that by not showing strong leadership, a swirl of violence, destruction and reprisal begins. I cannot even imagine how long it will take for the wounds in these communities to heal.

What is most disturbing is the conclusion that people in Caledonia, Binbrook, Hamilton and Niagara are reaching, if not explicitly then implicitly: The Dalton McGuinty government has sent the signal to the Ontario Provincial Police not to enforce the law in Caledonia.

Today's developments include local neighbours saying they're going to take the law into their own hands because they say they have lost faith in the OPP. According to the Hamilton Spectator online version, the hereditary chiefs are refusing to co-operate with the OPP in apprehending seven aboriginals, six of whom have been charged with last Friday's assaults on an elderly couple, a CH-TV cameraman and the police. One of them is wanted for attempted murder of a police officer.

People also wonder where David Peterson has gone. Maybe he's now gone undercover, trying to help find these wanted individuals, because he has certainly disappeared from the scene.

Sadly, Dalton McGuinty has turned the OPP into the Ontario political police.

Oral Questions - Native Land Dispute

Mr. John Tory (Leader of the Opposition): My question is to the Premier. Premier, could you provide us with a detailed update as to the status of the six warrants for arrest issued in Caledonia last weekend? One individual, as I'm sure you know, is charged with the attempted murder of an OPP officer, and I would just like to clarify, for the benefit of the public and this House, what the status is of those outstanding warrants.

Hon. Dalton McGuinty (Premier, Minister of Research and Innovation): I have no specific information in that regard. I know the leader of the official opposition will understand that this is the subject of an ongoing police investigation. I do know that there is co-operation between the Ontario Provincial Police and the Six Nations Police, but beyond that, I'm not aware of any of the details.

Mr. Tory: Premier, just two days ago, after more than 100 days of this standoff, we finally heard you stand up and speak to the situation at Caledonia, and for once you seemed to be very clear about two specific conditions that had to be satisfied before you would return to the negotiating table, and those conditions were (1) "the barricades must come down, and they must stay down," and (2) "we are asking" the First Nations "leadership to co-operate in any way with the Ontario Provincial Police so that they might apprehend the individuals involved."

You have made reference today and yesterday to the Six Nations Police co-operating, but we see very opposite signals coming from some of the leadership of the Six Nations in terms of apprehending these people.

What kind of signal does it send when you don't stand firmly on your own second condition, which referred to co-operation generally, not to co-operation from the Six Nations Police alone? What kind of signal does that send?

Hon. Mr. McGuinty: Maybe the leader of the official opposition just can't stand good news. Let's review what has happened just recently: The Highway 6 barricades are down, MTO has inspected the road, and it's been reopened to traffic; the railway barricade is down, railway staff have inspected it, and trains are back up and running today; hydro crews are again working on transmission line improvements; the OPP are working together with the Six Nations to effect the execution of those outstanding warrants.

Clearly, the leader of the official opposition remains unhappy with this turn of events, but I think we're making progress and we will continue to work as hard as we can to make still more progress.

The Speaker (Hon. Michael A. Brown): Final supplementary.

Mr. Tory: If you ask if I'm unhappy with one part of the turn of events, yes, I am. There are some positive developments that have taken place, but I think there is an issue of real concern, not just to the people who live down there but to the people of Ontario, with respect to your condition with respect to co-operation by the leadership with respect to the apprehension of these individuals.

The Hamilton Spectator reported this morning on their front page that the Six Nations are refusing to hand over the individuals involved and are no longer returning phone calls. We were inspired, finally, by your "one rule of law for all" comments just days ago, and we thought that meant we were getting on the right track to restoring confidence and to dealing with a situation that is very acute, and we hoped that you would actually live up to your own conditions, which you set on Monday.

Why is the Ontario government returning to the negotiating table when there are people who continue to hide and protect those who are sought for alleged violations of the law? Why won't you stand firm on your own conditions, which you set on Monday, demanding co-operation from the leadership as a whole before you go back to the table?

Hon. Mr. McGuinty: I would encourage the leader of the official opposition to read the article he referenced, because he will see that it says, "But Six Nations Band Council leader David General said the suspects should be dealt with by the OPP and the Six Nations Police have a duty to uphold Canadian law.... the Canadian law is the form of law that should be upheld and therefore the arrest warrants are a `police matter,' General said. 'I am confident the Six Nations police will do what they have to do,' he said."

Again, we have the barricades down, we have in place a community liaison table, we have in place a permanent table to discuss the land claims issue, we're working as quickly as we can to get the land out of the scenario by looking to compensate the developer in question, and we are working as hard as we can to resolve this peacefully in a determined way. I think there is some good news. I think the community should take heart in this, and we will continue to make progress.

The Speaker: New question.

Mr. Tory: My question again is to the Premier on the same matter. I think most people down there would confirm that there is some good news, but I think we have to be careful not to downplay a very, very grave situation that still exists for a lot of these people. Many of them are feeling as vulnerable as ever today, notwithstanding the good news we've seen so far.

Arrest warrants have indeed been issued for everything from attempted murder to assault and theft, and yet, I would argue, instead of standing firm on your own conditions -- and we can all read different quotes from different people -- you've chosen to return to the bargaining table while the rule of law is still seriously in question.


The residents are frightened. They are strung out by endless nights of ATV vehicles going across their property, harassment on their own property. TV media reports suggest that some people have been threatened and continue to be threatened when they're on their own property, and told they're going to be evicted from their own homes at some point in time. Premier, what do you have to say to these people, some of whom will not even sleep in their own homes, don't feel secure enough to sleep in their own homes because the rule of law is not prevalent there?

Hon. Mr. McGuinty: I think what the leader of the official opposition is doing right now is making it clear that he is unhappy with the way the police have approached this situation. I would suggest to him that if he has advice that he would like to tender to the police, he offer that here and now so that we can all understand where his party is coming from in this particular regard.

Mr. Tory: Premier, some of these people in Caledonia are now so fearful and angry that they've brought a lawsuit against you and your government for failure to protect their personal interests and their personal safety. The Hamilton Spectator reports that residents have now resorted to organize and form defensive vigilante groups and have contingency plans to protect themselves. They have lost total faith in the rule of law on your watch. As one resident was quoted as saying in the newspaper, "It is terror there, not just anger." The homeowners in the neighbourhood told an information meeting of the Caledonia Citizens Alliance yesterday that they are terrified by gunshots in the ravine behind their properties and attempts to burn wooden fences behind their homes.

Monday, you set out conditions. Tuesday, you seemed willing to set those aside. What are you prepared to do? I would suggest a good start would be to say that you are in fact not going to go back to the table until the rule of law has been re-established there, and that does count on the leadership you said you'd be counting on co-operation from to co-operate and to do it.

Hon. Mr. McGuinty: I understand the particular representation the leader of the official opposition is making about my commitment, but I'm satisfied that it has in fact been met. The barricades are down. We have received word from both the OPP and the Six Nations police that they are co-operating in dealing with those who committed those misdeeds last Friday. But again, what the leader of the official opposition is saying is that he's unhappy with the police in terms of how they're handling this particular matter. If he has advice he would like to offer to the police, then I would love to be able to get that on the floor right now so we would all better understand where he's coming from.

Mr. Tory: Just in terms of the selective quotes, there's a quote from the Hamilton Spectator today -- I presume it's even the same article the Premier is quoting -- "Six Nations representatives said they are refusing to turn over the six wanted people to the OPP, who are being investigated by the traditional government. They also argue the Six Nations police have allegiance to their people first." We can read whichever quotes we want.

Premier, this situation appears to have spread or has moved from the roads to people's own personal property. We've received first-hand reports of people walking into a community member's backyard and simply lighting a bonfire. Now, we all know that if somebody walked into your backyard and lit a bonfire on your property, there would be police officers there within seconds. I don't accept the fact, nor do I think you should, that any resident of Ontario is meant to live in a situation where the rule of law is in question like this and where people can come on to their property, light a fire in their backyard and nobody does anything about it.

I just want to know what you say to these people who are experiencing this, and what you're going to do to uphold the rule --

The Speaker: The question has been asked.

Hon. Mr. McGuinty: Again, the leader of the official opposition and his colleagues obviously are very unhappy with the way the police continue to manage the situation. I continue to have confidence in the Ontario Provincial Police. I also would encourage them, again, if they have advice of any kind with respect to how it is the OPP should conduct themselves in this or any other matter, then they should make that public. Obviously he's very concerned that there are certain kinds of actions that are taking place which are not being visited with consequences. If that is his concern and he has advice to the Ontario Provincial Police, again I suggest he make that advice public.

Oral Questions - Native Land Dispute

Mr. Toby Barrett (Haldimand-Norfolk-Brant): Premier, on Monday, as we know, you set two specific conditions to come back to the table: (1) turn over the suspects, and (2) all barricades come down. But as of 2 o'clock today, the Douglas Creek barricades are still up and there is still no word of arrests. As well, the confederacy chiefs have accused David Peterson of reneging on the deal with respect to opening Argyle Street.

Premier, have you and Mr. Peterson reneged on those commitments, and are you going into talks devoid of credibility?

Hon. Dalton McGuinty (Premier, Minister of Research and Innovation): The minister responsible for aboriginal affairs.

Hon. David Ramsay (Minister of Natural Resources, minister responsible for aboriginal affairs): I had hoped that the local member would be very pleased with the progress we've been making. I understand the hardships that have been caused in your community, and the residents' of Caledonia and Six Nations lives have certainly been disrupted --


The Speaker (Hon. Michael A. Brown): I'm having great difficulty hearing the minister.

Hon. Mr. Ramsay: As I said, Mr. Speaker, we are making great progress, and I understand the frustration that the constituents of the member have. Their lives have been disrupted. We've been employing all the resources of the provincial government to disentangle this particular dispute. We are making progress, and we continue to make progress. I would ask for the member's patience and, in fact, I would say to the member that I hope he would wish us well on continuing our deliberations in the next few days. We think we can continue tomorrow the progress we've made to date.

Mr. Barrett: Thank you, Minister. Premier, you will be negotiating after just breaking a promise, and you're in a feeble position to negotiate. That has raised the concern that you'll be stampeded into giving away the store. The question is, what is on the table? Is it Burtch, is it South Cayuga, is it Townsend, is it the Brantford casino? Are any of those properties on the table? Have neighbouring communities been asked about this? If you do make a deal, Premier, how will Six Nations know that it won't be like some of your other promises?

Hon. Mr. Ramsay: It's with great patience that I rise in my place to answer this question and just say to the member that in these long-term discussions, before we get to the disposition of any properties, we have to work out how we are going to dispose of the accounting claim that is in dispute and some of the land claims that are there. Many of your members have encouraged us to look at new processes. That's what the long-term table is going to do. The federal government is there, as it is their main responsibility to deal with these land issues, and together we're going to work this out.

Oral Questions - Native Land Dispute

Mr. John Tory (Leader of the Opposition): I have a question for the Premier and it's on the Caledonia matter again. There's a story out this afternoon on Canadian Press indicating that the First Nations leaders say that the seven protesters wanted by the police have been removed from the area. A spokesman for the confederacy declines to say where the seven have been taken -- if they're free or being held in custody elsewhere.

I ask you again: You said the other day, as one of your two conditions, that you expected co-operation from the leadership. You actually didn't say that you expected co-operation from the Six Nations police, which you're now so fond of talking about; you said you expected co-operation from the leadership. I ask you whether you think this indication here, coming from the Six Nations people, that they have actually removed these seven people from the area, represents co-operation, and why you don't reconsider and indicate that until they co-operate completely with the conditions you set, you will not return to the negotiating table, because it's important that they honour the deal you made with them or the conditions that you set down?

Hon. Dalton McGuinty (Premier, Minister of Research and Innovation): If the leader of the official opposition takes a good look at the story, he will note that not a single person is quoted in that story.

The best information we have is that the Ontario Provincial Police are co-operating with the Six Nations police, and we are satisfied with that level of co-operation.

Mr. Tory: The Premier was repeatedly asking earlier if I had any advice for the police. I have some for him -- because he's the leader of the government and he is the person whom people in this province expect to make sure that the law is upheld -- and that is that at this time, instead of sending somebody or sending out a press release or holding a press conference, if you don't want to go there, you should have the people down to your office, both from the residents of Caledonia and from those who are in the First Nations community, and indicate to them that all of the barricades have to come down, number 1, including the Douglas Creek Estates barricades; number 2, that you expect complete co-operation from all of the leadership. And I would add a third, if you're going to have them in, and that is that they must all do whatever they can to make sure that incidents like bonfires being lit in people's backyards, gunshots going off behind people's houses and people being intimidated out of their homes will not be tolerated and that you expect them to bring that to a close. Will you do that?

Hon. Mr. McGuinty: I take from that again that the leader of the official opposition is providing advice to our police. He claims that activities are taking place which are outside the law and he's providing advice to the police. Again, I simply ask that he be more specific with respect to the advice that he wants to provide our police. I'm satisfied with the approach they are bringing to the matter before us, and we look forward to continuing to work with all the parties involved to bring this to a peaceful resolution.

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