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Keeping the peace in Caledonia

Wade Hemsworth
The Hamilton Spectator
CALEDONIA (Mar 27, 2006)

[SISIS note: The following mainstream news article is provided for reference only, as an example of how mainstream media treats indigenous resistance to genocide. Mainstream media often presents biased and distorted information, lacking pertinent facts and/or context. Inclusion of this article on our site should not be considered an endorsement by SISIS.]

Tension is rising in town as the native occupation of a disputed building site prepares to enter its fifth week tomorrow.

With Six Nations protesters continuing to bar entry to the partly constructed subdivision at Douglas Creek Estates and OPP cruisers keeping a close watch, the fear in town is not so much that violence will follow, as it did at Oka in 1990 and Ipperwash in 1995.

What worries natives and non-natives alike is that the goodwill they have cherished through their lives could slip away. Caledonia is a place where citizens of two sovereign nations and very distinct cultures have mingled peacefully for generations. "It's a small town community and the culture and heritage that comes with the Six Nations is good," said Bruce MacDonald, who has operated a real estate business in Caledonia for 30 years.

Caledonia is also a place where unresolved issues concerning the ownership of land along the Grand River have simmered just as long.

Rapid growth in the last 20 years has brought thousands of newcomers -- mainly from Hamilton -- to the subdivisions ringing the old town, threatening the long-standing balance and galvanizing latent anger over land ownership.

On their side of the barrier, the occupiers man their sawhorse barricade, waving to their native and non-native neighbours who honk and wave back as they pass. Some drivers have made hostile gestures and shouted obscenities, but so far nothing overtly threatening, the natives say.

Since Wednesday, the protesters have continued to block the entrance under threat of arrest. That was the day a court injunction ordered them to vacate the property so Henco Industries could resume building.

They say they don't want trouble, but plan to stay until they have a resolution.

"There's not one bit of anger or thoughts of weapons in there. It will never turn to Oka. It will never turn to Ipperwash," said Jeff Hawk, representing the occupiers. Then, looking to the cruisers on the nearby hillside, Hawk added this: "If they do storm that gate, there probably will be trouble."

Closer to the centre of town, the occupation is on everyone's mind. It's a complex and sensitive issue and the people of Caledonia feel they are being caught up in a much bigger problem.

"There's a consensus that the people who are doing the protesting have a legitimate protest. Whether it's on those lands or not, nobody really knows," said MacDonald. "The residents of Caledonia feel the federal government should step up and fix it -- across Canada, not just here."

Stuart Oxley and his family moved to Caledonia two years ago. "Everybody wants a fair and equitable settlement for everybody in terms of the community," he said. "We live here hand in hand with everybody and that's why we moved here."

In a downtown shop, a non-native woman is serving a native customer. They have known each other more than 30 years.

"We've lived in harmony forever. As long as I can remember, it's always been like that," she said. "Everybody in town has sympathy for all the people involved. I don't want to see anybody get hurt, physically, mentally or financially."

She won't give her name, fearing she'll lose business if she takes sides publicly. Her customer won't give his name, fearing it could cause trouble back on the reserve. "I told my buddy I was coming here and he said, "What? Can't you feel the tension? Aren't they treating you different in town?' I said, 'I don't think so. I've never seen it and I don't feel any different.'"

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