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Nobody wants another Ipperwash

Police, government talk of peaceful end to standoff

Deirdre Healey and Paul Morse
The Hamilton Spectator
CALEDONIA (Apr 4, 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.]

Police who don't want another Ipperwash on their hands are looking for a peaceful end to the native occupation of a housing development.

Ontario Provincial Police yesterday signalled that they had learned a lesson from the disastrous 1995 attack on protesters occupying Ipperwash Provincial Park. A marksman killed protester Dudley George 11 years ago, prompting accusations of police and government racism and an inquiry that is still under way.

Police yesterday strove to calm tensions at the Douglas Creek Estates barricades, where natives expect to be forcibly removed at a moment's notice.

"We are progressing, and as long as we're talking, that's positive," said OPP Sergeant Dave Rektor. That means being patient and exploring "a plethora of opportunities" to resolve the standoff.

"We're hoping the work we're doing behind the scenes is going to be effective," he said.

"We're pleased that everyone is allowing us the opportunity to bring this to a peaceful resolution."

Rektor said there are "active communications" between Six Nations representatives, the developer and members of the community.

But Janie Jamieson, a spokesperson for the protesters who is in daily contact with Six Nations clan mothers, said she is not aware of any talks.

"There haven't been any meetings to my knowledge," Jamieson said. "From our standpoint, nothing has changed. We are still here in peace and we hope it can be resolved peacefully."

Dozens of natives, with backing from the Six Nations traditional chiefs, have occupied the Caledonia subdivision since Feb. 28. A Cayuga Superior Court judge has ordered the protesters off the subdivision after the developer sought an injunction.

Yesterday's conciliatory tone from the OPP comes one day after the provincial government said it wants a negotiated end to the conflict.

"Although this (standoff) is staged in Caledonia, this has significant ramifications" across the province, Rektor said.

"It's safe to say the OPP continues to learn, develop and grow with the needs of our communities in a manner that is conducive to being respectful to everybody involved."

Ipperwash made it clear, "violence is never an option," said Christine Silverberg, a top Canadian expert in native conflict resolution.

Silverberg, a former Hamilton police deputy chief and Calgary police chief, has been credited with preventing escalating tensions between Hamilton and native protesters over the Red Hill Valley expressway.

"There are numerous examples, Ipperwash being one, where we've seen the results of conflict that has resulted in violence.

"It is always better work and can be more cost-effective in the long run if you avoid violence," Silverberg said.

"Unfortunately, listening and trying to resolve peacefully often takes time," she said.

Police are feeling pressure from the public to resolve the issues as quickly as possible, Rektor said.

But officers will only be ordered to move in after, "every peaceful option is explored," he said.

The tragic outcome of Ipperwash is also on the minds of the protesters.

Michael Laughing, who travelled from the Akwesasne Reserve in Cornwall, said he is prepared for a violent ending to the occupation.

Laughing said he is doubtful anything can be negotiated.

"Sometimes I hope it doesn't end violently, sometimes I hope it does," said Laughing.

"At least it would be finished and we could show we are ready to do what we have to do," he said.

Though the OPP say they are working toward a peaceful resolution, the police presence in the tiny community continues to grow.

Police cruisers were scattered throughout Caledonia and it was hard to drive along Highway 6 without passing one.

Another two dozen marked and unmarked police vehicles were parked outside an old elementary school, which is being used as a command post by police.

A uniformed officer guarded the entrance to the former Seneca Unity School yesterday.

The number of police cruisers sitting outside the building has tripled over the past week, said June Cutts, who lives across the street.

Several police forces have been called in since the occupation, but Rektor would not say how many.

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