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Politicians point fingers, dodge duties as native frustration builds: critics

Sue Bailey
Canadian Press
Thursday, April 20, 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.]

OTTAWA (CP) - Political blame games have become as much a hallmark of native standoffs as fiery barricades and warrior flags, critics say.

The brewing chaos at a southwestern Ontario construction site is no exception. Provincial and federal officials have pointed fingers at each other since traditional Six Nations members "reclaimed" a parcel of land in Caledonia, near Hamilton, last February.

Talks to end the stalemate broke off earlier this week before police launched a pre-dawn raid Thursday that turned an otherwise low-key protest into a potentially violent focus of native frustration.

Leaders at Queen's Park and on Parliament Hill have dodged or diverted the simmering dispute, says Taiaiake Alfred, director of the indigenous governance program at the University of Victoria.

"They've been passing the buck for the last few months on this issue hoping that this wouldn't happen. And now that it has, you find people kind of scrambling to try to position themselves."

The situation reminds him of the 1990 Oka crisis when masked protesters stared down soldiers during a 78-day standoff over a disputed grove of majestic pines in Quebec.

"The federal government refused to acknowledge that it had a responsibility - and look where that went."

Federal Indian Affairs Minister Jim Prentice has so far side-stepped the conflict, calling it a provincial matter.

"Like all Canadians, I have watched and been concerned and will continue to monitor the situation," he said during a media teleconference Thursday.

"We've had representatives involved in discussions up to this point and we'll continue to watch the situation as it unfolds."

Prime Minister Stephen Harper at a Montreal news conference described the dramatic showdown as "a matter before the courts."

Janie Jamieson, who speaks for the protesters, said they expect to deal with federal officials, government to government.

"We're a nation. This is Six Nations."

Members of the traditional confederacy government were forcibly removed by the RCMP in 1924 when the band council system was imposed, she stressed. But the intricate system of chiefs and clan mothers exists to this day, dividing the community between traditionalists and band-council supporters - many of whom disagree with the occupation.

Beverley Jacobs, president of the Native Women's Association of Canada and a Six Nations member, met with Prentice last week.

"I asked if he was willing to come to the community and speak to the confederacy and he said he would," she said in an interview. No date was set.

Jacobs urged the federal government to take a leadership role.

"It's going to get worse if they don't deal with it," she said of growing anger over unsettled land claims and unfulfilled treaties.

"It's going to go across the country."

Phil Fontaine, national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, appealed for calm and called for Ottawa to step up.

"We are...urging all parties to pursue a peaceful resolution. We do not want to see any further aggressive tactics."

The federal government is constitutionally obliged to deal with territorial disputes involving reserves, Fontaine added.

"Provinces and municipalities have no authority over First Nations land."

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