Six Nations Solidarity

News | Background | What you can do | Links 

Natives remove rail blockade near Belleville, Ont.; Caledonia demo continues

Jennifer Graham
Canadian Press
Saturday, April 22, 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.]

CALEDONIA, Ont. -- Relative calm settled amid the barricades and bandannas, although fresh tensions flared Friday when aboriginal protesters briefly blockaded a vital Ontario rail corridor to show solidarity for those occupying a disputed parcel of southwestern Ontario land.

Chill winds and a steady rain did little to weaken the resolve of hundreds of protesters at the half-finished housing development in Caledonia, Ont., a community of about 10,000 about 20 minutes south of Hamilton.

Early Friday morning about 350 kilometres away, several dozen Mohawks from the Tyendinaga reserve near Marysville, about 200 kilometres east of Toronto, used old school buses and bonfires to block a small road near the main CN track in a show of support for the Caledonia cause.

More than 20 hours later, the natives agreed to dismantle the blockade after Canadian National Railway Inc. obtained a court injunction to compel the protesters to remove the obstruction, CN spokesman Mark Hallman said.

"The blockade has been removed and we expect to resume operations very shortly," Hallman said late Friday.

CN crews were inspecting the track late Friday, but didn't anticipate any problems that would delay resumption of service, Hallman added.

The blockade disrupted freight traffic and forced Via Rail to stop taking bookings for weekend travel on the line, which runs between Windsor, Ont., and Quebec City.

The obstruction snarled rail traffic in central Canada and created commuter chaos for most of the day, affecting 24 departures and at least 3,500 would-be rail passengers who were bused to their destinations.

Late Friday, Via Rail said all passenger trains running between Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal were expected to be back on their normal schedule as of Saturday morning.

Talks to settle the Caledonia dispute - the occupiers maintain they are the rightful owners of a 40-hectare piece of land at the centre of an unfinished subdivision - were ongoing Friday between police, provincial and federal officials, and aboriginal representatives.

"Talks are still going on," said protester Clyde Powless. "We haven't heard nothing back."

In Ottawa, Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty held out hope that the talks could defuse the situation, but he pleaded for patience.

"We are not going to resolve this - I mean in an effective and a peaceful way - unless and until everybody comes to the table and we agree to continue discussions until we've found an acceptable solution."

Members of the Akwesasne reserve near Cornwall, Ont., staged a small protest near the Canada-U.S. border, holding picket signs and drawing honks of support from passing motorists.

In Caledonia, where huge piles of tires and an abandoned van were set ablaze Thursday in a vivid show of defiance, smaller fires burned Friday as protesters wrapped in Six Nations flags huddled to keep warm.

Provincial police kept their distance; several cruisers could be seen parked down the road from one of the three barricades preventing access to the makeshift compound as several officers stood in the middle of the road, surveying the scene.

"I've been in direct contact with the (Ontario Provincial Police) and we're pretty well assured...that there will be no action taken by them," Powless said.

RCMP officers were also on hand to provide operational support to provincial police, said Staff Sgt. Paul Marsh. "The RCMP is providing assistance to the OPP in Caledonia, at their request."

The Caledonia standoff erupted Thursday when a police raid aimed at ending a seven-week native occupation resulted in dozens more protesters descending on the scene, pushing police back.

At least 16 people were arrested in the initial raid, but by Friday morning the number of protesters had swelled dramatically, blockading a main highway with piles of burning tires, makeshift barricades and massive piles of gravel.

Those who were arrested were released on bail and warned not to return to the site of the occupation, said lawyer Chris Reid, who noted that many feel vindicated by the fact that police efforts to quash the occupation failed.

"Not only did they not shut down the protest, but it's grown larger and stronger," said Reid, whose clients face assault and mischief charges.

The decision to comply with the injunction to remove the blockade on the rail line hundreds of kilometres away did not discourage at least one protester in Caledonia.

"No, no, no, that's coming to a peaceful agreement to show that we're still trying to meet peaceful halfway," said a male protester whose face was covered by a bandanna.

"It was done in support of us here. It's up to each territory if they want to go full out or go halfway and just show the government that we're trying to come to a peaceful resolution," he said.

Sam George, whose brother Dudley was killed by a police sniper during the 1995 clash at Ipperwash Provincial Park, called for calm Friday and urged authorities to treat the dispute as fairly as possible.

"Our land is disappearing too fast," George told a Toronto news conference.

"We feel like if we don't take a stand and the government don't wake up, pretty soon we're not going to have what we have - and what we have is a great tradition."

Native leaders elsewhere were urging their members to stay away from the scene of the standoff.

"It is clear there are very complex issues involved and the immediate safety of those at the site is of the most urgent concern," Metis Nation of Ontario president Tony Belcourt said in a statement.

BackBack to updates

Back Top