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Natives, governments say framework in place for talks

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. -- Ongoing negotiations with the government are a good first step toward solving a land dispute, native protesters said Saturday, but they refused to bring down their barricades citing a still-heavy police presence in the area.

For seven weeks, protesters have occupied a 40-hectare piece of land in the community of about 10,000, minutes south of Hamilton.

But there was hope Saturday of achieving a resolution with news of an agreement by the Ontario and federal governments and the Six Nations.

All parties will appoint representatives who will have the authority to negotiate a draft agreement, which would then be subject to ratification.

Clyde Powless, a spokesman for the protesters, said the negotiations haven't accomplished anything yet but they are positive.

''They've agreed to keep on speaking, which is always a good thing 'cause if dialogue was open, I truly believe this would never have took place,'' he said.

But he added talks alone are not enough to make the protesters let down their guard.

A blue tarp was set up at one end of the barricade Saturday morning to shelter protesters from a steady rain.

''I don't see (the barricade coming down),'' Powless said. ''We're very tense as long as we see (the Ontario Provincial Police). We know the RCMP's sitting at the airport. We're aware of presences all around.

''I mean put yourself here: if Canada came under attack, how much tension would you feel?''

A spokeswoman for David Ramsay, Ontario's Minister of Aboriginal Affairs, wouldn't say how much, if any, progress has been made in talks, but said the signing of the agreement is a good start.

''We're working together, negotiations are continuing,'' said Anne-Marie Flanagan.

The conflict stems from protesters' claims that the contested land was taken from them. They say the Six Nations people agreed to lease the property to the Crown but it was unfairly sold instead.

The standoff escalated Thursday when a police raid aimed at ending the occupation resulted in dozens more protesters descending on the scene, pushing police back.

At least 16 people were arrested in the initial raid.

Provincial police have since kept their distance from the blockade and say they have no plans to raid the property again.

While the number of protesters appeared to have dwindled, it wasn't clear how many more were further back in the occupied zone because the media was being kept out.

Meanwhile, VIA Rail said Saturday that service is back to normal after aboriginals in eastern Ontario blacked tracks Friday to show solidarity with the Caledonia protesters.

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.

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