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Tensions continue at barricaded project

Katie Rook, CanWest News Service
Regina Leader-Post
Published: Monday, April 24, 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. -- Tension is continuing to fester at a subdivision project in southern Ontario occupied for almost two months -- and barricaded since Thursday -- by Six Nations members claiming the land as their own.

Around 2:30 a.m. Sunday, at least a dozen cars hurried towards a roadblock in Caledonia, Ont., after the reserve's radio station announced an imminent police raid.

At least three police checkpoints set up along the reserve's border were confronted by protesters on all-terrain vehicles. Within the hour, Ontario Provincial Police contacted CKRZ 100.3 FM to dispel the rumour and reassure listeners there was no attack plan -- rather, at least one officer planned to go to Tim Hortons for a coffee.

Last Thursday, 16 men were arrested in an surprise raid before sunrise. Protesters have said they were beaten and Tasered by police.

The raid was to enforce a March 9 court injunction ordering the aboriginals to leave the site, and was done out of concern for community safety, deputy police commissioner Maurice Pilon said last week.

Six Nations members maintain the federal government wrongfully took the land from them in the 18th century.

Over the weekend, agreement was reached by protesters, the provincial and federal governments, and police to draft a plan that will provide a peaceful resolution to the land claim dispute.

Each group will have the next two weeks to build their negotiating team.

Hundreds of Six Nations members have occupied the site, owned by Henco Industries Ltd., day and night since the police raid.

After the arrests, Caledonia, a bedroom community of Hamilton with a population of about 12,000, appeared to be a town under siege. Black smoke billowed from piles of burning tires and one car was thrown over a bridge, landing on a pile of smouldering rubber.

In an apparent attempt to defuse potential hostility, an emergency town council meeting was held Sunday.

Mayor Marie Trainer said the meeting was intended to give information to councillors being inundated with phone calls from residents, and to prepare contingency plans for emergency services as long as the blockade remains in place.

She said the inconvenience and financial impact of the standoff had been felt throughout Caledonia, but expressed hope that a community meeting planned for tonight would not become a flashpoint for tensions.

"I would hope that people would use common sense and cool heads. After this is all over, we're still going to be friends, neighbours and family," Trainer said.

Clyde Powless, a Six Nations spokesman, said he was aware of the community meeting planned for tonight, at which residents are invited to voice their concerns over the standoff.

He said he saw it as a positive step that would unify Caledonia as the protest has mobilized his own community, and he didn't expect it to ratchet up tensions between residents and Six Nations members.

"I don't see no reason why it should. They're saying the same thing I'm saying: 'Wake up, government.' We're carrying the message and they're just adding to our voice, and I like it."

Don and John Henning, owners of Henco Industries, said they sympathize with each side, but they're distraught by mounting tension in the community and the maddeningly slow pace at which the government is brokering a resolution.

"We just want to go back to work," Don Henning said. "It's what we know."

The two brothers, in business for more than 20 years, have invested at least $6 million in the development of Douglas Creek Estates. With each passing day of the standoff, the threat of loosing all they have is greater.

Six builders, many of whom have helped build hundreds of homes in the bedroom community of Hamilton are also shouldering substantial financial burden, they said.

Henco has had to return the deposit to at least one buyer because the timeline for completion was "up in the air."

The homes retail for between $230,000 and $350,000, Don Henning said.

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