Six Nations Solidarity

News | Background | What you can do | Links 

Leaders on both sides of aboriginal protest dismiss mob as isolated incident

Gregory Bonnell, Canadian Press
Published: Tuesday, April 25, 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. (CP) - An angry mob that descended on the scene of a First Nations occupation and sparked a late-night clash with police was dismissed as an aberration Tuesday as both sides worked to restore peace in this divided and frightened community.

But despite assurances that Monday night's ugly demonstration by non-aboriginal residents was an isolated incident, there were still clear indications that all is not well between the residents of Caledonia, Ont., and their aboriginal neighbours.

Some among the protesters, who eight weeks ago decided to stake their claim to a 40-hectare tract of disputed land at a half-finished southern Ontario housing development, talked about plans to boycott local businesses.

And controversial remarks from Haldimand County Mayor Marie Trainer, who said in an interview that residents have been hurt economically by the protest and "don't have money coming in automatically every month," only exacerbated tensions.

"How do my people have money coming in automatically? How? Answer that. Answer it," Six Nations spokesman Clyde Powless demanded as he confronted a stunned-looking Trainer, her chain of office around her neck.

"I'm deeply saddened by comments I've heard you made about my people waiting for a monthly cheque," he said, angrily jabbing his finger in Trainer's face.

"I'm shocked at you and I will never want to address you again."

Trainer defended her comments, which she made in an interview with the CBC, as Powless returned to the highway barricades that Six Nations members erected last Thursday after provincial police raided the occupation, now entering its ninth week.

"They needed to know what the Caledonia people thought," Trainer said. "I have to stick up for my people, just like they're sticking up for themselves."

Premier Dalton McGuinty called on both sides to "stay cool, stay calm and remain patient," because negotiations, which were scheduled to resume Wednesday between police, protesters and both the province and Ottawa, are going in the right direction.

On Tuesday afternoon, members of Haldimand County council met with aboriginal leaders at the site to formally apologize for Trainer's comments and declare that the mayor had been stripped of her authority to speak publicly about the crisis.

"Council's goal remains a long-term peaceful solution to the demonstration," said deputy mayor Tom Patterson, who was appointed the official spokesman.

On Monday, 500 non-aboriginal residents marched on the occupation site following a community rally. Provincial police held the irate mob at bay as residents shouted slurs at the protesters and demanded that the blockades be torn down.

While the aboriginal protesters responded Tuesday by saying those actions were fuelled by ignorance and fear, Powless said he was optimistic the majority of people in Caledonia support the Six Nations occupation.

"I was at the rally and I shook hands with countless numbers of people," Powless said.

"Those people (who clashed with police) are truly in the minority, and the majority, that's what holds a society together. We don't bear no malice against the town of Caledonia."

Although messages of restraint were delivered from leaders on all sides, Six Nations elder Floyd Montour, 67, said there was talk on the reserve of boycotting Caledonia businesses.

"They way they talk about us, talk to us, it boils down to we don't have to do our shopping in (Caledonia)," Montour said.

"Almost all the people I spoke to are going to go to Brantford or Hagersville to do their shopping, so I guess I'm going along with them."

During Monday night's three-hour standoff the crowd managed, at one point, to push the police line back some 10 metres and swarmed a police cruiser following the arrest of one man.

"It's an exception, it's not the norm," Haldimand County councillor Lorne Boyko said of the violent display.

"The people in Caledonia are good people. We're hoping that, with time, we can get back to normal."

Talks to end the dispute recessed Sunday after almost 24 hours of negotiations over two days. They are set to resume Wednesday morning, said federal Indian Affairs spokesman Greg Coleman.

The disputed land is part of what was once some 400,000 hectares of land provided to the Six Nations by the British government in 1784 in exchange for their allegiance during the American War of Independence.

In the 1830s, the Six Nations agreed to lease the disputed property to the Crown to allow construction of a road, but the land was sold instead. The Six Nations have long insisted they never agreed to sell it nor received just compensation for its sale.

Near Kelowna, B.C., natives staged a protest Tuesday in support of the Caledonia occupation.

About 20 people, some from the Westbank First Nation, waved placards and said they were expressing solidarity with the Caledonia protesters.

BackBack to updates

Back Top