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Frustrations mount as land protest continues

Terry Weber and Karen Howlett
Globe and Mail
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.]

Frustrations are continuing to mount among residents in the southern Ontario community near the site of an native land-claim protest, and the divide could deepen if roads at the scene are not reopened soon, the mayor cautioned Tuesday.

Speaking with CBC Newsworld, Haldimand County Mayor Marie Trainer said that, despite a shocking flare-up this week, the area's residents still support native protesters, who say they have ancestral rights to a tract of land now being developed.

She also said, however, that the protesters also have to understand that residents are growing frustrated with the situation and need roads in the area cleared for traffic so they can make a living.

“Right now, they still have the public's support for their cause to get their land claims and the treaties resolved,” Ms. Trainer said. “But if this goes on much longer, the people will then put support.”

On Monday night, a mob infuriated by the protest rushed a police line surrounding the seven-week standoff, yelling insults at protesters and demanding they leave the site. A line of about 100 police officers struggled to keep the group of about 500 residents at bay.

The crowd eventually dispersed, leaving the site about midnight. The outburst highlighted the growing rift between the two factions in the community.

Ms. Trainer told CBC that an initial meeting earlier in the evening intended to give residents a chance to voice their concerns had gone “fairly well” but that, when a separate group gathered later at the scene of the protest, things “turned nasty.”

“The people of Caledonia are so frustrated, and they're trying so hard to support and understand where the natives,” Ms. Trainer said.

“Now it's time for the natives to understand where the Caledonian people are coming from. They have to get to work to support their families and if they don't go to work, they don't get paid and if they don't get paid, then they can't pay their mortgages and they lose their homes.”

“They don't have a monies coming in automatically every month. They've got to work to survive.”

At the scene Tuesday morning, those comments triggered further acrimony.

Native spokesman Clyde Powless accused Trainer of saying the occupiers were simply waiting for their monthly cheques. During the exchange, Mr. Powless also told the mayor she was “very irresponsible” as a leader.

Asked by Mr. Powless how his people “have money coming in automatically,” Ms. Trainer responded: “I don't know. You have very hard-working people.”

At the provincial legislature on Tuesday, Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty called for cooler heads to prevail.

“I understand that there's some real frustrations felt by both sides in the dispute, but it is unhelpful for people to try to pressure the parties involved in order to come to a resolution,” Mr. McGuinty told reporters.

Community Safety Minister Monte Kwinter said he has not directed the police in any way following last night's incident at the site.

“They assess the situation and they do what they think is in the best interests to maintain the peace,” Mr. Kwinter said.

But, Conservative Toby Barrett, who represents the Caledonia area, says cooler heads are not prevailing. Mr. Barrett blames the government for the tensions, saying it hasn't kept people informed about the negotiations.

The Six Nations protesters argue that the site was part of a large land grant in 1784. The provincial and federal governments say the land was surrendered in 1841 to help build a major highway.

The protesters have been occupying the occupied site of the Douglas Creek Estates in Caledonia, Ont., about 25 kilometres south of Hamilton, for more than seven weeks.

Last week, Ontario Provincial Police staged a pre-dawn raid on the site in an effort to remove the protesters after a court injunction ordered that they disperse. Tensions had been mounting earlier in the week after talks aimed at resolving the dispute broke down.

The police effort ultimately backfired, capturing national media attention while the natives were able to consolidate their hold on the project.

The protesters have remained at the site since then, and blockades have closed roads in the area. Talks between aboriginal groups and government officials to resolve the dispute are continuing.

On Monday, the scheduled rally had begun with a plea for peace, with Ontario Provincial Police Inspector Brian Haggeth taking the stage appealing for patience and calm.

“These are extraordinary times,” he told the crowd, according to a statement issued by the Haldimand County OPP detachment on Tuesday.

“This situation is complex and it requires the kind of understanding and co-operation that we have always shared as neighbours here in Caledonia and the Six Nations and it will require negotiation to achieve a lasting, peaceful resolution.”

“I'm appealing to everyone, all the people of Caledonia and the Six Nations, to be patient while a lasting resolution is sought.”

The comments, however, were met with resistance from some.

“Get the outlaws out of there,” someone from the audience yelled out.

“Anger, fear and violence will not solve anything,” he replied.

“Enforce the law,” another man screamed out.

The evening rally was held only 400 metres away from the native barricades.

With marathon weekend negotiations between police, natives and provincial and federal officials being described as positive, OPP Deputy Commissioner Maurice Pilon delivered his assurances to the occupiers earlier Monday that they are safe from police action, at least for the moment.

“This was an opportunity ... to reassure those who are inside that we have no immediate plans to return,” DC Pilon said after emerging from a 45-minute meeting at the occupation site.

“I hope this was one small step in building trust.”

Negotiations between the Six Nations, Ottawa and the province had been making steady progress for two years until a “faction” of the native community lost patience and occupied the land, said David Ramsay, the provincial minister responsible for aboriginal affairs.

Native leaders and provincial and federal officials met for about five hours Saturday night following a 19-hour marathon Friday in a bid to end the seven-week standoff.

Henco Industries – which is developing a subdivision known as Douglas Creek Estates on the contested 40 hectares – said Sunday that it is on the verge of bankruptcy and needs a resolution soon.

With Canadian Press

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