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Caledonia standoff taking toll on business

Blockade on main road: Tory accuses McGuinty of lack of leadership in land dispute

Katie Rook
National Post
Published: Wednesday, April 26, 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. - The Ontario Liberal government is failing to manage a native land claim dispute now approaching its 60th day, says Progressive Conservative leader John Tory.

"We saw [Monday] night the situation worsening and part of the blame lies at the doorstep of Dalton McGuinty," Mr. Tory said. "At the very least, a senior McGuinty Liberal Cabinet minister should visit this community and update them on what exactly is taking place. The people of Caledonia need leadership from Dalton McGuinty and his government."

Claiming it as their own, hundreds of Six Nations natives have occupied a 40-hectare subdivision project since Thursday, when Ontario Provincial Police tried to enforce a court injunction that they leave.

Local angst surrounding a blockade on the town's main road spilled over Monday night when a community-organized rally turned ugly with hundreds storming a police barricade that separated area residents from protesting natives.

Mr. Tory's appeal for leadership came on the heels of Haldimand County Council barring Mayor Marie Trainer from speaking on the subject.

The decision to appoint councillor Tom Patterson as official spokesman followed a blunder on live national television yesterday in which Ms. Trainer said non-natives must work because they "don't have any monies coming in automatically."

Clyde Powless, an unofficial spokesman for Six Nations since natives responded to Thursday's 4:30 a.m. police raid by amassing on the site, starting tire fires and launching a burning car over a bridge, confronted Ms. Trainer during the interview: "You are very irresponsible as a leader. You need to really, really re-evaluate yourself.... I am shocked, actually, and I will never want to address you again."

Less than an hour earlier the two had hugged.

Following the council's apology, Mr. Powless said the Mayor's personal opinions would not interfere with any progress that had been made in negotiations that began Friday.

Greg Coleman, a spokesman from the department of Indian Affairs, refused to disclose the nature of negotiations ongoing since Friday, but maintained "good progress" was being made between federal, provincial and native representatives.

An agreement to draft a plan that will provide a peaceful resolution to the land claim dispute was signed by each party over the weekend. Each party will have the next two weeks to build their negotiating team.

A government-brokered resolution could not come soon enough for local business owner Chris Leonard, who admits the standoff has been unsettling. While Tim Hortons thrives, with brisk sales to those on both sides of the dispute, other area businesses are suffering badly.

Day-to-day sales at Leonard's St. George's Arms, one of three Caledonia restaurants located about 500 metres north of the Argyle Street blockade, has dwindled by up to 50%, he said.

Referring to the street as a "lifeline," he said a standoff could not have come at a worse time and was not factored into his business plan when he opened the bar less than two years ago.

"I don't want to close my door," Mr. Leonard said. "That's sending the message: I've given up, tossed in the cards."

The parking lot of a Canadian Tire opposite the blockade holds only a handful of cars and a nearby gas station has been lifeless for days because weighty delivery trucks cannot cross the bridge of the only alternate route into town.

Local developers John and Don Henning hold a legal land title certificate for the disputed land. The brothers have spent years and at least $6-million building an infrastructure for at least 72 lots on the subdivision project.

The 40-something business partners at Henco Industries Ltd. are on the brink of bankruptcy as they wait for the provincial and federal government to broker a resolution.

Open to negotiations, the brothers say they are losing money every day as talks creep along. They are particularly upset no compensation has come to them from the provincial government. "We can't last forever," John Henning said.

Six Nations natives maintain the land was unlawfully taken from them in 1924 by the federal government, which has since failed to deliver promised compensation.

More than 20,000 Six Nations natives from the Mohawk, Seneca, Onondaga, Oneida, Cayuga and Tuscarora nations live on the Six Nations reserve and acknowledge the Iroquois Confederacy as their governing body rather than the 12-member elected band council.

While native representatives say they regret the Henning brothers' business is unwittingly being held hostage by the reclamation dispute, they maintain they have no option but to occupy the site.

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