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'A ghost town in six months'

Caledonia businesses becoming increasingly desperate with no sign of a resolution

Wade Hemsworth
The Hamilton Spectator
CALEDONIA (Apr 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.]

At the edge of the commercial landscape that ends so abruptly in a roadblock, there is a small sign that says, "Re-open the road."

The man who put up that sign is not a protester. He's Chris Leonard, a business owner who is growing increasingly desperate over the continuing absence of traffic along the road that usually carries customers to his doorstep.

"I can't speak on behalf of all Caledonians in town but a lot of them feel like we're trapped here," he said. "We feel like we're being held hostage and we have not done anything wrong."

He's certainly not alone in his anger at the roadblock. It's become Caledonia's other dam.

Argyle Street has been blocked at the south end of town since last Thursday, when native protesters from Six Nations erected a barricade hours after an OPP attempt to remove them from the construction site they have occupied since Feb. 28.

A few hundred metres north of there and a little over one year ago, Leonard and his wife, Layna, had been realizing their dream as they took over the operation of the St. George Arms, a pleasant British-style pub on that same street.

The Leonards had researched their business plan exhaustively. They were confident that Caledonia was on the verge of growing by thousands more homes, and would support their business if they worked hard.

Today, traffic is so thin on the town's main street that they can count the cars, and most of the tables inside their cozy pub are empty. The truck that usually delivers thousands of dollars in food supplies now brings only the minimum order. The staff are on reduced hours and facing the possibility of layoffs as the St. George Arms withers, waiting for customers to return.

"People can't get here or they're afraid to come here," Leonard said.

On the weekend, he said, the organizer of a wrestling tournament in town told him that several teams from the Toronto area had pulled out because of what they had characterized as a "Baghdad situation."

Whether that is perception or reality doesn't matter much. It's a reality when you have bills to pay and customers staying home.

"To be labelled with that is a pretty tough pill to swallow," Leonard said.

All over town, especially to the south, other business people report similar hardships, though few will talk openly about them.

They are cutting hours, laying off staff or cancelling summer help, and that in turn is leaving retail workers wondering how they will meet their own obligations.

"They've got bills to pay, they've got mortgages and loans to pay," Leonard said. "It hurts everybody."

And on it trickles from the dam and across the town.

In the real estate business, the continuing trouble is leading to an estimated 30-per-cent drop in sales and listings activity, which has residents worried about their future property values.

Some angry citizens have established a website at, where they are calling the protesters "terrorists."

Yesterday, the day after police had turned back non-native protesters to keep them from confronting native protesters at the roadblock, Caledonians were openly wondering when, how and even whether the often absurd drama that is slowly strangling their town's economy would finally end.

In the past week, the abortive police raid on the occupation site at Douglas Creek Estates, the protesters' roadway tire fire, the burning of the Stirling Street bridge, the rally and the subsequent turning back of the non-native protesters have all served to deepen the cleft between native and non-native residents.

Two adjacent communities that had co-existed peacefully for generations are growing increasingly isolated as the conflict spreads and deepens.

"The terrorists...and I don't know how else to describe them...are holding both communities for ransom," said the owner of another business who declined to identify himself, fearing economic and other reprisals. He said 40 per cent of his customers are native and have stopped coming, and another 10 per cent live south of town and can't easily get into Caledonia.

He was thinking of putting up his own sign that said, "I want my town back." His staff talked him out of it, but he's no less pessimistic about the future.

"I can see Caledonia being a ghost town in six months."

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