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Peterson called in to help solve land conflict

Colin Freeze
Globe and Mail
May 1, 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. -- Former Ontario premier David Peterson says he hopes he can help find some "common ground" that will help native protesters, government officials and land developers cease fighting over a piece of property in Southwestern Ontario.

"It's not a question of counting blame or finding fault, it's a question of finding a solution," the former provincial Liberal leader told reporters yesterday, speaking after he had agreed to join a team of provincial negotiators.

From outside a hotel in Burlington, Mr. Peterson told reporters that he was already meeting with fellow negotiators, less than 24 hours after Premier Dalton McGuinty called him on Saturday to say he needed his help in sorting out a messy situation.

Protesters have occupied the property in question since the end of February. But tensions erupted when Ontario Provincial Police officers moved to arrest activists in mid-April. Protesters responded by setting up barricades.

Developers had been planning to build 600 homes on the subdivision, after purchasing the land in 1992.

Lately, Mr. Peterson has been with native groups to hash out plans to devolve federal powers to the Northwest Territories and also calculate what provincial gambling revenue is owed to Ontario Indians. The land dispute near Caledonia could prove an even trickier conundrum, as it has already caused friction between native protesters and provincial police, as well as natives and non-natives.

"If it was an easy job, I'm telling you it would have been solved already. The issues are very deep, very complicated," Mr. Peterson said yesterday. "I think you'll find that everyone feels aggrieved...[but] the genius here is to find the common ground."

While former premiers can carry a lot of clout in most meetings, native protesters from the Six Nations Reserve said they are not all that impressed by Mr. Peterson's involvement. They say the issues go beyond what any one official can address.

"Peterson? I've heard of him, but I don't know too much about politics," said Clyde Powless, a spokesman for the Six Nations protesters. "He's just a small guy."

Sitting in front of a barricade of rubble built last month to block access to the disputed land, Mr. Powless said his concerns extend far beyond the parameters of the land in question. He accused Canadian governments of swindling natives over several centuries.

"I can understand the town is frustrated trying to deal with this roadblock for the last two weeks," Mr. Powless said.

"But imagine my frustration: The roadblock for our people went up the moment Canada became a country. They're trying to make me like a dinosaur; they're trying to make me extinct. I'm not going to let them do that. We need that buffer zone."

The provincial government says it gained title to the land in question in 1841, as part of an agreement intended to make way for a highway.

Six Nations residents disagreed, as they spoke to reporters at a restaurant on the reserve yesterday. They presented maps that showed how vast swaths of North American lands they controlled were whittled down to the relatively small reserve outside of Brantford.

"What we've been saying is that we never gave that up," said Six Nations resident Wendy Hill. She said her people need a buffer from the burgeoning bedroom community of Caledonia next door. "Construction brings more people, who bring more cars, which brings more pollution."

Barricades set up by police and protesters have remained in place since the altercation between the two groups. Lately, residents of Caledonia -- population 10,000 -- have responded with protests of their own, some saying they are being held hostage by the protesters.

Meanwhile, negotiations are proceeding. The Canadian Press reported on the weekend that the Ontario government has offered to compensate the developers of the subdivision, which would be known as Douglas Creek Estates.

Anne-Marie Flanagan, spokeswoman for Aboriginal Affairs Minister David Ramsay, said the developers and builders have asked for the offer to be kept confidential. "An offer was made to them, but we don't have a final agreement yet," she said.

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