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Province's negotiator says he's 'positive' as new Caledonia barrier erected

Paul Legall
Hamilton Spectator
Sunday, May 07, 2006 | Updated at 9:37 AM EDT

[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 * Former Ontario Premier David Peterson feels he's making progress in resolving the 68-day-old native occupation of Douglas Creek Estates.

Despite his optimism, the natives seem to have dug in ever more with the erection of a new barricade on the north side of the Highway 6 Bypass bridge over the Grand River. They also sprayed painted a sign in bold black letters on the north-end of the bridge saying, "Our native lands are not for sale."

It is the first time the protesters had established a presence north of the river that cuts through Six Nations traditional territory.

But Peterson feels he's already established rapport with native leaders as he heads back to the table.

"We've made some headway. I feel positive, but this isn't over yet," he said on the weekend as he assessed his first week at the negotiation table.

"We've reached a tentative understanding on a number of issues," he added.

He declined to disclose details but said the appointment of former federal cabinet ministers Jane Stewart (Liberal) and Barbara MacDougall (Progressive Conservative) as land claims negotiators was an important breakthrough.

He said it will now be up to Six Nations people to assign their own people to work with the appointees. The protesters have insisted they will deal only with federal officials while discussing land issues.

Peterson also squelched rumors circulating among native activists on the weekend that he was sent packing after only two days on the job. "That's absolutely not true," he said.

He added he'll be back at the table when talks resume at an undisclosed location .

He indicated his main purpose will to resolve the occupation of Douglas Creek Estates, which involves a blockade of a portion of Argyle Street and the Highway Six Bypass around Caledonia.

But he doesn't expect any snap solutions. "I do understand there are difficulties here. These issues have been going on for 200 years. It's not easy, but I'm an optimist," he said.

A group of native activists moved onto Douglas Creek Estates on Feb. 28 and erected a large banner proclaiming it "Six Nations Lands." Describing the action as a land reclamation, they said the 40-hectare tract being developed as a residential survey was part of their territory and was never transferred to non-natives.

Developer Henco Industries, however, obtained a court injunction to have the protesters evicted from the property, which had 10 houses in various stages of construction.

John and Don Henning, who own Henco Industries, say they have about $6 million invested in the project and had obtained all the necessary approvals for the subdivision.

The protest remained relatively peaceful until April 20 when a large contingent of OPP officers backed up by a heavily-armed tactical team swarmed in and arrested 16 natives for contempt of court. In retaliation, the activists burned tires, erected barriers on major roads and established the blockades. The barriers have disrupted local traffic and angered local citizens who have been staging regular demonstrations to express their disapproval.

Last Friday, the protesters built the new barrier on the north side of the Highway 6 Bypass bridge over the Grand River and established a presence on north side of the river for the first time. The barrier is constructed from a metal guardrail and sections of stainless angle iron similar to the material used to build hydro towers.

There was no one posted at the north-end barrier on the weekend, but it was clearly visible from a checkpoint the activists have established on top of the Sixth Line Bridge near the entrance of the reserve. Like the Arygle Street barricade, they have people at this checkpoint 24 hours a day and stop all vehicles passing through.

Brad Morton, who operates a furniture business with his wife Janet, said the new barrier won't affect traffic because there was already a barricade on the south side of the bridge and no traffic was allowed through after April 20.

"It's a little bit more intimidating; they've crossed the river. As far as usability is concerned, it hasn't changed," he said.

Morton isn't worried about the natives expanding their protest over to his side of the river, however. With the checkpoints and barriers they're already minding, he doesn't believe they have enough people to expand any further.

"I've got a feeling they can't do much more than they're already doing," he said.

A member of the native security staff who didn't want to give his name said the new barrier was erected for "safety and security."

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