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McGuinty pleads for patience as land dispute drags on

Angela Pacienza - Canadian Press
Globe & Mail
May 10, 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.]

Toronto — Residents embroiled in a tense and protracted aboriginal land claim protest in the southwestern Ontario town of Caledonia should be patient as government officials try to work out a settlement, Premier Dalton McGuinty said Wednesday.

Mr. McGuinty pleaded with Caledonia residents for more time to resolve a dispute by Six Nations members over a new subdivision being built on land the aboriginals say was stolen from them by the Canadian government some 200 years ago.

Peaceful resolutions can be sluggish, Mr. McGuinty said, but added he's confident that talks led by former premier David Peterson are still the best way to resolve the crisis.

“The best way out of this is through negotiation,” the Premier said. “It's slow, it is painstaking. It doesn't give us the kinds of obvious progress that we would like to be able to see every day and be able to demonstrate to the people of Ontario.”

Six Nations leaders voiced some of their concerns Wednesday at a short meeting with former federal cabinet ministers Jane Stewart and Barbara MacDougall.

The former ministers were brought in to help with talks after the aboriginals said they would deal only with federal officials on land issues.

Neither ex-minister was available for comment, but Ontario Aboriginal Affairs Minister David Ramsay said the various groups discussed each other's concerns.

“They started to get an understanding of what transpired in the area over the last two months,” Mr. Ramsay said.

The occupation started in late February when a group of Six Nations activists moved onto the 40 hectares of land, which backs onto the group's reserve near Hamilton. Developer Henco Industries was in the midst of building homes on the contested property.

The dispute escalated April 20 when provincial police raided the site and arrested 16 aboriginals. Police were pushed back later that same day, and the protesters set up a blockade of the main road into Caledonia.

That has made access difficult for the area's approximately 10,000 residents, who are demanding the blockade come down.

Tension has mounted as the community remains divided over the issue. Last month, an angry mob approached the protesters' front line, sparking a brief clash with police.

“It's just a matter of going through all the steps that we possibly can to bring the parties to the table,” Mr. McGuinty said.

“It's going to take more time than we would like, but we will persist.”

The disputed land is part of what was once some 400,000 hectares provided to the Six Nations by the British government in 1784 in exchange for their allegiance during the American War of Independence.

The land was then leased in the 1830s to the government to build a road, but the property was sold instead. The Six Nations have long insisted they never agreed to sell the land, and say they did not receive adequate compensation for it. The standoff at Douglas Creek Estates has already cost taxpayers $8-million, Ontario Tory justice critic Garfield Dunlop claimed Wednesday.

There are 75 to 125 officers from as far away as Ottawa, Peterborough, Huron County, Belleville and Orillia assigned to the area, Mr. Dunlop said.

“I'm very concerned about the cost of it,” Mr. Dunlop said. “The $8 million is my estimate.... All you need is a calculator and you're up to a million in housing and food alone.”

Mr. Dunlop said he based his figures on “reliable sources” he wouldn't identify.

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