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Negotiators say aboriginal occupation in Caledonia, Ont., close to end

May 12, 2006 - 20:12

[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. (CP) - After weeks of angry protest and bitter community backlash, negotiators seeking to resolve an aboriginal occupation in this southwestern Ontario community said Friday they believe the standoff is nearing an end.

"I think they are close to a solution, and I'm very happy with the way things are going," said Mohawk Confederacy Chief Alan McNaughton, adding that he expects the blockades set by protesters across the main road through town will be removed within a week.

John Garlow, 42, who has been at the site since Feb. 28, told the Hamilton Spectator he and his fellow protesters would be willing to go along with the agreement provided that three conditions are met. They want guarantees that their safety is ensured, assurance that they will not face any charges, and that development on the disputed land will stop immediately.

If these conditions are not honoured, Garlow said the barricades will go right back up.

"They can go back up quicker than they went down, if the town people come and disrespect us," he said.

Former premier David Peterson, who has been negotiating on behalf of the provincial government, made no comment on the protesters demands, but still seemed hopeful that the situation could be resolved soon.

"We are making progress," Peterson said. "Obviously one of the things we are working very hard on to help turn the temperature down is to see if we can clear away some of the roadblocks."

"We've made some real progress and I think everyone is very optimistic now."

Haldimand County Mayor Marie Trainer's optimism is tempered with dismay about the damage done to the community.

While she said she was "excited" by the progress in negotiations, she pointed out that many local businesses have already had to lay off employees as a result of the blockades.

"It's hurting them big time," Trainer said. "It's bad. It's everything actually. Big and small businesses. It's just sad."

Henco Industries is developing a subdivision called Douglas Creek Estates on the contested 40 hectares in Caledonia.

Six Nations members have been occupying the site since Feb. 28, arguing that the land belongs to them. They say they agreed to lease the property for a road in 1835, and dispute arguments that it was later sold to the Crown.

Protesters blockaded the main road last month after police unsuccessfully tried to raid their camp. The roadblock angered many local residents, who complained it was harming their livelihoods.

Residents have formed a group called the Caledonia Citizens' Alliance to voice their concerns.

"We cannot underestimate the damage that is being done to the community from the current crisis," said alliance chair Don Bowman.

The groups says it is frustrated by the lack of effort from the federal government in trying to solve the problem.

But Peterson said Friday that a federal official will be involved in talks next week.

"There's a lot of things at play here and I've been working very hard for the last few weeks to cool out the tensions in the community," Peterson said.

"One of the big issues was getting the federal government to the table. They are going to start on Tuesday with Barbara McDougall negotiating for the federal government and Jane Stewart for the provincial government."

McDougall was a high-profile cabinet minister in the Conservative government of Brian Mulroney, and Stewart held top jobs with Jean Chretien's Liberals.

Henco Industries issued a release later Friday stating the company is "optimistic that the situation ... will soon come to an end in a manner that is satisfactory for all involved parties."

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