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Caledonia barricades may go next week

Paul Legall and Daniel Nolan
Hamilton Spectator
CALEDONIA (May 13, 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.]

Native protesters could take down their controversial barricades as early as next week -- if the government meets certain demands.

Six Nations Confederacy Chief Allen MacNaughton, who met with former Ontario Premier David Peterson yesterday, announced they were close to reaching a "peaceful resolution" in the 75-day standoff at Douglas Creek Estates.

He told reporters he expects the barricades -- a sticking point in negotiations -- to be removed in about a week.

The barriers, which include a military-style checkpoint on Argyle Street South, have been a major source of anger and conflict between the protesters and citizens of Caledonia.

There are also barriers across the Highway 6 Bypass and the Southern Ontario Railway line, which serves the Nanticoke industrial area.

Native activist John Garlow, 42, who has been at the site since Feb. 28, said the majority of his fellow protesters are "willing to try" removing the barricades as a gesture of good faith.

But he added they have three "stipulations" that will have to be met before they come down:

Protesters erected the blockades April 20 after the Ontario Provincial Police raided the site and charged 16 people with contempt of court for defying an eviction order obtained by developers Henco Industries.

Garlow said the barriers were erected to ensure the safety of protesters, who had had "racial slurs" and items hurled at them. If this behaviour persists, he warned, 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.

The apparent breakthrough in negotiations occurred yesterday morning during a closed-door meeting between Peterson and his aides and MacNaughton and Cayuga Sub-Chief LeRoy Hill at the Best Western Inn in Brantford.

"I just want to let everyone know we're close to a peaceful resolution," MacNaughton told reporters.

Apart from taking down the barricades, he said it's possible the protesters will also leave the occupation site.

"We want to see the peaceful lives of both communities get back to normal," he said.

He added the talks are continuing and he urged the protesters at the site to remain patient and calm. As a traditional chief, he has been a spokesperson for the protesters but they don't necessarily have to listen to him.

Peterson said he shares MacNaughton's optimism and believes bringing down the barricades will pave the way for the federal negotiators -- former Liberal cabinet minister Jane Stewart and former Tory minister Barbara McDougall -- to start dealing with the broader land claims issues. They're expected to meet again with native representatives Tuesday.

Haldimand County Mayor Marie Trainer, who received a phone call from Peterson about the potential breakthrough, said the development is exciting. Peterson also met with John and Don Henning, the developers behind the housing project, to give them an update.

"I'll be more excited when it happens," said Trainer. "I don't count my chickens until they're actually hatched. When it happens, then I will celebrate."

She said Caledonia residents continue to be frustrated by the blockades and some businesses are warning they may close by the end of the month because of a drastic loss of business. Some already have laid off people, she said.

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

In a release, the Hennings said they were pleased progress was being made, but they noted they have not been involved in the talks. They hope it resolves "in a manner that is satisfactory for all involved parties."

Peterson has broached with the Hennings the idea of having the province buy Douglas Creek Estates. The Hennings previously said they were not interested in selling, but in the last couple of weeks they have said they are "open to considering other options to resolve the dispute" including selling.

Marion Rice, a member of the group Caledonia Resistance, said news the barricades may come down is "awesome." The group consists of about 30 residents who live near the Argyle Street South blockade.

"The barricade is a big thing," she said. "I think that will be wonderful."

Other residents gathering for a small rally last night at the Argyle Street blockade expressed skepticism that it would be gone soon. They were still incensed the protesters were allowed to put it up in the first place.

Joanne Grant, 57, also expressed scorn at the natives' conditions for lowering the blockade. She said there'd be a "riot" if charges are dropped.

"They are breaking the law and getting away with it. It's just not fair."

Marilyn McCurdy, 65, suggested protesters do something immediately to exhibit goodwill to the town.

"Give us half our highway back," she said. "Show us something."

Peterson said Douglas Creek Estates, which was registered as a land claim in 1987, will be the first outstanding land claim discussed. They will also look at the other claims that have been filed within the Haldimand Tract, which covers six miles each side of the Grand River from the mouth to the source given to Six Nations in 1784 by the British Crown.

Peterson said he was appointed by the premier of Ontario to deal only with the Caledonia standoff, not the land claims. "Once this issue is solved, I'm out of here," he said.

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