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Natives back protests

Poll: Civil disobedience to increase, majority of respondents say

Kelly Patrick
National Post
Published: Monday, May 15, 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.]

Canada's Aboriginals overwhelmingly back the long-running Six Nations demonstration in Caledonia and predict the number of similar land-claims protests is about to rise, a new survey has found.

According to a poll conducted for the National Post, 62% of natives believe protesters in the Hamilton bedroom community and in eastern Ontario -- where natives briefly blocked a rail line in sympathy last month -- were right to demonstrate. That compares with just 12% who said the demonstrators were wrong.

"We're talking about a margin of 5-1 and civil disobedience is involved," said Conrad Winn, president of polling firm Compas Inc., which conducted the survey this month.

"A 5-1 ratio of support tells us there is a real strong sense of land grievance that continues among Aboriginal communities that won't go away that readily."

The nationwide poll of 295 First Nations, Metis and Inuit respondents also found 61% predicted more land-claims protests ahead. Only 18% foresaw fewer protests.

When viewed against a third poll question that found natives give the provincial and federal governments marks nearly as high as their own national leaders, Mr. Winn said the native agenda that emerges is one of "moderate rebellion."

"Their agendas are very practical," he said. "They want their land rights, but they don't want to overturn the government of Canada. They're not revolutionaries."

The survey's respondents were asked to grade four different levels of native and non-native government on a scale of zero to 100, with 100 being a perfect score.

National native leaders won top marks with an average score of 60 points, but provincial and territorial governments were close behind with an average grade of 57.

The federal government and local native leaders tied with an average score of 54.

"[Aboriginals] certainly have agendas of concern, because they think the demonstrators were right to demonstrate," Mr. Winn said.

"And they foresee a lot more such demonstrations. But their reactions in general are quite moderate, as evidenced by essentially as much confidence in the federal and provincial governments as they have in their own leaders."

The standoff at Caledonia began on Feb. 28, when Six Nations activists began blocking construction of a subdivision on a 40-hectare parcel of land they insisted was improperly taken from their ancestors more than 200 years ago.

Henco Industries Inc., the local developer behind the disputed Douglas Creek Estates project, obtained a court injunction in March demanding the natives abandon their protest. They refused.

On April 20, Ontario Provincial Police stormed the barricade in a failed bid to disperse the demonstrators.

The early-morning raid inflamed tensions and prompted the Six Nations protesters to begin blocking the town's major thoroughfare, Highway 6.

That, in turn, raised the ire of locals, whose anger spilled over at community meetings and at counter-demonstrations at the road block.

The native demonstrators have since established a second, smaller blockade, while the townspeople and local business groups have set up a Caledonia Citizens' Alliance to publicize their side of the dispute.

Ottawa and Queen's Park have also enlisted high-profile negotiators to help end the conflict, including former Ontario premier David Peterson.

Talks to end the standoff are said to be progressing well, with some published reports over the weekend saying the barricades could come down as early as this week.

Constable Doug Graham, a spokesman for the OPP, said yesterday nothing had changed at the site.

"There are no signs of the blockade coming down," he said.

A spokesman for Chief of the Assembly of First Nations Phil Fontaine said he was not available to comment on the results of the Compas Inc. poll.

Aboriginal Media Poll

The survey was conducted from May 4 to May 11. The results are considered accurate to within 5.7 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

On the question of whether the Caledonia protesters and their eastern Ontario sympathizers were right or wrong, 19% said they were completely right; 43% said they were somewhat right; 15% said they were partly right and partly wrong; 7% said they were somewhat wrong; and 5% said they were completely wrong.

Approximately 4% refused to answer and 8% said they did not know or had no opinion.

Asked to predict the number of future land-claims protests, 22% foresaw a lot more; 39% foresaw somewhat more; 13% predicted no change; 10% predicted somewhat fewer; and 8% predicted a lot fewer.

On that question, 6% refused to answer and 2% said they did not know or had no opinion.

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