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Ontario orders indefinite halt to construction at Caledonia

Oliver Moore
Globe & Mail
Posted on May 20, 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.]

The Ontario government has ordered a halt to construction on disputed land near Caledonia as a goodwill gesture to natives blockading the site.

The length of the moratorium will be determined in talks between the provincial government, Ottawa and the Six Nations Confederacy, the band at the heart of the dispute.

The brothers who own the land have not been included in this arrangement.

"What we've been trying to do is get the community back to normalcy, to give us more time to work on a long-term solution," Aboriginal Affairs Minister David Ramsay said.

"The Six Nations wanted some certainty that houses wouldn't be built while these talks went on."

Mr. Ramsay said in an interview last night that the decision to impose a moratorium was about "building trust" with native leaders, and that the government had received, in return, "an understanding that the Six Nations representatives would work toward normalcy.

"We're looking for a short-term agreement that would get the roadblocks down," he added.

Mr. Ramsay made the same point in a letter this week to the Six Nations Confederacy Council, insisting that talks cannot proceed without "continued progress" on removal of the barricades.

Natives agreed earlier in the week to allow some local traffic through the protest, but there was no word last night whether the blockade had weakened further.

A limited protest began at the site late in February. But it was after Ontario Provincial Police entered the site in mid-April, in a failed attempt to enforce a court injunction, that barricades went up.

Developers want to build 600 houses on the 40-hectare parcel of land, which they bought in 1992. But natives argue they never sold the land, which was granted to Six Nations people who moved north after the American Revolution.

Politicians in nearby communities are watching keenly. A failure to resolve the issues could affect development in the so-called Haldimand Grant, a 20-kilometre-wide strip along the Grand River from Dundalk to Dunnville.

The appearance of Mr. Ramsay's letter on a pro-native website infuriated the owners of the land, who demanded compensation after learning that its development potential had been bartered away.

Michael Bruder, a lawyer for Henco Industries, the development company owned by Don and John Henning, said they had been clear in their rejection of native demands for a construction moratorium and another archaeological assessment.

"We notified the people we're dealing with that we would not agree to those terms," he said. "[Natives] want a lot of things, but this is our property and we're not amenable to it."

Mr. Bruder argued that the agreement amounted to government rewards for native militancy.

"The group that's breaking the law gets concessions," he said. "What about other developers? If the natives start protesting, are you going to set a moratorium on their property? That's a terrible precedent."

In response, Mr. Ramsay said that the situation in Caledonia is unique and that, as such, the government's actions there should not be seen as indicative of its approach to other native land disputes.

Mr. Bruder also charged that the provincial government did not "have the decency" even to tell the Hennings about the moratorium agreement.

"You have to remember, we're not at the talks," he noted. "We have learned that, if we want to find things out, we go to the Six Nations website."

That characterization was rejected point-blank by Mr. Ramsay, who insisted that the Henning brothers had been kept informed "every step of the way."

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