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Ont. land claims dispute reaches boiling point News Staff
Updated Tue. May. 23 2006 8:53 AM ET

[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.]

Talks to settle a bitter aboriginal land dispute in southwestern Ontario are scheduled for today, but they could be shelved after the standoff turned violent over the holiday weekend.

Violence erupted on Monday when non-aboriginal area residents, frustrated by a roadblock that has divided the community of Caledonia, faced off with native protesters.

Earlier in the day, native protesters had briefly dismantled a barricade as a sign of goodwill after the province pledged to indefinitely halt construction on the site of the disputed land.

It had been hoped the move would mark the beginning of the end of the standoff, but the blockade was taken down for only a short time before the situation degenerated into a series of violent skirmishes that lasted throughout the day.

Six Nations spokeswoman Hazel Hill told CTV's Canada AM that natives "were following through on what we had agreed to do and had opened the road."

She said it was "unfortunate" that certain individuals "had taken the position they did" Monday.

"Things were working the way that they were supposed to," she told AM Tuesday. "I don't know what's going to happen today."

Town residents began barring protesters access to the site during the weekend and the scene began to turn ugly at around noon Monday, when an SUV driven by a Six Nations protester tried to force its way through the line of locals, prompting a fist fight.

Police intervened in several clashes, but tempers got out of hand when vandals damaged a power transformer and cut off electricity to the area, which is around 14 kilometres southwest of Hamilton, Ont.

The blackout, along with the standoff, lead municipal officials to declare a state of emergency late Monday.

Hydro One spokeswoman Laura Cooke told CTV News that the cause of the outage was clearly vandalism to the local power transformer and it will likely be days before service is fully restored.


Provincial negotiator David Peterson said it was "heartbreaking'' to see the sudden turn of events after a positive round of negotiations that he had hoped would bring about a peaceful resolution.

"The behaviour of some of these folks today was not constructive," the former Liberal premier told reporters Monday.

"It was a lot of hard work and a lot of blood and sweat and tears went into fixing this situation. And somehow or other, it came apart."

Hundreds of local people had assembled in the area by Monday afternoon, waving Canadian flags and, at one point, even began singing O Canada.

Aboriginal protesters responded by returning to their blockade, dragging part of a large metal electrical tower across the street with a truck and then using a small steam shovel to tear up pavement across the road.

Allen McNaughton, of the Six Nations Confederacy, told CTV News that the native protests "had been firm but peaceful."

"Our people are responding without weapons, using only their bodies to assert that we are a sovereign people with a long history and that we cannot be intimidated,'' he said Monday.

However, even while dozens of police officers stood at the scene, maintaining a tenuous peace between the groups of protesters, frustrated area residents called for more action.

"We're in a really terrible, terrible time right now," resident Gayle Pailing told the Canadian Press.

"We need help. We don't know what the answer is here: we need our road open, we need our power back."

By evening, aboriginal and non-aboriginal demonstrators had taken up positions on the rural highway, engaged in an uneasy standoff across a row of police officers in riot gear who stood as a human buffer between them.

In a statement released by his office on Monday night, Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty called for "calm and goodwill" in Caledonia.

"The confrontation we saw today has no place in our society and it does nothing to help resolve this difficult situation,'' the statement read.

Land dispute

Aboriginal demonstrators began blockading the road on April 20, when police attempted to forcibly remove protesters who had been occupying a 40-hectare piece of land since Feb. 28.

The Six Nations protesters say a new housing development is being built on land stolen from them more than 200 years ago.

Six Nations concede they agreed to lease the property for a road in 1835, but dispute arguments that it was later sold to the Crown.

Meanwhile, more than 30 native protesters set up a blockade on a major highway near North Battleford, Saskatchewan, Monday to show solidarity with the standoff in Caledonia.

The protesters blocked the Yellowhead Highway for about two hours during the afternoon, creating a traffic backup three kilometres long.

The protesters disbanded after an agreement was reached with the RCMP.

With files from the Canadian Press

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