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Caledonia natives set to remove one blockade

Greg McArthur
Globe & Mail
Posted on 22/05/06

[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.]

One of the two blockades erected by native protesters in Caledonia, Ont., is scheduled to be dismantled by this morning, a move the protesters are calling a "show of good faith to Canada."

Last night, protesters from the Six Nations reserve used trucks to remove rubble that has blocked part of Argyle Street for more than a month, said Clyde Powless, a spokesman for the Six Nations Confederacy.

The move comes two days after Ontario Aboriginal Affairs Minister David Ramsay assured protesters that no construction would take place on a disputed, 40-hectare piece of land that was slated for 600 new homes.

"We'll show how peaceful we are, and how much peace we want to keep by opening a road for them and start negotiating with them," Mr. Powless said.

However, a makeshift steel tower remains erected on Highway 6, the main route that connects Caledonia and many other towns with Southwestern Ontario's major highways and cities.

Mr. Powless wouldn't say when, or if, the other blockade was coming down, adding that it was the federal government's turn to make a move.

Even with the protest scaling down, there were signs yesterday that the weekend's progress was tenuous, and that tension between the natives and residents of Caledonia won't dissipate easily.

A group of unidentified locals, some drinking Tim Hortons coffee and wearing sunglasses, stood on the road yesterday, temporarily barring native drivers from coming in, or out of their protest -- essentially, blockading the blockade.

Another spokeswoman for the Six Nations Confederacy told Canadian Press that her people were mulling whether the Argyle Street blockade should be scaled back at all.

"With the turn of the events that happened in regard to the actions of a few of the non-native residents in Caledonia, we're just wondering whether that will actually happen or not," Janie Jamieson said.

The native blockades have been in place since mid-April, when the Ontario Provincial Police unsuccessfully tried to break up a smaller protest. The land has been owned by developers since 1992, but the protesters say they never sold the land, which was granted to Six Nations people who moved north after the American Revolution.

"There's a lot of anger," said councillor Tony Delimonte, whose constituents in the town of Hagersville have had to take detours to get to cities such as Hamilton. Mr. Delimonte said it was too early to say how the community is going to mend when, and if, the protests end but he was hopeful for reconciliation.

"We depend on each other in many, many ways. A great deal of business that comes into Caledonia and Hagersville comes from the Six Nations reserve," he said. "They do a lot of shopping in our communities and the kids all go to school together."

Haldimand County mayor, who made headlines a few weeks ago when she said the tradespeople who lost work on the housing development "don't have money coming in automatically every month . . . they have got to work to survive," said the Argyle Street removal is a first step. The remaining blockade on Highway 6 is a much bigger problem than the blockade the protesters chose to dismantle, said Mayor Marie Turner. Highway 6 is the main route for commuters and commercial trucks, she said.

"The trucks are ruining all of our roads and our bridges that were not built for a couple hundred...steel trucks everyday," she said.

A lawyer representing the brothers who own the disputed land, Don and John Henning, has said his clients have not been included in the negotiation process.

Lawyer Michael Bruder, has said the Ontario government's moratorium on construction is a "terrible" precedent, arguing that native groups who want to lay claim to a piece of land will feel emboldened to illegally occupy it.

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