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Caledonia talks on hold after brawling, vandalism

CBC News:
Last Updated May 23 2006 08:29 AM EDT

[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 southern Ontario town of Caledonia awoke to no power and much uncertainty Tuesday, a day after a standoff between aboriginal protesters and non-native residents exploded in violence.

By early morning, about a dozen non-native protesters from Caledonia were milling around the site of an aboriginal blockade on Highway 6. About 300 metres down the road, 50 native protesters had gathered behind a toppled electrical transmission tower.

Situated between them were three Ontario Provincial Police cruisers and about a dozen officers.

Talks that had been planned for Tuesday amid hopes the longstanding land-claim dispute was about to be resolved were not expected to resume.

Municipal officials in Haldimand County declared an official state of emergency late Monday night after vandalism at a local transformer cut power from much of the community. Hydro officials say restoring electricity could take days.

Schools have been closed on Tuesday, making for an extended long weekend for 41,000 children.

The calm that settled over the town after darkness fell was a stark contrast to the scene during the daylight hours on Monday, when protesters and residents traded punches and insults.

OPP officers repeatedly separated the two sides during the day, and showed up in the evening in riot gear on Highway 6, the main road running through the southern Ontario town.

Former Ontario premier David Peterson, who was appointed by the province at the end of April to help resolve the standoff, said the clash had "complicated the situation by a large measure."

When talks could resume is uncertain, he said, calling Monday's brawl a "heartbreaking" turn of events.

The native protesters had briefly dismantled their barricade Monday morning as a sign of goodwill after the province pledged to indefinitely halt development on a plot of disputed land.

The Six Nations community claims the land on which the subdivision was being built was illegally taken from them 200 years ago.

Hundreds of town residents turned up Monday and barred access to the site. The scene turned ugly when a van driven by a Six Nations protester tried to force its way through the locals, prompting a fist fight.

Several native and non-native demonstrators were injured in scuffles after natives blocked the highway with an electrical transmission tower and then used backhoes to tear a trench across the road in front of their blockade.

The non-native blockade began Friday night, as part of a weekly demonstration by members of the community frustrated about the barricade that has been in place for almost five weeks.

One non-native protester denied that residents had made the situation worse by coming out to face the natives.

"We're not provoking the situation," Jeff MacNeil told CBC News early Tuesday.

"We're just treating them the same way they're treating us - refusing them access to various things, like,'We're not allowed over there? Okay, you can't come over here.'"

Peterson told CBC Newsworld the Caledonia dispute is being watched by native groups across North America.

"Don't underestimate the significance," he said. "All of us were praying and working hard to ensure that something ugly didn't develop out of this, like an Oka or a Wounded Knee or something like that."

In a development that seemed to underline Peterson's concerns, members of First Nations in the North Battleford area of Saskatchewan set up a short-lived blockade of their own at a major highway near the community Monday afternoon.

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