Six Nations Solidarity
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CTV.ca News Staff
Updated Tue. May. 23 2006 11:30 PM 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.]
Handshakes, just before native protesters removed a blockade that has divided the community for 83 days, signaled an easing of tensions in Caledonia, Ont.
Removing the Argyle Street blockade was designed to ease tensions between protesters and frustrated community residents who clashed in fistfights Monday despite a heavy police presence.
"I think today they were prepared to accept our gesture," aboriginal spokesperson Hazel Hill told CTV Newsnet on Tuesday, referring to the Caledonia Citizens' Committee.
The main obstruction, a portion of a hydro tower, was moved from Argyle Street and now blocks a construction site entrance at the centre of the dispute. The protesters are trying to prevent construction of a housing development on land they claim as their own.
"We're staying on the land. That's been our intention from the beginning -- to hold that peaceful presence on the land," Hill said, adding that protesters will stay there until negotiations are completed.
"People need to realize that all the money that's been wasted has been on strictly the barricades, the land issue hasn't been touched on," Janie Jamieson, another aboriginal spokesperson, told reporters.
A second blockade on Highway 6 remains in place. Asked if it would be coming down in the near future, Six Nations Chief Allen McNaughton said, "We're working on that."
Once the blockade was removed from Argyle Street, crews set to work clearing away debris. They also began to repair damage to the roadway.
Traffic started to move along the roadway around 3:30 p.m. Tuesday.
Federal Indian Affairs Minister Jim Prentice called the removal a sign that the dispute "has turned a corner."
Prentice said it could still take time to resolve the dispute, but believes the negotiations are on the right track. He is not getting directly involved in negotiations, saying his mediators are doing a good job.
Premier Dalton McGuinty expressed delight that calm has prevailed in Caledonia, saying it is the result of trust, goodwill and perseverance.
But the premier stopped short of saying if the province will compensate for losses incurred during the standoff. Instead, he listed financial help provided by the provincial government up to this point.
"I can say that we have helped the developer with some of its ... financial obligations," McGuinty said. "We've made some money available to the community itself to help them cope, but that's (compensation) an important part of the discussion that we'll have to entertain as we go forward."
Early Monday, protesters briefly dismantled the barricade as a sign of goodwill after the province pledged to indefinitely halt construction on the site.
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 fistfights with non-natives and the barricade was put back up.
It turned even uglier at around noon Monday, when an SUV driven by a Six Nations protester tried to force its way through the line of locals that had been barring protesters from accessing the site.
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 about 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.
The power outage forced school boards serving Caledonia, Simcoe and Waterford to close 17 schools.
Talks to end the bitter dispute have been continuing under former Ontario premier David Peterson, but it remains unclear when those talks were likely to resume.
But Peterson remains upbeat about the possibility of reaching a solution.
"Some people will see the negative in this, others will see the positive," Peterson said. "I see the positive.
"It's a real credit to the people of Caledonia and to the native people. It's been tough. Both sides had some very extreme and aggressive people yelling at them, shouting at them ... Goodness and moderation prevailed, that's a positive human story."
Meanwhile, a local councillor said earlier Tuesday that efforts to bring an end to the dispute needed to be stepped up, even if it meant bringing in the military,
"They need to bring in the necessary authorities to end this dispute immediately," Haldimand County councillor Buck Sloat told CTV Newsnet.
"Whether that be the provincial OPP or whether that be the army, I'm not sure at what level it needs to be brought in but this needs to be ended immediately."
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.
Protestors argue that the site of the Douglas Creek Estates housing project was part of a large land grant back in 1784, but the provincial and federal governments insist the land was surrendered in 1841 to help build a major highway.
With reports from CTV's Lisa LaFlamme and John Musselman