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Six Nations dismantle Caledonia barricade

Terry Weber
Globe & Mail Update
Tuesday, May 23, 2006 - posted at 3:46 PM 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.]

A blockade at the centre of a violent weekend flare-up in Southern Ontario was dismantled Tuesday as tensions eased and protesters passed a branch — offered as a symbol of peace — to community members.

The move came at the site of a long-running aboriginal land-claims protest in Caledonia, where non-native community members and protesters clashed violently on Monday.

Images broadcast from the scene showed cheers erupting after a representative of the protesters passed a branch to residents.

Throughout the morning, protesters had been slowly removing pieces of a road block which had been hastily erected a day earlier in response to escalating tensions at the scene.

By mid afternoon, a hydro tower which had formed the central part of the barricade had been removed from Highway 6 near Caledonia.

“I can understand everybody's frustration, but it's got to stop,” a resident said, as he returned with the branch.

“We've got to start loving our neighbours.”

Over the weekend, tensions soared at the scene of the barricade with fistfights breaking out between non-native residents and protesters who have been barricading a road to prevent construction on land they say was never given up by their ancestors. Initially, protesters had removed the blockade on the weekend but quickly rebuilt it after residents built their own barricade.

Earlier on Tuesday, Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty called for calm, saying negotiations to resolve the long-running dispute were continuing Tuesday. But he also cautioned that it will take time to deal with the larger issue.

“It's not the kind of thing that's going to be resolved overnight,” Mr. McGuinty told reporters.

“It's going to continue to take some time, and I would ask all parties involved to allow cooler heads to prevail.”

Conservative Leader John Tory, who was at the scene on Tuesday, said frustrations on both sides grew out of the feeling that they were being ignored by political leaders.

“These people feel no one has communicated with them, they don't really feel that there has been the kind of attempt to listen to them on all fronts that there should have been,” he said.

“I think they're right.”

Former Ontario premier David Peterson, who is leading negotiations to resolve the dispute, welcomed Tuesday's developments.

“Yesterday was pretty grim and today is pretty good and let's learn from yesterday and let's keep that constant dialogue...Caledonia can stand as a monument of co-operation and problem solving from a very tough situation,” he said.

“The alternative was pretty ugly. We don't want this to be an Ipperwash. We want this to be about community building.”

In the wake of last weekend's flare up, a local councillor said immediate steps need to be taken to end the aboriginal land-claims standoff in Caledonia, Ont., even if it means bringing in the military to cool the dispute.

Haldimand County councillor Buck Sloat told CTV Newsnet that officials need to step up efforts to bring an end to the situation.

“They need to bring in the necessary authorities to end this dispute immediately,” he said. “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.”

He also said the long-running dispute had led to a deep rift between the two sides.

“There certainly has been a wedge driven between the two communities, and it's going to take a long time to heal,” Mr. Sloat said.

“It's unfortunate. I was born and raised here. I have a lot of native friends, and I might say I don't believe that this is the opinion of the majority of the native population that live on the Six Nations reserve.

“This is a group of lawless individuals that have taken control.”

Six Nations spokeswoman Hazel Hill, however, said protesters had initially been opening up a road when a group of Caledonia residents – who either were not happy with conditions of the negotiated settlement or other factors – refused to leave. Tensions escalated.

While she acknowledged the frustration faced by residents living in the area of the barricade, she also said protesters are also similarly frustrated.

“Our people have been frustrated for well over a couple hundred years with the situation of our land and resources not being accounted for, we haven't been compensated for it,” she said.

“I do understand their frustration. It's unfortunate that for some reason the Canadian government hasn't made it clear to Caledonia the process and the negotiations taking place.”

During the weekend dispute, a nearby transformer station was seriously damaged by vandalism and fire, knocking out power to 8,000 residents of the area. It was expected to take days to restore full service.

The power outage forced the closing of as many as 17 schools in the surrounding region.

The Six Nations protesters argue that the site was part of a large land grant in 1784. The provincial and federal governments say the land was surrendered in 1841 to help build a major highway.

The protesters have been occupying the occupied site of the Douglas Creek Estates in Caledonia, Ont., about 25 kilometres south of Hamilton, since early this year.

In April, Ontario Provincial Police staged a pre-dawn raid on the site in an effort to remove the protesters after a court injunction ordered that they disperse. Tensions had been mounting earlier in the week after talks aimed at resolving the dispute broke down.

The police effort ultimately backfired, capturing national media attention.

With a report from Canadian Press

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