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Peterson fears another Oka

Joan Walters
Hamilton Spectator
(May 23, 2006)

[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.]

David Peterson says the hotter things get at Caledonia, the more he fears something will happen to force an Oka or Ipperwash style incident.

"These issues tend to collect extreme elements on both sides," said the former Ontario premier, who had been at Caledonia three weeks trying to bring the sides together.

"What you fear is something like the permanent stain of an Oka. You think of Ipperwash and you think of a certain set of facts."

He was referring to the a violent confrontation at Oka, Que., in 1990 and the shooting death of Dudley George, a native protester at Ipperwash in 1995.

"Something went wrong," Peterson said of the situation at Caledonia yesterday, after barricades were put back up and road re-openings scuttled.

"The native community offered a gesture, taking it (barricade) down," Peterson said. "Somehow or other, this gesture was not accepted as what it is," he said, referring to the local reaction.

"The native community doesn't bear the Caledonia community any malice. In a sense, they (Caledonia residents) were collateral damage."

Haldimand County Mayor Marie Trainer said she didn't know what to think when the confrontation began.

"It was going to be good for business that Argyle Street was open, and safer."

She said she didn't know exactly what happened, and was disappointed.

The situation on the ground was "making things very hot," Trainer said. "But I understand the frustration."

Many in Caledonia had hoped the removal of barricades would lead to a calmer environment in which federal, provincial and aboriginal negotiators could get down to business.

Peterson began yesterday planning to hand the situation over to the official land negotiation team for the federal and provincial governments -- headed by former federal Tory minister Barbara McDougall for Ottawa and former Liberal cabinet minister Jane Stewart, appointed by Ontario. He believed his job of "cooling things out" so formal negotiations could begin was over.

But a sense of optimism for the first time since the barricades went up in April turned sour.

"I don't know how this misunderstanding grew," Peterson said. "It was all going wonderfully."

The barricade was a major irritant to the community and its removal was supposed to be a sign of good faith.

Peterson said he had hoped the situation had turned.

"What I wanted Caledonia to represent is a new approach to problem solving, as a monument to co-operation, not to violence, evil or to some mistake that stains everybody forever."

To Trainer, the community sentiment over the barricade was not hard to understand.

"The people who are the non-natives have done nothing wrong," she said. "They paid for these roads and yet they're not allowed to use them."

Along with frustration over the road blockage, there is also concern about some of the area's other land.

Native protesters have been occupying a 40-hectare piece of land slated for a housing development since Feb. 28, saying it is rightfully theirs.

They say they agreed to lease the property for a road in 1835, and disagree with government arguments that it was later sold to the Crown.

Federal and provincial negotiators have agreed to discuss the issue.

Trainer said that because of this, questions about land rights now affect residents all along the Grand River.

"This issue covers everyone along that six miles," she said.

"Whether you've lived here eight years or are on your 5th generation, the question people are asking is: If they can open up this land in Caledonia, what about yours and George's and Frank's? What's going to happen to mine?"

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