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Removal of Caledonia blockade a 'positive step' News Staff
Updated Wed. May. 24 2006 9:52 AM 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.]

The removal of a barricade in Caledonia, Ont. is being described as a positive step toward resolving a native land-claim dispute that has paralyzed the community since February.

The main obstruction, a portion of a hydro tower which was blocking a road in the southern Ontario town, was taken down Tuesday and now blocks a construction site entrance on land at the centre of the dispute.

Ken Hewitt, of the Caledonia Citizens' Alliance -- an ad-hoc group formed after native protesters put the barricades up in April -- said he is encouraged by the progress.

"I think the community is excited to see the road is open, and it's a positive step for Caledonia and the Six Nations," Hewitt told CTV's Canada AM Wednesday.

The Argyle Street blockade has become a focal point for tensions in the community recently, with native protesters and frustrated community residents clashing on several occasions.

Tempers boiled over on Monday, resulting in fist fights between the two sides despite a heavy police presence.

Hewitt said the removal of the blockade will go a long way toward restoring peace.

"I think the tensions were running high when the blockades were up ... and there are still some concerns.

But I honestly believe that in the community here, where these people have lived together for a long time, those tensions will dissipate quickly."

However, Hewitt maintained his position from Tuesday that damage that was done to a hydro transformer, knocking out power to thousands of residents, was akin to terrorism.

Federal Indian Affairs Minister Jim Prentice called the removal of the barricade a sign that the dispute "has turned a corner."

CTV's Scott Laurie, reporting from Caledonia Wednesday morning confirmed that the removal of the blockade appears to have restored peace and eased tensions in the community.

"The battle now is over the land claims," Laurie told AM.

"The out-and-out punching and kicking and fighting that we saw on Monday has passed, and people on both sides are thankful that is the case."

The dispute, said Laurie, will now return to the negotiating table as talks continue between both sides.

Land dispute

The protesters are trying to prevent construction of a housing development on land they claim as their own.

They have vowed to stay on the site until there is a resolution to the dispute.

"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.

Protesters 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.

Six Nations Chief Allen McNaughton said negotiators are now working on removing a second blockade that remains in place on Highway 6.

Protesters initially took down the barricade on Monday as a sign of goodwill after the province pledged to indefinitely halt construction on the site.

However, the blockade was put back up after the situation degenerated into a series of violent fist fights with non-natives.

Police intervened in several clashes, but tempers escalated 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.

After the blockade came down Tuesday, Hydro One officials said power would hopefully be restored to the community within the next day or two.

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.

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