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Ontario set to help Caledonia businesses

Daniel Nelson
Hamilton Spectator
BRANTFORD (May 25, 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.]

The province is preparing an assistance program for Caledonia businesses hit hard by the standoff with native protesters, including a blockade of roads and a blackout caused this week by a fire set in a transformer.

Meanwhile, the councillor for Caledonia is urging Ottawa to get tough with Six Nations and look at cutting off federal funding for the band until the occupation of a housing project ends.

"Why has not anyone said, 'Fellows, as long as you're occupying the land, we're terminating the monthly payments?'" Craig Ashbaugh said yesterday at a closed door meeting with provincial officials in Brantford.

"Once you pull the plug for one or two weeks, they'll (the band council) say, 'Look guys, continue with negotiations and get off that property.'"

"Is it harsh?" Ashbaugh asked. "Yes. Is it more harsh than blowing up a transformer?"

Ashbaugh made his comments, which were clearly audible beyond the confines of the meeting room, at the first meeting of a community liaison group.

The group consists of representatives from the ministries of municipal affairs, aboriginal affairs and small business, Haldimand County Mayor Marie Trainer, two councillors, members of the OPP, provincial appointee Jane Stewart and community representatives.

Stewart said the purpose is to provide government information to the community and to hear concerns from them.

A provincial official promised the group there'll be information later today on financial assistance for businesses that have suffered from the standoff -- "the worst cases."

The occupation of Douglas Creek Estates on Argyle Street is in its third month. Protesters say Six Nations never surrendered the land, but Canada and Ontario say it was sold in 1841.

A blockade on Argyle Street came down Tuesday, but a blackout hit the town Monday following a violent confrontation between natives and non-natives. Power was set to be restored by last night and all area schools to reopen today.

Two other blockades are still up.

The provincial official said it won't have a full-fledged business assistance program in place for a while, but the "plan is to get some money down here as fast as possible."

Trainer said the assistance was "paramount." She said even before the blackout -- which caused some businesses to dump spoiled products -- town businesses had told her their operations had lost between 25 and 80 per cent of their revenue. Many had to lay people off.

"Before the blackout, businesses were hurting greatly," the mayor remarked at the conclusion of the meeting at the Best Western Inn.

"Something has got to be there to help them sustain themselves until things get a little back to normal. That's No. 1."

The committee also decided to pursue having a federal representative and a provincial representative become part of the group.

Stewart, the former Brant MP, was appointed by the province, along with federal appointee Barbara McDougall, to deal with long-term issues such as land claims and band governance with Six Nations representatives.

Outside the meeting, Ashbaugh would not discuss his suggestion to terminate funding and Stewart downplayed it.

"We talked about a lot of things," Stewart replied.

Trainer said someone called the county recently and told her funding had been cut off by Ottawa in a land dispute with natives four decades ago.

She couldn't say if it would work in Caledonia or if it might inflame the situation further.

"That is something the federal government would have to look into, the repercussions."

Yesterday, Prime Minister Stephen Harper dismissed suggestions that Ottawa had been missing in action in Caledonia.

"Look, I have a lot of sympathy for a lot of people who have done nothing wrong, have been severely inconvenienced."

He said the initial parcel of land involved in the dispute was not part of federal land claim negotiations.

"Obviously we've got negotiators in there now. It really is a provincial land use matter and a provincial law enforcement issue," Harper said.

with files from The Toronto Star

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