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$500,000 in aid for Caledonia

Matt Kruchak and Daniel Nolan
Hamilton Spectator
CALEDONIA (May 26, 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.]

Area businesses will be able to tap into $500,000 of provincial aid to help keep operations afloat after weeks of dwindling revenue caused by the native land dispute.

Economic Development Minister Joe Cordiano announced the grant yesterday in Brantford following a meeting with members of the community liaison group made up of citizens, Haldimand County officials, the OPP and representatives of various Ontario ministries.

The minister said the money is expected to be handed over to the county today, although he said it will take time to distribute as guidelines are designed to ensure the neediest businesses get the funding.

"We're going to do what it takes to ensure that these businesses are up and running, people get back to work and bring some normality to the situation," the minister told reporters. "We recognize, obviously, this is a situation that isn't normal and we want to provide this kind of relief."

Businesses have complained customers have been scared off since three barricades went up around the town April 20 after the OPP failed to oust natives and their supporters occupying an Argyle Street South housing project. The protesters, who've been on the site since Feb. 28, claim Six Nations never surrendered the land, but Canada and Ontario say it was surrendered and sold in 1841.

The Argyle Street barricade came down Tuesday, but two remain. The town and surrounding region were also hit by a blackout Monday after a transformer behind the native barricade was damaged. That followed a series of punch ups between natives and townsfolk. Power was still out in a few parts of Caledonia yesterday.

The loss of business is also being attributed to Six Nations residents taking their shopping dollars elsewhere because they do not feel welcome or they're protesting the treatment of natives by some townsfolk.

Cordiano said other assistance could come to help the town's economy recover from the dispute. County officials have made the case for aid to homeowners who lost such items as food in freezers from the lengthy blackout.

"We're looking at longer term funding for other types of relief and assistance, but that's to come," Cordiano said.

A spokesperson for the Caledonia Citizens' Alliance, formed to help bring an end to the standoff, was pleased with the minister's offer, but said more aid will be needed.

"I think, for most people, they will understand this is a start," said Ralph Luimes. "It is nowhere near what is necessary to address the gravity of the situation."

He wasn't aware of any businesses that have gone under, but said some are "seriously assessing" their situation.

Councillor Lorne Boyko, a member of the liaison group, welcomed the aid but added, "My immediate comment to the minister was that it is not enough. I was expecting something with six zeroes behind it. I'm sort of placated that he said this is a start."

Haldimand County Mayor Marie Trainer says stores in Caledonia have seen a drop in business, anywhere from 25 to 80 per cent.

"It's making it very difficult for the businesses," she said, adding owners and managers have been laying workers off and then having to work those shifts themselves.

The manager of First Choice Hair Cutters in Caledonia is clipping more than hair. Over the last month, Lois MacDonald has been cutting employee and store hours, too.

Yesterday afternoon, only three of the store's nine seats were occupied. Even though the Argyle Street blockade is gone, clients haven't returned. The store relies on walk-ins, but no one's coming.

"Everybody thought we weren't open," she said.

Hair stylist Andrea Holubeshen said a lot of native clients are staying away, to avoid any potential confrontations.

Hours Monday to Wednesday have been trimmed from 12 to 10. Instead of three-scissor wielding hairdressers working per shift, now there are only two. One employee quit, one transferred, one found another job and a couple are looking for work.

Florence Earl sat with curlers in her hair. She's lived in Caledonia for 45 years and she says she has never seen business in the town struggle as much as it is now.

The drop in business has also been noticed in Hagersville and Port Dover. Milly Coulthart, general manager of the Port Dover Board of Trade, said her members have noticed a decrease in tourist traffic, especially on the weekends. She believes it's partly due to poorly marked detour signs.

Bonnie McKinnon, president of the Hagersville chamber of commerce, said the blockade has caused people to avoid her town. They used to have traffic coming through from Hamilton on their way to Port Dover.

"We're definitely being affected."

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