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Clash costs reach $12M

Caledonia blockade's expenses spiral in policing, damage, business loss

Paul Choi
Hamilton Spectator
(May 29, 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.]

Costs of the Caledonia blockade have already exceeded $12 million and the bills aren't all in.

Policing costs alone are estimated at $10 million, with more for property damage and losses for businesses in the town and other expenses.

"This whole thing has not been cheap," said Haldimand County Mayor Marie Trainer. "All our senior staff are keeping a record of what the departments are spending."

It's three months since Six Nations protesters began occupying a 40-hectare subdivision at Douglas Creek Estates. Ontario Provincial Police have been involved from the start, and costs are spiralling.

Tory justice critic Garfield Dunlop estimates $10 million has been spent to date to deploy the approximately 200 OPP police officers into the area.

OPP helicopters, which have occasionally been dispatched, are especially expensive as it takes an estimated $600 an hour to put an OPP helicopter in the air, Dunlop said.

"If you have 200 officers, you have to take in the fact they've got vehicles, they need food, they have to be there 24 hours a day," he said. "It's been a huge drain on the OPP budget."

OPP has not disclosed how much the dispute has cost. There are fears costs will only continue to escalate the longer both sides remain at loggerheads.

Damage to property has been smaller but significant. According to Trainer, the Stirling Street bridge that was burned down April 20 will cost about $1.2 million to repair.

Hydro One spokesperson Daffyd Roderick said it also cost $1.5 million to repair the transformer on Argyle Street that was damaged after a vehicle was driven into the station and set on fire last week.

Elsewhere, minor repairs to a stretch of Argyle Street that was dug up by a front-end loader, as well as other spots of road damaged by burning tires, have been less expensive, Trainer said.

But costs could escalate in other ways. The integrity of several bridges along the Highway 6 bypass, which has been occupied by native protesters, will likely have to be inspected by the Ministry of Transportation when barricades come down. Vehicles and wooden logs set on fire below the bridges may have damaged the structures, Trainer said.

And as long as roads and highways continue to be blocked, the city will continue spending on extra signs.

"Signs have been a tremendous expense," Trainer said. "Extra stop signs, extra detours -- those things add up when you need hundreds of them."

All this excludes the undisclosed salaries of mediators David Peterson, Barbara McDougall and Jane Stewart, as well as costs incurred by Henco Industries Ltd., owner of the occupied land.

"When you take into account the policing costs, the costs that are going to be absorbed with respect to the developers, the hydro situation and all sorts of other things ... the people of the province will absorb this astronomical cost that continues to grow," said Ken Hewitt, of Caledonia Citizens' Alliance.

There are also costs for the occupiers. The Six Nations Confederacy has been tallying up its own list of expenses throughout the months-long standoff. Many native protesters have quit their jobs and spent months at the occupied subdivision, said native spokesperson Janie Jamieson.

About $400 a day is needed to feed everyone at the site, she said. And expenses such as fuel, toilet rentals, wood, water and batteries add up. In total, it takes an estimated $18,000 a month to operate at the site every day.

"A big chunk has been taken out of our economy," Jamieson said.

The provincial and federal governments have already promised to supply $800,000 to repair the Stirling Street bridge, which had been used only by pedestrians recently, but Trainer is unsure whether the city can afford the additional $400,000 to rebuild it.

The Southern Ontario Railway, whose rail line in Caledonia was cut off after debris fell from the torched bridge, continues to face halted service. Yesterday, trainmaster Doug MacKenzie wouldn't disclose costs they've incurred as a result of the blockade, but Imperial Oil, served by the railway, said its costs are minimal.

"It's an inconvenience because without the railway we have to use ships or trucks. But it's not a major thing," said Robert Theberge, spokesperson for Imperial Oil.

Last week, the province announced $500,000 in aid for local businesses.

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