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Owners line up for relief funds

Blockade nearly shut Caledonia auto body shop

Deirdre Healey
Hamilton Spectator
CALEDONIA (May 31, 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.]

Bill Kirouac was on the verge of closing his auto body shop.

Customers stopped coming into his Caledonia business the moment news hit that natives were occupying a development site.

His native customers also disappeared.

And for the entire month of April, the father of two brought in only $600, a 90-per-cent drop in business.

"I was about to fold," Kirouac said.

"April was a terrible month because everyone was afraid to come to Caledonia and I have a lot of customers on the reserve who couldn't get in because of the blockade."

His wife found a job working at an Ancaster restaurant to help make ends meet.

But Kirouac is still struggling to support his two daughters and keep his business, Premier Collision, running after such a significant loss.

Yet Kirouac remains hopeful and was one of the first local business owners to show up at the Haldimand Caledonia Community Centre yesterday morning to apply for a piece of the $500,000 in provincial emergency relief.

"I just hope it's enough," he said.

"And I hope to get it as soon as possible."

George Battle followed him. He owns Crushed Tomato, a restaurant in the plaza that sits a block from the Douglas Creek Estates, the site of the native occupation.

Battle opened the restaurant in September 2005, but since the occupation began he has had to cut back on hours and estimates he has lost close to 50 per cent of his business.

Battle is hoping to be compensated for the loss of business in both April and May and to return to running regular hours.

"It's a good gesture from the province," Battle said.

"But I am sure we will need more."

About 400 businesses in the Caledonia to Hagersville Highway 6 corridor are eligible for funding, said Steve Miazga, of Haldimand County's planning and economic development department.

"We are trying to issue cheques within 24 hours of receiving the application," Miazga said.

"We are doing the best we can to get relief out as quickly as possible.

"The funding is meant to address the issue of businesses in dire straits that are facing the possibility of closure very soon."

The grants will cover expenses such as hydro, rent and car leases, but do not include claims for loss of business or for the power outage.

Miazga said the county plans to request more funding if needed.

"It's a start and if additional funding is required because all the funds have been used, we will apply for more," he said.

"The province has been very good to date with providing us with funds."

Business owners have another two to four weeks to pick up applications at the community centre and access the available funding.

Native spokesperson Janie Jamieson agreed the government should provide compensation because "it is their fault this has happened and they should be accountable."

But she said businesses on the Six Nations reserve have also been struggling since the occupation and should be compensated.

"Our shops, gas stations and restaurants have had absolutely no outside business," she explained.

The $500,000 received by Haldimand County is in addition to the $100,000 the province handed over at the beginning of May to boost local businesses hurt by the occupation and to improve communication with residents about ongoing negotiations.

Consultants were hired to handle communications and to help develop a business recovery plan.

Miazga said the plan was passed by county council Monday night and the focus is on advertising Caledonia businesses in local media.

He said the county is requesting another $160,000 from the province for the business recovery plan.

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