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Judges orders federal government to wade into aboriginal occupation

Gregory Bonnell
Canadian Press
Published: Thursday, June 1, 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.]

CAYUGA, Ont. (CP) - The federal government is facing a judicial order compelling it to become involved in a contentious aboriginal land occupation that Prime Minister Stephen Harper has, so far, washed his hands of.

The emotional and at times violent months-long occupation of a southern Ontario construction site landed in court Thursday where the parties involved submitted suggestions on how the conflict should be resolved.

Ontario Superior Court Justice David Marshall, who in March issued an injunction ordering the aboriginals off the land, heard suggestions ranging from immediate police action to allowing negotiations with the province to continue before deciding to bring the federal government into the discussion.

"I will contact the minister of Indian Affairs, Mr. (Jim) Prentice, and the attorney general of Canada," Marshall told the court before adjourning the proceedings until June 16.

"We will hold a case conference," and that will bring the federal government on board, he said.

While aboriginal protesters have dismantled a highway blockade that inflamed Caledonia's non-aboriginal residents, a highway bypass and a railway line remain barricaded as the occupation of the housing development continues.

Both non-aboriginal residents and Six Nations members have asked the federal government to step in and resolve the issue, but Harper has insisted it is a provincial matter.

"We certainly hope (Harper) provides a representative to participate in the short-term discussions to help bring down the blockades. There is only so much that the Ontario government can provide," said Darrell Doxtdator, who appeared in court on behalf of the aboriginal band council.

"It is indeed (the federal government's) constitutional responsibility and, right now, they're shirking their responsibility."

The spectre of bringing the federal government into the talks did not impress the lawyer for land developer Henco Industries.

"I don't think it's going to help us, simply because the province has told us the federal government is not interested in participating in these discussions," said Michael Bruder.

"Hopefully, within 14 days, we'll have an agreement with the (provincial) government... to purchase the subdivision (from us) at fair market value... and we're not going to have to be back here again."

Marshall's decision came after daylong submissions from provincial police, the provincial attorney general's office, aboriginals, and railway, developer and community representatives on how the court should handle the occupation.

"We've heard from both poles today... the suspension of the court order, and we heard immediate (police) action," said Marshall.

"It's a question of the court doing the right thing."

While Marshall polled the parties on how to end the conflict, worries emerged at the provincial legislature that an information picket at the nearby Brantford Casino could be the start of another Caledonia-like occupation.

Six Nations protesters set up an information picket at the Brantford Casino on Wednesday, claiming the site as theirs.

The protesters said they wanted to show Canadians their fight is for more than a housing development occupation.

Former Conservative Solicitor General Bob Runciman told the legislature the aboriginals used an information picket to start the Caledonia occupation and asked the Liberal government what it was going to do to make sure the casino doesn't become what he called "Caledonia Two."

Speaking for the premier, Government Services Minister Gerry Phillips said the province is monitoring the situation at the casino very carefully, but wants it resolved peacefully and as calmly as possible.

An aboriginal spokeswoman said the casino, which backs onto the Grand River, is on land that wasn't sold or given to Canada by Six Nations people.

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