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Native protest imperils 'rule of law'

Hearing: Lawyer calls for use of force in Ontario land dispute

Adrian Humphreys
National Post
Published: Friday, June 02, 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. - A judge, fearing that native blockades were destroying the "rule of law" in his community, forced nearly a dozen lawyers into his rural Ontario courthouse yesterday for a highly unusual court hearing.

As more than a dozen Ontario Provincial Police officers ringed the historic courthouse in Cayuga, about an hour's drive southwest of Hamilton, almost as many lawyers gathered inside before Justice T. David Marshall, the senior Ontario Superior Court judge for the area, to answer pointed questions on why native protests and blockades remained despite court orders and injunctions.

Highlighting the deep divide on the issue, amid the pleas of patience and peace, Judge Marshall heard: that negotiating with natives was like trying to appease Adolf Hitler prior to the Second World War; a suggestion that the protesters were dangerously close to being terrorists; and a call to "shoot the media."

The public peace has been deteriorating in nearby Caledonia since a small group of native protesters from the Six Nations reserve occupied a dusty subdivision construction project in late February, claiming the land rightfully belonged to them. Two court injunctions ordering protesters off the property were ignored.

After a dawn raid by the OPP on April 20 to arrest those still at the site, angry native protesters descended by the hundreds to retake the land. Other protesters then blocked a rail line, main streets and a bridge in support. Caledonia residents have since held counter protests, attracting hundreds who called on the government to end the blockades.

Violence has been simmering.

An OPP officer has been hit in the head by a bag of rocks.

A bridge was burnt down. A road was torn up by a backhoe, and the electrical system was brought down by a series of fires.

Police are investigating 25 criminal charges from the dispute, court heard, including assault on police, kidnapping, theft, arson and mischief endangering life.

"The rule of law has been suspended, to some degree," said Judge Marshall in explaining why he took the unusual step of ordering all parties involved in the disputes to his courtroom to explain the failures and search for solutions.

"I am seeking your assistance -- I mean that in the most sincere way -- to help the court; to help the community."

And from the lawyers he heard some of the passions involved.

Edward McCarthy, a lawyer representing the Haldimand Law Association, expressed the frustration of the Caledonia residents. He said the native protests "almost seem" to fall under the government's definition of a terrorist act and then compared negotiations to the failed policy of allowing Hitler to expand Nazi Germany by just a little to avert a war.

"This may seem like a harsh thing to say and it may involve a use of force, but at some point there needs to be a stand for the rule of law," Mr. McCarthy said, adding the protests had to end, "forthwith, by force if necessary."

His remarks drew a rebuke from Denise Dwyer, a lawyer representing the OPP, who called them "fighting words."

She was joined in objecting to Mr. McCarthy's stance by Darrell Doxtdator, a lawyer who is the senior political advisor to the Chief of the Six Nations Council. He angrily told off Mr. McCarthy, but then turned his ire toward reporters. "To paraphrase Shakespeare, 'Shoot the media,' " he said.

Others, however, said there was a need to quell inflammatory statements and work toward a negotiated settlement.

Owen Young, a lawyer for the Attorney-General of Ontario, suggested the court orders should not be acted upon too readily while negotiations appear to be making progress.

He said "rule of law" was not only reflected in court orders but in maintaining public peace and accommodating customary law of the native people.

Much frustration was directed toward Jim Prentice, the federal Minister responsible for Indian Affairs.

In the end, Judge Marshall ordered all parties to return to his court on June 16 and issued an "invitation" for Mr. Prentice and the federal government to attend.

Meanwhile, fears were expressed that other native protests might be brewing.

"Yesterday, native protesters set up an information picket at the Brantford Casino claiming the site as theirs," said Bob Runciman, provincial Conservative justice critic, in the Ontario legislature. "As you may know, the first step towards the Caledonia land occupation, now in its 94th day, was a similar information picket."

"As in Caledonia, we will look at the situation," replied Gerry Phillips, Minister of Government Services.

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