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Caledonia judge orders Ottawa to court

Jessica Leeder - Staff Reporter
Toronto Star
Jun. 2, 2006. 02:24 PM

[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 - A judge who vowed to restore order and the rule of law in Caledonia has reserved judgment on an action plan and instead will order federal officials to his courtroom, where they’ll be asked to roll up their sleeves and pitch in.

Invitations to the federal Indian affairs minister and the attorney general will be sent personally by Ontario Superior Court Justice David Marshall. He called a special hearing yesterday to find out why native protestors are still occupying a construction site and section of railway he ordered police to clear, and to demand that everyone involved make suggestions on how to move forward.

Both sites are privately owned and part of an ongoing land dispute that began to heat up last February when members of the nearby Six Nations reserve took over the construction site, called Douglas Creek Estates.

"It’s evident to everyone here ... that there is great concern in the community that the rule of law has been suspended,” Marshall told a packed courtroom including a lineup of lawyers he ordered there representing the landowners, Don and John Henning; the railway, RailLink Canada Ltd.; the Ontario Provincial Police; the provincial Attorney General; the Six Nations elected council and Haldimand County.

"No free, democratic society can exist without being under the rule of law. It’s a question of how we get back to that," he said, adding that as a Superior Court judge he feels an "ultimate responsibility to ensure peace in the community is maintained."

Michael Bruder, lawyer for the Hennings, told the court he wanted a public explanation of why police have failed to clear protestors off the $45 million piece of land, which they were ordered to do months ago.

Denise Dwyer, a lawyer representing the OPP, said police feel they executed the eviction order as best they could, given the "volatile" situation.

Although police raided the protestors’ encampment in April and made several arrests, the court-ordered move caused tensions to erupt in Caledonia and protestors surged back onto the land. They also put up barricades around the town, blocking a main artery, a highway bypass and burned a bridge over a section of railway.

A violent clash erupted between protestors and irate locals a day before the main street barricade was removed and protestors retreated to the construction site.

Since then, peace in the community has been tenuous. Marshall himself had a police escort when he entered the courthouse, and more than a dozen officers were staged at entrances and outside the courtroom.

Inside, lawyers for most parties seemed focussed on urging Marshall to show patience, and hold back on any order that could disrupt ongoing negotiations with stakeholders.

Dennis Brown, counsel for the provincial attorney general, told Marshall that ordering officers to forcibly remove protestors from the disputed sites would be “destructive” and could force a setback in talks.

But Bruder and Kenneth Peel, a lawyer representing RailLink, a 45-employee company that has laid off nine employees since the protest stopped its service, pressed Marshall, saying its clients have run out of patience.

Neither agree that the OPP has complied with the court’s orders, and both have the option of asking Marshall to consider contempt proceedings, although Bruder said his clients’ next step will depend on the outcome of Marshall’s next hearing, scheduled in two weeks.

“Hopefully within 14 days, we’ll have an agreement with the (provincial) government ... to purchase the subdivision at fair market value,” Bruder said.

Asked whether the federal government’s potential involvement could affect progress, Bruder said he thinks it’s unlikely.

“The province has told us the federal government is not interested in participating in these discussions. They’ve indicated to us they’re prepared to go it alone. They can do the deal within two weeks if they want to do it,” he said.

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