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MPs approve motion for Caledonia probe

Motions not binding on the government

Steve Erwin
Canadian Press
June 5, 2006 - 8:10 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.]

An Opposition motion calling for an inquiry into the Ontario government’s handling of an aboriginal occupation in Caledonia, Ont., passed unexpectedly Monday after the Conservatives caught the governing Liberals with their guard down.

The motion called for an inquiry into what the Opposition considers Liberal “procrastination” to resolve the months-long standoff between aboriginal protesters, police and local residents at a construction site near Hamilton that protesters say sits on aboriginal land.

Motions are not binding on the government but are considered statements of principle.

Opposition motions rarely pass, and are usually decided by a recorded vote. The Tories called for a voice vote of “yays” or "nays” while only a handful of Liberals were sitting in the legislature.

Liberal party whip Dave Levac asked for a recorded vote, which would have allowed time for the government to assemble caucus members and defeat the motion, but no other members rose to support him.

“I’m just delighted the legislature has voted in favour of this,” said a gleeful Conservative Leader John Tory, who took full advantage of what appeared to be a Liberal mistake.

“I’ll look forward to the commencement of the inquiry and the announcement that they’re going to move ahead with it.”

Even though the motion isn’t binding, it is embarrassing for the government — particularly given the harsh criticism of the Liberals included in it.

The approved Tory motion, among other things, calls upon the government to “recognize that the premier’s procrastination and failure to show leadership when it was most needed allowed this situation to escalate into a public safety crisis.”

The occupation of the construction site began in February, when members of the Six Nations seized control of a half-finished housing development just south of Hamilton, halting all construction work.

Aboriginal protesters have dismantled a highway blockade that had infuriated Caledonia’s non-aboriginal residents, but a highway bypass and a railway line remain barricaded as the occupation continues.

The Liberals maintain they’re trying to keep the peace at Caledonia, but have also urged the federal government to become more involved in what is essentially a land-claims dispute under Ottawa’s jurisdiction.

Chris Morley, a spokesman for Premier Dalton McGuinty, said the government obviously opposed the motion, but did not explain how the Liberals were left vulnerable in the vote.

“A recorded vote was not taken,” Morley said. “We make no apologies for making every effort to resolve the situation peacefully.”

Tory wouldn’t bite when asked if he felt he’d received a stroke of political luck.

“I can’t explain how votes happen in the legislature,” he said. "They have a majority of the seats there, and we have a minority, and we proposed a motion, and it carried.”

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