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Premier McGuinty condemns assaults on camera operators in Caledonia

Canadian Press
AM 940 Montreal
June 9, 2006, 23:00 EST

[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.]

CALEDONIA, Ont. (CP) - Two news cameramen were assaulted by protesters Friday, prompting Premier Dalton McGuinty to condemn the latest violence at the site of an aboriginal occupation in Caledonia, Ont.

The CH-TV camera operators, one of whom needed stitches to close a head wound, said Ontario Provincial Police did nothing despite their pleas for help.

"The police were right behind me and I asked for protection," said Ken MacKay, a CH-TV camera operator.

"I said, 'I'm being assaulted, I need protection, they're trying to steal my camera' and nothing happened.

"(The attackers) wrestled the camera away from me and took it and left me, and they got the tape out."

Police said they were investigating the assault at the location near Hamilton, where aboriginal protesters took over a building site in February.

In a statement Friday, McGuinty expressed dismay at the attack.

"It was with great disappointment that I learned of the violent incidents in Caledonia," McGuinty said.

"I would like to express sympathy and concern for those injured."

McGuinty also condemned the violence "by an irresponsible few" and called it "a repugnant attempt to derail the important progress we are making."

Following a speech in Edmonton on Friday to about 150 Alberta Liberals gathered for a weekend policy convention, McGuinty said the "entirely inappropriate behaviour" has left him wondering about the status of talks to end the dispute.

"We've been working very hard and it's just extremely disappointing to have people conduct themselves in the way they did and I am hopeful these are nothing more than a few bad apples," McGuinty said.

The premier called on the First Nations leadership to ensure the incident is not repeated. McGuinty said if native leadership does not ensure it won't happen again, the government will have to question to the value of continuing with talks.

"We're asking the First Nations leadership to ask themselves why it is our government should continue in good faith and out of good will to try to negotiate," McGuinty said. "I'm placing the ball in their court to ensure they take the necessary actions to ensure this kind of behaviour does not repeat itself."

The camera operators were filming as part of ongoing coverage of the aboriginal occupation, which started in February when Six Nations members took over a housing construction site.

They say they were videotaping an altercation involving an older couple when the aboriginal protesters came running past police to attack them.

Const. Keith Robb confirmed police were investigating the allegations that officers didn't intervene.

McGuinty said the province and federal governments want a peaceful solution to the standoff, which is why they've appointed officials to work with the Six Nations community.

"It is our responsibility as leaders, neighbours, friends and community members to resolve this matter peacefully through dedication, perseverance and goodwill," he said.

"That requires calm, understanding and respect from everyone involved."

Debbie Walker, a managing producer at the TV station, said she was "appalled" by the incident.

"They were doing nothing that warranted an unprovoked attack."

The situation in Caledonia has been tense with confrontations in recent weeks between both aboriginal protesters and non-aboriginal town residents demanding the occupation end.

Conservative Leader John Tory said Friday the latest assault shows that McGuinty and the Liberal government have failed to show leadership to resolve this dispute,

"We see fisticuffs, we see people being assaulted, and yet no one is standing up for the rule of law," Tory said.

"The police are in an impossible position. I think it's time that Mr. McGuinty really took note of what's going on down there and sent a signal that the rule of law is going to be held."

New Democrat Leader Howard Hampton said the government has let tensions in Caledonia escalate for too long.

"What we now see is almost day by day altercations," Hampton said.

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