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CTV News Staff
Updated Wed. Jun. 14 2006 9:20 PM ET
[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.]
A lawyer representing businesses and homeowners in Caledonia, Ont., says they have no choice but to file a class-action lawsuit to recover "tens of millions" of lost dollars.
The province, the corporation of Haldimand County, Ontario Provincial Police commissioner Gwen Boniface and Cayuga detachment commander Insp. Brian Haggith are named as defendants in the suit, said lawyer John Findlay.
He was hired by a local Dairy Queen franchise the St. George Arms pub-style restaurant. The purpose of the suit is to help business owners recover some of the losses they have suffered since the blockade went up in April.
Most businesses have reported decreases in revenue of 30 to 40 per cent, according to Findlay.
"Caledonia is very much a tourist-oriented town and the occupation has given it the perception that Caledonia is now an unsafe place to be, and that's affected property values," Findlay said.
"The amount of damages has been substantial. I'd say it's in the tens of millions."
The class-action suit is expected to grow larger than just two businesses. Findlay says homeowners are able to join the suit to claim for plunging property values.
"Anybody that's been financially, adversely affected" is eligible, he added.
About 400 local businesses were identified to receive emergency financial aid from the province. But the pot of money made available totaled only $500,000.
The businesses hope the lawsuit will result in more financial compensation. They also hope it will give them the opportunity to be more involved in negotiations to end the dispute.
David Ramsay, the Ontario minister responsible for aboriginal affairs, could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
Henco Industries Ltd., which owns land currently occupied by the protesters, said it has no immediate plans to join the suit and is focusing on its own ongoing negotiations with the government.
"We certainly heard about the class-action suit, those rumours have been around town for quite some time, but we're not part of it, we have nothing to do with it," lawyer Michael Bruder said.
"Our hope is we're able to conclude some type of agreement with the government and we're making some progress."
Angry about a housing development being built on a disputed tract of land, aboriginal protesters began an occupation of the property on Feb. 28.
It grew into a blockade of the town's main thoroughfare and a nearby highway. While the blockade has been up and down several times since, they were recently dismantled as a sign of good faith for on-going negotiations.
Protesters continue to occupy the land development at the heart of this dispute.
"Everything is calm, but it's a fragile calm," provincially-appointed negotiator David Peterson said Wednesday.
"We've been working on this for over a month now and we've had good days and bad days, and sometimes things flare up. But I'm feeling pretty good about it right now."
Peterson said he feels progress is being made towards a final resolution.
"The real issue is the land rights issue. That's being talked about right now. This isn't the only one in the country -- I just think this is a microcosm of things that can happen in the future, if the federal government does not engage in very serious discussions with a lot of these quite legitimate aspirations of natives."
Tensions over the blockade have run high, resulting in clashes between protesters and residents of Caledonia frustrated by closure of the community's main street.
Ontario Regional Chief Angus Toulouse said it all did not need to happen.
"It's unnecessary to have that kind of conflict, to have that kind of violence, when all the federal government needs to do is sit down and discuss these long outstanding land rights and land claims that have been in their position [sic - should read 'possession']," Toulouse said Wednesday.
With files from The Canadian Press