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Ontario government buys out land developer at centre of aboriginal occupation

Mike Oliveira and Steve Erwin
Canadian Press
June 16, 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. (CP) - The Ontario government is buying out a developer whose unfinished subdivision sits on disputed land in Caledonia, Ont., but aboriginal protesters say they'll continue to occupy the site until the property is in their hands.

Six Nations protesters say the deal being finalized between the province and Henco Industries Ltd. shifts ownership of the land they say belongs to their ancestors, but doesn't solve the ongoing crisis.

The province intends to hold the land in trust while talks aimed at ending the occupation continue between representatives of the Six Nations, the province and Ottawa.

"That title and jurisdiction isn't placed back with Six Nations, is it? And that's what the issue is," said Six Nations spokeswoman Janie Jamieson.

She said the next step was to "keep on hoping" that government officials would take steps to resolve the land issue.

"They haven't begun to resolve anything with us, but as a far as corporate Canada - they've done everything to appease them," Jamieson said.

"Of course they would pay several million dollars to appease the developers and the business people. They would spend that amount of money before they would even begin to resolve the land issue, which is the meat of the story anyway."

The Ontario minister responsible for aboriginal affairs, David Ramsay, wouldn't disclose the value of the deal, citing Henco's concerns about proprietary information. Jamieson said she suspects it's worth several million dollars.

Ramsay said the deal should alleviate some of the tension in Caledonia, where some incidents of violence have occurred, including recent assaults on two television cameramen and the alleged attempted murder of a police officer.

He said the deal effectively eliminates one player in the complex dispute that was raging even before aboriginal protesters took over the land in February.

"What we're trying to do with arrangements like this is to cool the temperature so that we can get some long-term decision-making at that negotiating table done," Ramsay said.

"This continues to be a flashpoint. So we're trying to cool the temperature in the community and around the table so that we can get constructive dialogue going."

Ramsay added that it has not been determined who will eventually take possession of the land.

"It will be up to the long-term negotiating table to basically work out what the final disposition would be of that land."

The decision was made public in court in Cayuga, Ont., before the same judge who previously gave the original order to have the protesters removed from the contested land.

It was that order, and the early-morning attempt by provincial police to enforce it, that brought the long-simmering dispute to a boil in April, prompting defiant protesters to erect barricades across major roadways.

Michael Bruder, a lawyer for Henco who was in court for the announcement, called the province's move a "significant, positive step" for the company, which was caught in the middle of the dispute.

Conservative Leader John Tory said he's concerned that the deal could set a precedent for how native disputes are settled. He also accused the Liberals of taking the step to save political face.

"This has all the hallmarks of kind of a rushed thing to have an appearance of progress - no price disclosed, negotiations happening in a matter of days," Tory said.

"I'm worried about it and I think it raises more questions than it answers."

New Democrat Leader Howard Hampton said the Liberals have failed to show leadership on an issue, adding that the deal "should have been put on the table a year ago."

"The issues here are not out of the blue," he said. "It's not as if this suddenly developed in three months or six months."

The Six Nations occupiers say the land is part of a parcel that was sold out from under them by the Crown in the 1840s.

The eight-kilometre-wide parcel - a 400,000-hectare tract of land the British government gave to the Six Nations in exchange for their allegiance in the War of Independence - snakes north about 150 kilometres from the shores of Lake Erie.

The province also said Friday it would provide an additional $1 million to help Caledonia and surrounding businesses recover.

Frustrated business owners say blockades set up on Highway 6, the community's main road, discouraged customers.

Two businesses have hired a lawyer to file a class-action lawsuit to recoup what is being called "tens of millions" of dollars in losses.

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