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Ontario will purchase Caledonia site

Move comes as federal government steps into divisive lands-claim dispute

James Rusk
Globe & Mail
Posted on 17/06/06

[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. -- In a breakthrough move engineered with quiet support from Ottawa, the Ontario government has offered to buy up the land at the heart of the 3½-month standoff with aboriginal protesters in Caledonia.

The crucial development came yesterday as the federal government stepped into the dispute publicly for the first time, prodded into action partly by a judge who had ordered that a federal representative appear in his courtroom here.

Another form of resolution came later in the day, as police arrested one of seven people wanted on warrants stemming from a series of violent clashes at the site of a blockade near the building site, which is claimed by members of the neighbouring Six Nations reserve.

The agreement in principle to buy Douglas Creek Estates from Henco Industries Ltd. is "a significant step in moving forward to resolve the Caledonia situation," Ontario government lawyer Dennis Brown told Mr. Justice T. David Marshall of the Ontario Superior Court.

Judge Marshall was presiding at the resumption of an unusual hearing he convened two weeks ago to ask why injunctions he issued to end the protests, which started in February, had not been enforced.

He had adjourned the earlier hearing for two weeks to give the federal government a chance to appear; Ottawa did send a representative yesterday.

Federal lawyer Charlotte Bell told the court that Ottawa was encouraged by the removal this week of barricades that were blocking road and rail traffic through Caledonia, and promised that Ottawa "will continue to work to solve the broad issues affecting the Six Nations."

The purchase of the land will not immediately end the occupation, however.

Janie Jamieson, Six Nations spokeswoman, said the occupation will continue while negotiations continue.

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

Although Prime Minister Stephen Harper insisted that Ottawa had no role to play in the Caledonia dispute, Ontario officials from Minister of Aboriginal Affairs David Ramsay on down have consistently said that Ottawa's participation was essential to resolving the issues, which stem from the original grant of 400,000 hectares in Southern Ontario along the Grand River.

The traditional tribal chiefs of the Six Nations Confederacy refuse to deal with the province, insisting that, as a nation, they negotiate only with Ottawa.

In late April, a series of talks began, with Mulroney-era foreign affairs minister Barbara McDougall as the lead negotiator for Ottawa.

Even so, those close to the talks suggested Ottawa was leery of being drawn into the often violent confrontation, and so did not become fully engaged until the barricades came down.

Deirdra McCracken, a spokeswoman for federal Indian Affairs Minister Jim Prentice, said Ottawa did not play a role in Ontario's decision to buy out the developer.

"That was Ontario's move and obviously today's news from the province of Ontario is just one more step forward," she said.

Ms. McCracken acknowledged that Ms. McDougall and the province's representative, Jane Stewart, are still working out "long-term" issues.

Mr. Brown said the talks have moved into full gear, and that the negotiators met Thursday and yesterday, and plan to meet again several times next week. He added that, once the province completes the purchase of the disputed land, it will hold the lands in trust until the larger issues are determined at the main negotiating table.

The province, which reached the agreement to buy the land on Thursday evening, does not want to cede control of the land until those issues are settled, lest it create a precedent that any aboriginal group could take over a disputed piece of land by occupying it.

Henco lawyer Michael Bruder told reporters after the hearing that no price had been agreed on for the land, but that the owners hope to reach a final deal in the next couple of weeks.

Mr. Brown also announced that the province will pay businesses in Caledonia, which have already received about $750,000 in support, another $1-million to cover losses incurred during the blockade.

The $1-million will not stave off a class-action law suit seeking damages from the County of Haldimand and the province that Caledonia residents launched this week, their lawyer John Findley said.

Audra Ann Taillefer, 45, of Victoria, has been charged with intimidation and robbery after an elderly couple's vehicle was swarmed by protesters who jumped on the car's hood and banged on the windows last Friday.

With reports from Bill Curry, Karen Howlett and Canadian Press

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