Caledonia ‘disgusted’ by protest, but ‘has no appetite’ to fight: MPP
Caledonia residents who fought to get their town back 10 years ago after an Indigenous roadblock and occupation have no appetite to do it again, says Haldimand-Norfolk MPP Toby Barrett.
“I feel badly for the people in Caledonia,” he said Friday.
Protesters set up a barricade Thursday on Argyle Street South, a major town thoroughfare, at the same spot as the 2006 blockade.
Supporters of the hereditary government, known as the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, vow to keep the barricade up until senior governments return to the negotiating table to return land near Brantford to the Confederacy instead of the Six Nations Elected Band Council.
Some see the Confederacy as the real government and the band council, which was created by the 1924 Indian Act, as invalid. Confederacy supporters were at the forefront of the 2006 blockade and housing development occupation.
The 154-hectare Burtch lands, west of the Six Nations’ western boundary, were part of the same land claim as the Douglas Creek Estates housing development.
Protester Doreen Silversmith said the new barricade is a consequence of the province’s failure to live up to the land settlement that led demonstrators to dismantle the 2006 barricades.
Barrett said during that protest Caledonia residents “fought the good fight,” but the government was there for them. “They’re disgusted with these kinds of tactics.”
Confederacy chiefs argue talks to remove the barricades in 2006 stipulated the Burtch property be returned to them. In 2010, the band council rescinded a 2006 motion delegating responsibility for land claim talks to the Confederacy.
Earlier this year, the province transferred the Burtch lands to a corporation “to be held in trust under band council.”
Allan MacNaughton, a Confederacy chief, has called this transfer invalid. Neither MacNaughton nor Leroy Hill, a member of the chiefs’ council, returned calls Friday.
Barrett says the 2006 negotiations lacked transparency.
“There’s so little documentation officially, nobody had any idea what they were talking about. Nobody took minutes. It’s hard to say what if any of what the current protesters are saying is accurate.”
Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada spokesperson Stephanie Palma said Ottawa is working with Six Nations’ leadership and the province “to explore options for a way forward that would meet the interests of all parties.” She did not elaborate on the options.
Aly Vitunski, spokesperson for Ontario Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation Minister David Zimmer, said the province has honoured its commitment to transfer the Burtch property.
“We remain hopeful that all parties will be able to work together in a spirit of mutual respect to ensure the land benefits all the people of Six Nations.”
Haldimand County issued a release saying it asked the OPP to charge the protesters “for their illegal activity” and reopen Argyle Street. “A peaceful protest is one that does not infringe upon the rights of others, and we are hoping for a timely resolution,” Mayor Ken Hewitt says in the release.
The OPP remains at the scene and reiterated the blockade results from a dispute between the band council and the Confederacy.