‘They are going to try and criminalize us’: Development standoff marks 48 days

Occupation camp on Caledonia construction site served with injunction for third time


Only a spray-painted Nissan Sentra and a stack of tires greeted enforcement officers when they arrived to serve a land reclamation camp with an amended injunction ordering them off the premises Friday.

Flanked by plainclothes Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) liaisons and one uniformed officer, David MacDonald waited 15 minutes at the entrance to the proposed McKenzie Meadows subdivision before reading the court order in full.

Engines revved from afar, but no one from the camp came down to listen.

“It’s just a further criminalization of land defenders,” camp spokesperson Skyler Williams, leaning on the wrecked Nissan, said afterwards. He arrived after another officer taped the order to a pylon and left.

“It’s been an ongoing process for the last 48 days now just to see in which ways they are going to try and criminalize us to make what we’re doing illegal in their courts.”

Ontario Superior Court Justice John Harper, who extended two injunctions on Aug. 25, criticized “the parties who are acting as protesters” for putting their claims forth in the media but not the legal system.

Williams is named on the new document, and now has just over a month to submit those legal arguments if he chooses to. The next injunction hearing is set for Oct. 9 in Cayuga, just south of Caledonia along the Grand River’s banks.

(A barricade but no people were present to hear an injunction Friday. Brett Forester/APTN)

Turtle Clan Cayuga woman Jacqueline House was in the courtroom when the injunctions were first extended, but the judge wouldn’t let her make a statement. She made her speech to APTN News instead – and pushed back again this time.

“They’re standing there reading papers to basically nobody,” said House, a community member who watched from the road and was not part of the camp.

“All throughout Turtle Island our people are fighting these same things, these same issues.”

House brought up the Two Row Wampum – a 400-year-old peaceful coexistence treaty in which Haudenosaunee and newcomers travel side-by-side but in separate boats down the river of life – an arrangement she said needs to be respected.

“It’s a foreign piece of paper that doesn’t belong in our canoe,” she said. “It belongs in their boat, not ours. And they keep encroaching on us. Like how much more can we be nice?”

Snipe Clan Cayuga woman Doreen Silversmith also criticized the injunction and voiced support for traditional Six Nations mechanisms of law and governance.

“It’s nothing new. That’s what they do, right? They criminalize us, and that’s what they use – injunctions and lawsuits,” she said. “We have our traditional laws, Confederacy, Great Law of Peace. That’s what we listen to.”

(Skyler Williams speaks with community members at the McKenzie Meadows construction site entrance. Brett Forester/APTN)

The traditional Confederacy leaders do not support the development, saying it exists in a moratorium zone. The elected council, however, signed an agreement to support it.

Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett’s office has offered to meet with both traditional and elected chiefs, but the community has not decided whether to come to the table.

Haldimand County’s mayor previously asked Ottawa not to conduct any land talks while the disputed parcel – where Foxgate Developments plans on building 218 residences on approximately 25 acres – remains occupied.

On Friday, Ken Hewitt said Ottawa and Queen’s Park agreed the construction site would not become a bargaining chip in any negotiations.

“They have reassured me that no 3rd party owned property will EVER form part of any negotiated settlement and they will not begin any valid negotiations while protestors continue to occupy a site in defiance of the court order,” he said in a social media post.

In the bitter 2006 dispute, Queen’s Park did just that. Ontario purchased the Douglas Creek Estates from a different property developer after Six Nations people occupied the site and halted construction.

It’s known now as Kanonhstaton (or The Protected Place) in Mohawk. But it remains in Ontario’s name, held in trust until the parties reach a resolution.

Enforce the injunctions

Hewitt also has encouraged police to move in and enforce the injunctions. Police already did so once on Aug. 5.

The situation escalated when community members reacted by setting fires on streets and train tracks. People re-entered the camp later that evening.

Hewitt walked that back slightly, saying now he’s pleased with the OPP’s ongoing approach.

“First let me say that while I do not agree with the OPP in how we got here, I will say that I have been in contact with them daily and the process that they are deploying today to clear the protestors off the site is one that I can support,” wrote the mayor.

Police made several more arrests this week in connection with the camp and the blockades. That number stands at 17. All of those arrested have been released.

Among those charged were media figures Karl Dockstader and Courtney Skye.

Skye, a Yellowhead Institute research fellow and CBC panelist, frequently attended the site.

Radio show

Dockstader co-hosts a weekly radio show and spent time embedded at 1492 Land Back Lane.

In an Aug. 29 update posted to the show’s Twitter feed, Dockstader explained he spent “the better part of the last seven days” at the camp and participated in the camp’s weekly lacrosse game.

The Canadian Association of Journalists (CAJ) condemned Dockstader’s arrest “in the strongest possible terms” on Friday. The organization called on the OPP to drop the charges against him.

“Docktstader has been reporting on the dispute most of the summer, filing two reports for the podcast network Canadaland, and multiple reports for the podcast One Dish, One Mic which airs on AM 610 CKTB,” the organization said in a release.

The charges have not been tested in court. Police declined the opportunity to comment.

“I am not able to provide evidentiary information of circumstances that lead to the charges being laid against the individuals,” wrote Const. Rodney LeClair in an email.

With arrests ramping up and the injunction served, APTN asked Williams if the camp residents plan to vacate the site.

“On the very first day the cops came here and asked how long we we’re going to be here,” he replied.

“I said that we’ve been here for the last 10,000 years, and we’re planning on being here for the next 10,000.”

If they refuse to comply with the injunction order, the obligation to enforce it transfers from the courts to police.

Online Reporter - Ottawa

Brett is a member of the Chippewas of Kettle and Stony Point First Nation in Ontario. He grew up in Ottawa where he obtained an English degree from Carleton University. Brett is a creative writer, poet, and journalist. He joined the Ottawa bureau for APTN News in December 2019 as a digital reporter.