Trudeau, Ford address Caledonia conflict as land defenders fear vigilantism

“The tactics, timelines, and threats of the OPP and politicians are unrealistic and unreasonable given how complex the issues are that are being dealt with here,” says Skyler Williams.

On Friday Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Ontario Premier Doug Ford expressed hopes for peace and dialogue in Caledonia, Ont., where Haudenosaunee and allies have been occupying a  residential development construction site in a centuries-old land dispute.

“We know that reconciliation is something that matters to all Canadians, and all orders of government have the responsibilities toward that,” Trudeau told APTN News during a media availability with Ford in Brockville, Ont. Friday afternoon.

“I’m very pleased with the work that Ministers [Carolyn] Bennett and [Marc] Miller have been doing in this situation engaging, listening, working together, I also know that the province is taking this very seriously as well.”

Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett and Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller have recently committed to dialogue and a possible visit with members of Six Nations of the Grand River, whose reserve land straddle the town of Caledonia’s border.

“We need to come together to find a peaceful resolution to this that involves the entire community and I look forward to continuing to work seriously on finding the right path forward for everyone in the region.”

On Thursday evening members of the 1492 Land Back Lane camp, which has occupied the McKenzie Meadows construction site for 34 days now, issued a statement regarding concerns about Ford and local politicians’ recent comments on the conflict.

“While we continue to reject the unjust process of land development that has taken place within the Haldimand Tract and Plank Road, settler politicians Doug Ford, [Haldimand County Mayor] Ken Hewitt, and [MPP] Toby Barrett have harmed our efforts to seek a peaceful resolution.”

On Thursday Ford told reporters, “I don’t care who you are, you start attacking our police, I’ll come out swinging — simple as that.”

The premier was referring to an Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) operation earlier this month to enforce an injunction against land defenders. OPP claim land defenders threw rocks at them as their armed officers moved on to the McKenzie Meadows site.

But land defenders say the comments put people on the ground in danger.
“We fear that instead of engaging with us in good faith, they have instead chosen to vilify us. This is a tactic meant to legitimize their claims over our territory, and in doing so, they encourage vigilantism.”

On Friday Ford reiterated his point, saying “it’s my job as premier to protect all 14 million and a half people [in Ontario], including the Indigenous community and police officers.

“But I’m a strong believer in collaboration, in sitting down, communicatingm and as I mentioned to [Elected Six Nations] Chief [Mark] Hill, which I have a tremendous amount of respect for — I sat down in my office, called him in immediately, we had a phenomenal conversation on how we can work together and support each other.”

Meanwhile, members of the 1492 Land Back Lane camp have been reiterating for days that police and politicians must be patient while the people of Six Nations continue their internal decision-making processes, which involve the Indian Act chief and council, clan mothers and people of the Longhouse, and other community members.

Camp spokesperson Skyler Williams said in Thursday’s statement that land defenders “are here because we are committed to upholding our sacred responsibility to the land and future generations. Every day our community makes progress in our discussions and our healing from the generations of oppression we have experienced.

The tactics, timelines, and threats of the OPP and politicians are unrealistic and unreasonable given how complex the issues are that are being dealt with here.”

With files from Jamie Pashagumskum.

Contribute Button