Four recent newspaper articles highlight the struggle, protests and blockade established nearly a month ago on Six Nation traditional territory. The blockade has the support of the Six Nations Confederacy Council and the clan mothers (see first story) ...
Confederacy chiefs call for talks on land claims
By Michael-Allan Marion, The Brantford Expositor
Tuesday, March 28, 2006
The Six Nations Confederacy Council has thrown its support behind protesters in their fourth week of occupying a residential development project under construction near Caledonia.
Five chiefs and four clan mothers held a news conference in front of the Onondaga Longhouse on Monday afternoon to state their support for the action.
They also responded to a move by the federal government to send University of Western Ontario Prof. Michael Coyle as a special representative -- or “runner” -- on a fact-finding mission of the ongoing occupation, which natives are calling a “land reclamation.”
“The federal government’s runner is a positive first step but the federal government needs to take further steps and send a delegate with a stronger mandate,” said Leroy Hill, who called himself a sub-chief of the Cayuga Bear Clan.
Hill, who was the main spokesman, added that the action “has insulting overtones when the federal government continues to recognize only the elected band council and continues its talks on our lands and funds with Canada’s Indian Act band council and province while sending Mr. Coyle here on his fact-finding mission.”
Reading a statement first in the Cayuga language and then in English, Hill said that the chiefs at Monday's new conference find Coyle’s mandate unsatisfactory. Ottawa needs to send someone with authority to straighten out claims and do more than just investigate, he said.
Hill also said it’s time for the federal government to open discussions on Six Nations Confederacy land rights to most of southern Ontario, and an estimated $400 billion in what the chiefs say are outstanding leases, illegal sales and loss of money held in trust by Ottawa.
The land in question in Caledonia, the chiefs say, was taken by the Crown in 1848 and sold off.
The gathering of leaders did not represent the full expression of the Confederacy, but many were chiefs of various Mohawk, Cayuga and Onondaga clans.
Chief Allen MacNaughton of the Mohawk Turtle Clan said the occupiers, who were joined last Wednesday by scores of other natives from Ontario and New York State in a blockade at the entrance to the Douglas Creek Estates subdivision off Highway 6, had the full support of the chiefs and clan mothers gathered.
“They have endured many hardships,” he said of the original protesters. “We, the chiefs, support this. We believe the federal government has the power to end this dispute today. We believe there is a solution that is in Canada’s power to iron out.”
MacNaughton made it clear that the assembled chiefs and clan mothers intend to support the occupation to the end.
Asked for his thoughts on a solution, MacNaughton said: “We want all development to stop in Caledonia."
Development is taking place all through the area, said Hill.
“There is prosperity all around us. There is an explosion of land all around us, yet we are running out of land for ourselves.”
The chiefs want Coyle to tell Indian Affairs Minister Jim Prentice that the protest will end if the government puts in writing a moratorium on construction and freezes further development of disputed lands while "meaningul talks" are held, Hill said.
"Then the people would leave."
Developer Henco Industries has obtained an injunction to remove the occupiers, and an Ontario Superior Court judge ruled that they had until 2 p.m. last Wednesday to leave before facing contempt of court charges.
But, so far, OPP officers have been content to monitor the area from a cruiser parked a short distance down the highway from the development.
Hill said that police have shown restraint in its handling of the standoff
“They should be commended. They’ve been respectful,” said Hill, remarking that the OPP is in a difficult situation between peaceful protesters and the government.
“Those people down there are not criminal and the police know this. We hope the federal government orders the police to disengage.”
He said that clan mothers who showed up last Wednesday, the day the police were empowered to go in to break up the occupation, have kept the situation in control.
“It’s a tough job that they have been asked to do. Our people don’t want to see violence. We don’t want this thing to escalate any further,” he said.
“If Ottawa committed to a moratorium on construction, those people would be happy to leave.”
Clan mother Bernice Johnson said she and others in her position went to the site only to keep the peace. But she added they are prepared to support the action “until we have a solution to what is going on.”
The clan mothers are also prepared to meet with Coyle.
Spokeswoman Janie Jamieson, one of the original organizers, insisted that the rank and file at the site remain unified.
“This reclamation will continue to be peaceful,” she added.
THE HAMILTON SPECTATOR NEWSPAPER -
The power of dialogue
By Aize Smit, Hamilton - Apr 1, 2006 - OPINION SECTION / LETTERS TO EDITOR SECTION
Re: 'Ottawa mediator quickly rejected; Native protesters give law professor 'his walking papers' in dispute over title to subdivision site' (March 30)
My Grade 9 students who live near the Grand River assured me that the "native protest" had not been discussed in any of their classes.
I think it's ironic that we discuss global issues and condemn faraway regimes, while we fail to have an honest talk about local issues about which we may disagree.
One morning before school, I stopped at the Caledonia barricade for a chat.
After a few general comments, I asked if the issue was one of native government; if the band council had approved development, why barricade the land?
The spokesperson explained that they, the protesters, should be seen as the legitimate representatives of the native people in their efforts to protect the well-being of the land.
He mentioned blacktop and cars as serious threats to nature, yet he agreed that blacktop was used on the reserve, and then we had to move over to allow access to other protesters just arriving in a brand new SUV.
I asked the spokesperson, a resident of the Six Nations reserve, if land ownership was the issue.
He denied this: In traditional native thinking land cannot be owned; it must be cared for as our mother. Apparently, the spokesperson saw the protesters as representatives, not of the native people, but of the native spirit. They should be seen as guardians of the earth.
In the end we agreed that the issue is a conflict in world views.
I confessed that in our schools there is often little dialogue between differing world views. We are afraid of fighting, and so we ignore the differences.
We teach science without addressing the underlying philosophies.
We teach geography without explaining how world views or religions to a large extent determine what information we select to propagate.
After half an hour we shook hands as friends who had taken some time to listen to and learn from each other.
Perhaps we should have more open, respectful dialogues about different world views.
We might be able to get the protesters from the barricade into the classroom to improve relationships and avoid dangerous confrontation with people who see new subdivisions as a sign of progress, whether for their pocketbooks or for the planet.
Standoff Needs A Time-Out
By Robert Howard - Apr 1, 2006
Things have rapidly turned nasty at the protest in Caledonia where a group of natives are staging a sit-in at a subdivision construction site.
A week ago, there was a relatively constructive and mutually respecting attitude between the protesters -- many of them women and children -- and the Ontario Provincial Police who, sooner or later, were likely to be ordered to remove them. Both "sides" were showing restraint.
The overarching objective of the protest seemed to be heard - to force a dialogue with Ottawa over land claims that move, if at all, at a snail's pace. But that constructive attitude has changed to belligerence, antagonism and a heightened hostility that seem just a heartbeat, or a momentary flash of temper, away from violence.
Consider Sheriff John Dawson, who was legally required to read a court order to the protesters. He was spat on, insulted in the foulest language, shouted down and drowned out.
The protesters have the right to risk the legal consequences of ignoring the court order. But the contempt and disrespect for someone simply, and peacefully, doing his job was utterly out of line. Another protester's earlier rhetoric that "They want the OPP to 'get over there and shoot the hell of dem bad Injuns'" is reckless and inflammatory.
The atmosphere at the protest site seems to be one of spoiling for a fight and anyone who remembers the toll of land-claim protests at Oka, Que., and Ipperwash, Ont., should be worried about that.
Caledonia is not Oka or Ipperwash. At press time, this was still a peaceful protest, with neither side forcing a confrontation.
But there is an escalation happening here. A federal mediator was sent packing after just two days, and a protest led by clan mothers increasingly appears to have been inherited by people with a more radical agenda.
This looks like theatre staged for maximum impact in the media, with some of the actors determined to have the high drama of a confrontation as the final act.
But confrontation will create more problems than it solves.
What if the government, courts and police refuse to follow the script, or even take part? This protest would not last if the government offered interim compensation for the developer and inconvenienced home-buyers, and simply walked away until cooler heads prevailed.
Pressure mounts on Mohawk protesters at construction site - Developers expect police action, lawyer says
KATE HARRIES - POSTED ON 29/03/06
CALEDONIA -- Mohawk protesters who have held up construction of a subdivision for more than a month say they have no plans to leave, despite two injunctions and an envoy from Indian Affairs Minister Jim Prentice.
"It's our land. It has been our land since 1784; we never did sell it," said Jeff Hawk, one of about 20 protesters gathered at the entrance to the Douglas Creek Estates site on the outskirts of this community 20 kilometres south of Hamilton.
But yesterday, after a Superior Court judge amended the terms of a court order to address concerns that have prevented police from arresting the occupiers, a lawyer for the developers said his clients expect speedy action from the Ontario Provincial Police.
"We expect them to exercise their discretion and execute the arrest warrants -- as soon as reasonably practicable," Michael Bruder said.
Brothers John and Don Henning attended the brief hearing at the Cayuga courthouse yesterday afternoon, but refused comment. They have owned the 52-hectare property at the southeastern boundary of the Six Nations reserve for 15 years and obtained all required approvals, Mr. Bruder said. Work started this year on phase one, a 10-hectare, 72-lot residential development. Ten lots have houses in various stages of construction.
There are parallels with the 1995 Ipperwash standoff in which an aboriginal activist was killed by a police sniper on the third day of an occupation: a newly elected Conservative government -- provincial in 1995, federal today -- a lack of support by the elected band council; and aboriginal claims of decades-long efforts to address injustices that have been ignored.
In this case, police have included aboriginal officers in talks and monitoring of the protest and have been praised for their restraint.
"They've been respectful," said Leroy Hill, one of the Six Nations Confederacy chiefs who held a news conference Monday to back the protest and call for a freeze on development in Caledonia until the land ownership issue is resolved.
Mr. Hill said he's concerned about major developments proposed in Haldimand County on disputed land. He said Mr. Prentice's appointment of law professor Michael Coyle as a fact-finder is a positive step, but expressed regret that the minister plans to deal with the elected band council on the matter.
The confederacy chiefs represent the traditional government of the six nations that in 1784 were granted the 360,000-hectare Haldimand tract, a 32-km strip on either side of the Grand River, in recognition of their allegiance during the American War of Independence. Their supporters reject the elected band council that administers the reserve, now 18,000 hectares, and are pursuing land claims in the courts.
The protesters moved onto the site Feb. 28. Mr. Bruder obtained a civil injunction and then returned to court to obtain a criminal injunction that police could enforce.
Mr. Justice David Marshall set a March 22 deadline for the protesters to leave or be found in contempt of court. Yesterday, Judge Marshall agreed to a wording change to address a concern about fingerprinting and photographing protesters who are arrested.
from Toronto Star article
Reneging on pledge to natives
CAMERON SMITH - Apr. 1, 2006
In the run-up to the last provincial election, Premier Dalton McGuinty made a promise in writing that was important not only to Ontarians, but to the entire country — and now he's letting Natural Resources Minister David Ramsay break it.
McGuinty said in a letter to a coalition of environmental groups: "We will institute meaningful, broad-based land-use planning for Ontario's northern boreal forest before any new major development, including ensuring full participation by native communities. Land-use planning must protect the ecological integrity of this national treasure and help to provide a sustainable future for native people in northern communities."
First Nations treaty lands cover everything north of latitude 50 degrees in Ontario, from the Quebec border and Hudson Bay to the Manitoba border. There are about 4,000 mining claims in the area, one of which has become a lightning rod of dissent against Queen's Park policies, and Ramsay's stance in particular.
The claim is at Big Trout Lake, about 580 kilometres north of Thunder Bay, home to the Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug First Nation (KI). Platinex Inc. of Toronto had been working on a site for mining platinum, but KI declared a moratorium against further work until Queen's Park reached an agreement with it on how development should proceed.
Faced with an impasse, Platinex pulled out to await a resolution. Ramsay has now invited all First Nations to a "Northern Table" to discuss development across the north.
However, he says development should continue while the talks go on. "It would be very disruptive (to allow moratoriums) because ... we want to continue ... the wealth generation that (development) brings ... and as we do that we can discuss how we are going to share that wealth."
He also says there is "no legal right" for First Nations to impose moratoriums, adding that Ontario's Mining Act is a powerful piece of legislation that allows companies to stake claims on almost any piece of land in Northern Ontario.
What Ramsay is saying directly contradicts the Premier's promise. He's saying development can continue in the absence of official plans and in the absence of an assured sustainable future for First Nations.
Ramsay is also blatantly thumbing his nose at the Supreme Court of Canada, which ruled in November that the Crown has a duty to consult with, and accommodate, First Nations concerns before allowing development that might affect their treaty rights with regard to lands where they continue their tradition of hunting, fishing and trapping.
The court was unanimous in saying the Crown must act honourably and "in good faith, and with the intention of substantially addressing the concerns of the aboriginal peoples whose lands are at issue."
By saying development can continue while talks are held, Ramsay is not acting honourably, and it is no answer to say that the Mining Act binds his hands. The Supreme Court decision (Mikisew Cree First Nation v. Canada) deals with a constitutional issue, and constitutional law always trumps local laws, such as the Mining Act.
First Nations in Ontario's north have a justified and long-held grievance over the lack of a sustainable future while mining and lumbering proceeds on their lands. And all Canadians have a right to expect enlightened land use planning in the northern boreal.
McGuinty should call Ramsay on the carpet and instruct him to act honourably.
Cameron Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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With short-term funding from the Provincial Centre of Excellence for Children's Mental Health at CHEO, they hope to draw similar attention to the mental health and suicide issues affecting youth in the north. They will endeavour to increase the visibility of these issues affecting Aboriginal youth with the media and with provincial and federal governments.
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