By Donna Duric
UPDATED Aug. 6, 2020 6:18 p.m.
SIX NATIONS OF THE GRAND-Nine people were arrested and rubber bullets were fired at Six Nations people after the OPP enforced an injunction removing the people from a housing development site in Caledonia on Wednesday morning.
Haldimand County police spokesperson Constable Rod LeClair confirmed that rubber bullets were used against protesters during the attempted eviction yesterday at the McKenzie Meadows residential development in Caledonia.
“The situation escalated as demonstrators at the site failed to comply with the injunction and reacted by throwing large rocks at police, which struck several officers,” said LeClair in an email to the Turtle Island News. “For their personal safety, OPP members were required to use appropriate, non-lethal force in response. A single round from an ARWEN device (rubber bullet) was deployed, and no injuries were sustained by demonstrators.”
Later in the day, a number of Six Nations people closed off the Hwy. 6 bypass in Caledonia in response and by the evening, had reclaimed the McKenzie Meadows development site from police.
About a dozen Six Nations people stopped construction at the housing development site two weeks ago saying they did not agree with the deal the developers made with Six Nations Elected Council. The housing site sits on a portion of Six Nations’ unceded territory which is the subject of a decades-long land claim filing before the court.
Several roads have been shut down by both the OPP and Six Nations people in and around Caledonia. A number of fires were also set, including one in the middle of the road on Argyle Street near Sixth Line Road and one on the Hwy. 6 by-pass underneath the Sixth Line Road bridge where a large tire was set ablaze. There was also a small fire on the train tracks just off Sixth Line Road, which was quickly put out by Haldimand County firefighters.
There are reports that a train has been stranded on the railroad at Fifth Line Road overnight but the cause is not yet known. There are no reports of fires or obstructions on the track in the area.
Skyler Williams, who was one of the nine arrested, said Six Nations has taken back the housing development, dubbed Land Back Lane, and that all the people who were arrested are now safe.
“Everybody managed to make it out without any serious injuries. When you take guns and
weapons to peaceful people reclaiming their land, this is the result,” he said of yesterday’s fires. “They (police) brought the violence to us and our community responded unarmed but with intent to make their voices heard.”
LeClair said police use of force is to stop the threat to the public or police.
“All use of force situations are considered dynamic and constantly evolving until the situation is brought under control,” he said.“The goal is to stop the threat to the public or police with the lowest level of risk to the subject(s), public and officer. Police are required to respond to the behaviour presented to them in the safest manner possible, and the use of force is always a last resort.”
Updates on the charges will be provided, he said.
Currently, Hwy. 6 is closed between Fourth Line Road and Greens Road, and Argyle Street is closed between Hwy. 6 and Braemar Ave.
In addition, access to McKenzie Road at Fifth Line Road is closed.
McKenzie Road is open and accessible from Haddington Street in Caledonia.
“Open dialogue continues today in an effort toward a peaceful resolution,” said LeClair.
The McKenzie Meadows development project in south Caledonia dates back to 2003 when development approvals were initially obtained for a 200-plus unit housing project on 107 acres of land.
The 200-unit project is the first phase of a total 1,000-unit project.
In 2015, Foxgate Developments Inc. purchased the lands and proceeded to re-initiate development plans on the farmland property on McKenzie Road, which included securing a new set of planning approvals for a redesigned residential project consisting of 218 units, including single detached homes and townhouses.
Beginning in May 2018, Foxgate held negotiations with Six Nations of the Grand River Elected Council.
Haldimand County said Six Nations and Foxgate Developments reached an agreement in May 2019 to move forward with the project.
The agreement gives Six Nations $352,000 and 42.3 acres of land across from Little Buffalo along Townline Road.
Six Nations Elected Chief Mark Hill has not returned calls for comment.
The Turtle Island News has also reached out to Secretary Leroy “Jock” Hill for comments on behalf of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy Chiefs Council but has not heard back.
The occupation drew the premier’s ire on Thursday, and while he said he could not and would not direct the police, he made his position clear. “You just can’t go in and take over people’s future homes…. It’s wrong,” Doug Ford said during a news conference.
He called the incident “uncalled for,” “disturbing” and “unacceptable.”