A major roadway into the town of Caledonia has been blocked by a bus, vehicle, and pavement dug up after an altercation between OPP and Six Nations land defenders who had been waiting peacefully for over 90 days for federal Indigenous Affairs Ministers to meet with Six Nations reps on the land dispute. (Photo by Jim C. Powless)
By Lynda Powless
HALDIMAND COUNTY, ON -Looking like a war zone, an altercation between Six Nations land defenders and OPP that erupted Thursday has spilled into Friday with Argyle Street South in Caledonia blocked with a crushed school bus, pallets and more materials, in addition nearby CN tracks have been shut down and McKenzie Road, near the land rights dispute, has been dug up.
The altercation occurred when OPP crusiers lined up along Argyle Street South just hours after an Ontario court judge granted a permanent injunction on the McKenzie Meadows subdivision construction site, where the more than 90 day old land dispute is located, and prevented anyone from blocking roads in Haldimand County.
A video by a Six Nations person shows the OPP cruisers pulling along Argyle Street South and
parking as people yelled at them to leave the area. When OPP refused, the altercation broke out with rocks thrown at cruisers and OPP cruiser windows smashed out. OPP fired at least one rubber bullet and one person was hit with a Taser by OPP before police pulled from the scene.
The altercation sparked a series of roadblockages that now has the town of Caledonia blocked from the south and west along four different roadways.
1492 Land Back Land spokesperson Skylar Williams says he has spoken with both the Six Nations Elected Council Chief and Haudenosaunee Confedercy Chiefs with both maintaining the camp is located on unceded Six Nations lands. He said the two are also upset with the court decision that issued a permanent injunction on the lands Thursday.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford condemned the violence Friday and said he spoke with Six Nations Elected Chief Mark Hill. “I’m not going to tolerate violence. It’s very simple, and he told me he doesn’t tolerate it. I don’t know if you folks are going rogue but that’s not the way. You get things settled by sitting around the table. You don’t go after police, burn telephone poles or dig up roads.”
Haldimand County Mayor Ken Hewitt was at the scene Friday. He told reporters his office has reached out to Federal Crown Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett and Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller to get to Caledonia . “We reached out to Ms Bennett and Mr. Miller but there’s nobody here. These two people have to be involved and they are not here to talk to you, They need to take an assertive approach with Six Nations and start working to move this forward,” he said.
He said he does not condone violence and said it is not the peaceful protest that the media has been describing it as for the past 90 days. “This is the backdrop, that’s what’s been said for the last 90 days that this is peaceful. I think you can see this is not peaceful.”
He said said as a politician they have a role to play in negotiations but in terms of law enforcement, “that’s not something we can play in. The OPP have a duty to keep the peace and see that the infrastructure is safe. I expect the OPP to uphold the law and ensure public safety is maintained here in Caledonia as it is anywhere else in the province.”
He said he wants to see vehicles travelling up and down the roadways. “That bus would also be better if it wasn’t on the road. You guys have been reporting for the last 90 days that it’s peaceful and it’s not a peaceful protest and it’s not representative of the good people of Six Nations and we know that.”
Haldimand County Mayor Ken Hewitt is calling for federal representatives to get to Caledonia and talk to Six Nations.
He said he realizes there are difficulties with negotiations at Six Nations.
“There are two fundemental issues the federal government needs to take, a much more active role in dealing with this claim that has been ongoing for many years, and there’s also a governance issue at Six Nations. Who do you speak to? Who do you negotiate with? When you are setting up a table, and then not know who you are going to be negotiating with, not knowing who is going to be sitting at that table it’s a challenge. So I don’t want to throw just one or two people under the bus, but who do you speak to? There’s a number of people that need to be involved and its been ongoing for a number of years.”
Late Friday (Oct 23,2020) Minister of Crown Relations Carolyn Bennett’s office sent a statement.
“We believe the best way to resolve outstanding issues is through a respectful and collaborative dialogue, which is vital to building stronger relationships and advancing reconciliation with Indigenous partners for the benefit of their communities and all Canadians.
“Canada deeply values its relationship with Six Nations and is committed to continuing to work collaboratively to address Six Nations’ historical claims and land right issues. There has been a consistent effort by Canada, Ontario and Six Nations to address Six Nations’ claims through dialogue and we have put in place flexible processes to allow for the exploration of new ways to achieve this goal. We are actively working with the community and look forward to meeting at the earliest opportunity.
“Our government has been working with First Nations’ communities across the country to rebuild our relationship based on the affirmation of rights, respect, cooperation, and partnership.”
On Thursday when OPP pulled out tires were set on fire on Argyle Street south, wooden pallets were added and an electrical power pole was set on fire. The pole was still smouldering Friday.
On their Twitter page OPP said police cruisers were “heavily damaged” and that officers responded with “appropriate non-lethal force. OPP said there were no injuries and an investigation is underway. OPP said they were in the area Thursday, October 22, 2020 responding to pedestrians standing in the middle of Argyle Street South near Sixth Line causing a safety hazard and are now investigating a road blockade and mischief offences
OPP have also blocked off Argyle Street South creating a buffer between the town and the protest site by closing the roadway between Braemar Avenue and Highway 6.
Landback Lane spokesperson Skyler Williams said armed police sparked the shutdowns. He said OPP pulled guns on Six Nations people creating the violent atmosphere.
He said road blocks have been established and they have had offers of help from people across country coming to support the action.
Sources said local attempts to meet with Crown Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett have been answered only with “flowerly letters. We have had no response from her (Minister Bennett) for months. There have been no talks at all.”
Six Nations Elected Chief Mark Hill, who is being called to intervene in the dispute, did not return Turtle Island News requests for comment Friday.
In addition to Argyle Street South being shut down OPP have closed Highway 6 between Fourth Line and Greens Road. The OPP said it’s objective is to maintain the safe flow of traffic and, when delays occur, restore traffic flow in the safest manner possible. Motorists should check in advance for road advisory information and the latest updates on OPP Twitter @OPP_WR. The OPP appreciates everyone’s cooperation and patience during these occurrences.