By Holly McKenzie-Sutter
THE CANADIAN PRESS
The legal saga around a two-year occupation of a proposed development site by a group of Indigenous people returned to an Ontario court on Monday with another attempt to remove the protesters.
The company behind the planned housing development near Caledonia, Ont., and Six Nations of the Grand River is again asking a Haldimand County judge to order the demonstrators permanently off the land.
The group that has occupied the site since the summer of 2020 has maintained that the land in question is on unceded Haudenosaunee territory.
A lawyer for Foxgate Developments argued Monday that a permanent order is needed so the development can proceed after two years of delays.
“Interim injunctions haven’t been followed,” Paul DeMelo said.
“The permanent injunction is necessary so that the lands can hopefully be returned and the development can proceed.”
DeMelo argued that there hasn’t been a direct challenge filed in the case to his client’s legal rights to develop the land. He argued that the court must decide whether the occupiers have a right to halt the development.
Proceedings began Monday with lawyers disagreeing on the legal status of past orders that asked the protesters to leave two years ago.
Lawyers for Skyler Williams, who has acted as spokesman for the Indigenous group that has set up camp on the site, argued that injunctions issued in the past are no longer in place, and a permanent injunction can’t be issued as a result.
But DeMelo argued that argued that there is a valid interlocutory injunction in place that would allow for a permanent injunction.
The latest legal chapter comes after the province’s Court of Appeal overturned a previous permanent injunction last year, finding the judge who issued it discriminated against Williams, who was named in it.
That court said the Superior Court judge who heard the October 2020 motion erred when he denied Williams’ rights to procedural fairness.
Justice Paul Sweeny also raised questions Monday about whether the matter would be complicated by related ongoing legal proceedings.
Sweeny and lawyers for all sides decided to continue with the scheduled hearing as a bifurcated trial, separate from the other matter.
Haldimand County is also making arguments for an injunction to remove the protesters.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 12, 2022.