As injunctions extended against demonstrations in Caledonia, elected council votes to apologize to residents

OHSWEKEN — A Brantford judge has granted interlocutory injunctions on the McKenzie Meadows properties in Caledonia — and rebuked demonstrators for aiming their efforts toward orchestrating chaotic imagery and dramatic speeches on national media while at the same time rejecting participation in the legal processes that would give them the platform to legally oppose the project.

In his August 21 written decision, Justice R John Harper granted interlocutory injunctions on the McKenzie Meadows housing development property, barring anyone from occupying the worksite or roads in Haldimand County.

Harper said, “It is important to point out that the claims of the “land defender”/protestors have not been advanced within these proceedings. In the media reports attached to both the Haldimand action and the Foxgate action, there are numerous references to spokespersons allegedly speaking on behalf of the “land defenders”. The assertion in the media reports by the alleged spokespersons is that this is an issue between sovereign nations. They assert, in the media only, that this land was never ceded by the Haudenosaunee. They assert this as a land claim. It is not a land claim.”

Harper noted that those who have self identified as land defenders did not express opposition to the development when the process was fully open to the public, did not engage with Six Nations of the Grand River when the community entered into the definitive agreement with Foxgate to allow the project to go ahead and were not involved in the archeological assessments since 2017.

“The persons who call themselves the “land defenders” have done nothing since, at least, 2015 when Foxgate became the titled owner to the Lands. Nor is there any evidence that they expressed opposition to the proposed plans submitted between 2003 and 2015,” wrote Harper.
The judge also criticized that no one who was acting in defense of the land came to bring their voice to the courtroom — allowing the request for an injunction to go uncontested.

“In the case before me, no person or entity has filed any responding material or otherwise put in an appearance or even expressed a desire to respond or appear. From the media reports that have been filed as exhibits to both Foxgate and Haldimand’s materials it appears that those who have been occupying the Lands and obstructing highways and roads in Haldimand County are content to raise any of their concerns in the media as opposed to the court,” wrote Harper.

“From the media reports, the protestors refer to themselves as “land defenders”. However, the nature of any of their defense to land is to resort to self-help and violence instead of participating in the court process. On both occasions that this matter was in this court, I indicated that anyone who wanted to participate in these proceedings should do so. Otherwise this court can only make decisions on the basis of uncontradicted evidence that is properly placed before it.”

Meanwhile — the Six Nations of the Grand River Elected Council passed a motion at Tuesday’s General Council meeting to extend an apology to Caledonia residents for the violence and chaos inspired by those occupying the McKenzie Meadows site. SNGR says they’ve failed in educating the community about the project.

A motion was put forward by Melba Thomas who said that she has felt compelled to apologize to residents who may have felt terrorized by violent imagery aimed at national media by those occupying the worksite and concerned for toxic substances in billowing black smoke after tires and construction equipment were set on fire.

In his decision, Harper also addressed the imagery in the media as putting local residents from both communities at risk.
“Black burning tire smoke billowing into the air is as much a toxic health risk as it is a toxic emotional and psychological risk to the Haldimand community,” said Harper.

Thomas said that as a Six Nations resident and neighbour to Caledonia she has experienced confusion from Caledonia residents who don’t know how to respond to Six Nations people frequenting their businesses.
“I feel that the people are very confused as to how they treat us as a result of the violence on the system and towards police for example,” said Thomas.

Elected Councillor Hazel Johnson said she supported the motion to issue an apology to all Haldimand County residents, and said that all too often once these kinds of tense situations are out of the media there are unresolved feelings that fester between the two communities.
Johnson said that the council should also apologize to Six Nations residents — saying that while demonstrators sought to raise the profile of their feelings about the housing development in the media, other Six Nations members did not oppose the project but had no equal opportunity to have their opinions amplified in the national media.

“For our own people there was a lot of our own that have those feelings of sitting on pins and needles, feeling stressed about that. We should acknowledge our own people as well.”

Councillor Kerry Bomberry also supported the desire to reach out to Caledonians with an apology and to work to reconcile the two communities in the face of the dispute — citing concerns that Six Nations students will be returning to McKinnon Secondary School in a few weeks and that the work of restoring peace between the communities should put those children in the centre of their focus.

Over the weekend people occupying the worksite removed roadblocks as a gesture of good faith and to redirect the attention away from civil disobedience and toward their opinions about defending the land.

Federal ministers with Indigenous Services and Reconciliation are expected to be speaking with officials with SNGR and the hereditary chiefs in the coming weeks to address the issues at hand.

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