As the one-year anniversary of the land reclamation known as Land Back Lane in Caledonia approaches, Six Nations people and allies are celebrating a victory: the developer has cancelled construction of the planned 200-home subdivision.
“It’s certainly a win for sure,” said Skyler Williams, spokesperson for Land Back Lane. “It means we’re not looking at 1,400 homes being developed between Argyle Street and McKenzie (Road).”
He said the focus now is on turning the land into “something sustainable” and of benefit for all Six Nations people.
This July 19 will mark one year since Williams and a handful of Six Nations people and allies stopped construction of the proposed subdivision formerly known as McKenzie Meadows, saying it sits on unceded Haudenosaunee territory.
No homes had been built at the time construction was stopped but site preparation was taking place. Since then, a group of people at Land Back Lane have built a number of tiny homes on the property, planted trees, and created gardens as part of their desire to remediate the land.
“Today is a good day,” Williams said Monday in an interview with the Two Row Times.
The past year also saw the arrests of dozens of people associated with Land Back Lane, mostly for charges that include trespassing and mischief. A number of Land Back Lane protesters have been injured by police during altercations between the OPP and land defenders in the past year.
Despite the cancellation of the housing project, no formal land transfer has taken place. There have been calls for the federal government to negotiate with Six Nations over its outstanding land rights, including the property at Land Back Lane, but that has yet to happen.
Williams said they don’t expect the government to hand over a deed to the land.
“We already have that. That (land) has never been surrendered. As far as I’m concerned, these Crown patents that were handed out in the 1800s aren’t worth the paper they’re written on. Moving forward, we’re going to continue to utilize those lands at Land Back Lane as we see fit and do our best to listen to the community and our nation and our clans (on how the land should be used).”
News of the canellation broke after potential homebuyers revealed the developer sent letters to them indicating their deposits will be returned.
William Liske, vice-president and chief legal officer for one of the homebuilders, Losani Homes, told CBC news:
“Notices were sent out to homebuyers earlier this week noting that the sale agreements had been frustrated for a number of reasons, which include the passage of time, the evolution of the project from a temporary camp to a site with more permanent buildings, the lack of conformity with or enforcement of the court’s orders and the failure of either government to even respond to our requests for help and intervention.”
Since the beginning, Williams has stressed that the action at Land Back Lane is neutral from local politics.
That is, the action is meant to benefit the whole community, he says.
It even spurred meetings between the Six Nations of the Grand River Elected Council and the Haudenosaunee Confederacy Chiefs Council to come up with a unified land rights strategy earlier this year – the first time the two councils have met in almost a decade.
Williams says the action at Land Back Lane has been historic.
“We set the bar for the next generation of land defenders. If you fight, if you stand together, if you do it with unity in mind, for all the people regardless of which family or faction of our community you come from, this has to be for everybody. Colonization has done so much…to our community to tear us apart, to divide us, to push us to fight with each other.”
“I don’t care what family you come from; this is for everybody.”