Judge dismisses all charges against Land Back Lane defender Skyler Williams

Skyler Williams, who became the face of the Land Back movement in Caledonia, was granted an absolute discharge from all criminal charges at a Cayuga Court last week.

Williams told the Two Row Times, it felt “pretty good” to hear Justice Gethin Edward say, “you’re free to go” last Friday.

Williams was facing charges of mischief, failing to abide by a court order, and breaching conditions of release.

Despite being freed of all charges, Williams, who is Mohawk, said he hesitates to call the discharge a “win” for himself or Haudenosaunee people in defending land rights because it was a decision made in a lower court.

“We got lucky with one judge, one day,” he said. “It’s not systemic change.”

But it is a step in the right direction, he said.

Williams was one of a handful of people from Six Nations who stopped construction of a housing project on McKenzie Road in Caledonia in the summer of 2020, saying that it is unceded Haudenosaunee territory.

The site has been dubbed 1492 Land Back Lane and has evolved into a sort of tiny community, with a collection of tiny homes, gardens and a permanent presence of people living on the small 40-acre patch of land between McClung Road and Highway Six.

Justice Edward, who is himself of Mohawk ancestry, said pre-confederation treaties such as the Two Row Wampum played a role in his decision.

“Skyler Williams was carrying out his actions as a land protector in the context of these Haudenosaunee laws,” the judge said.

Another land defender, Deryl Porter, was also cleared of all charges the same day.

“3 years of going to court. 20 million dollars spent “policing” Landback lane. All to see myself and several others receive an absolute discharge of all charges related to our actions defending our lands,” Williams tweeted.

He said it was nice to see the court recognize Indigenous people’s love for their land and ways of life.

This is not the first time an Ontario court has granted an absolute discharge for issues dealt with under Haudenosaunee law. In 2017, Lester Green and Bill Monture were granted an absolute discharge for physically apprehending Haudenosaunee Development Institute Director Aaron Detlor and removing him from the GREAT building in Ohsweken. The judge found the two men guilty of assault by definition but granted the men an absolute discharge, saying the matter should not have been in a provincial court, but rather dealt with on Six Nations.

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