‘Willing to break bread with anybody': New roadblock for Haldimand County land dispute
CALEDONIA -- An overturned bus blocking a roadway continues to act as a symbol of renewed tensions in an Indigenous land dispute, as demonstrators say the ball is now in the government's court.
Saturday marked the third day of the blockade on Argyle Street South in Caledonia that blocks off the proposed housing development site McKenzie Meadows, also know as 1492 Land Back Lane.
Demonstrators have been at the site for nearly 100 days protesting the development of what they say is unceded Indigenous land.
“I think we’ve been working away at that quite consistently over the last 98 days,” said Skyler Williams, a spokesperson for 1492 Land Back Lane. “All of this has been a response to violent OPP action.”
Demonstrators clashed with police in a standoff after a judge granted a permanent injunction Thursday ordering the group, largely comprised of members from Six Nations of the Grand River, off of a McKenzie Meadows.
Police confirmed using rubber bullets and stun guns after they say demonstrators damaged their cruisers.
“We didn’t want a confrontation with the OPP,” said Williams. “We didn’t want a confrontation with the developer, we didn’t want any of this.
“We went into McKenzie Meadows on the very first day [of development] on July 19. It was on a Sunday night when we knew no developers were going to be there so that we could maintain that peace.”
The demonstrators say they are calling out federal government ministers for the lack of dialogue.
“Marc Miller [Federal Minister of Indigenous Services] has reached out to me once to say he wants to have that happen and then nothing,” said Williams. “Carolyn Bennet [Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations] has yet to reach out, but these invitations have been going out since the very beginning.”
In a statement, the office of the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations tells CTV News there has been a consistent effort by Canada, Ontario, and Six Nations to address Six Nation’s claims through dialogue.
“We have put in place flexible processes to allow for the exploration of new ways to achieve this goal,” the statement reads in part. “We are actively working with the community and look forward to meeting at the earliest opportunity.”
Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Haldimand County’s Mayor have also expressed a desire to see dialogue.
“I’m more than willing to break bread with anybody, to have those conversations,” said Williams.
On Friday night, the elected council for Six Nations said they are bound to an agreement allowing the housing development. They are also calling the court injunction ordering demonstrators away an example of systematic racism.
“We hope in the days ahead that we can work in unity to focus on the common goal of addressing our Six Nations Land Claims,” they said.
OPP tell CTV News they are continuing to monitor the area and that members of the provincial liaison team are also continuing their efforts of open dialogue toward steps for a peaceful resolution.