Arrests spark Six Nations blockade in Caledonia

Arrests spark tension in Caledonia

Natives, residents take turns erecting blockades

September 02, 2008
Dana Brown
The Hamilton Spectator
With files from Elisabeth Johns
CALEDONIA

The arrest of a prominent Six Nations spokesperson and two others in Brantford triggered a chain reaction of events yesterday that led to parts of Caledonia being shut down for hours.

The event is the latest in a series flareups since the occupation of the former Douglas estates 2 1/12 Years ago.

The blockades started yesterday around 9 a.m. when Six Nations protesters set up barricades on Argyle Street South and blocked the Highway 6 bypass.

After the barricades were removed, angry Caledonia residents refused to let traffic resume on Argyle Street South. The bypass was open sometime during the afternoon, but Argyle was not fully open to traffic until nearly 6 p.m., after a brief standoff between residents and about 50 OPP officers.

“I cannot stress enough our priority is to preserve the peace and maintain order, not to resolve land claims issues,” OPP Commissioner Julian Fantino said in a statement.

Yesterday morning, Stephen Powless, 43, and two teens were arrested in Brantford for allegedly being on the construction site at the Hampton Inn on Fen Ridge Court, next to the Kingspan Insulated Panels development site from which they are barred.

Kingspan, the Ireland-based company, is building its North American head office and a factory on the property.

Powless has been the spokesperson for the Brantford actions.

Police said the trio are under a court order to stay away from the land and were all charged with breach of a court order and mischief.

Clyde Powless, a spokesperson for Six Nations, said the arrests were a “catalyst” for the blockades, but that the community is also frustrated by the slow pace of land claim negations with the provincial and federal governments.

“Our fight is not with this town, (nor) is it with Brantford or any other town within our (Haldimand) Tract,” he said of the 10 kilometres on either side of the Grand River to which the natives lay claim.

“Our fight is with the government and that is where it will remain, with the government at the negotiating table.”

Powless said Six Nations leaders were working hard to keep the community calm.

In response to the Six Nations blockades, frustrated Caledonia residents gathered on Argyle about a half kilometre from the former DCE site.

“Something happen(ed) in another town and we get held hostage again,” shouted William Romberg, a resident for 12 years.

Residents were separated from the rest of the street by a single line of OPP officers spaced across the road.

In addition to the blockades, traffic was also slowed because of ongoing work on the town’s main bridge.

Progressive Conservative MPP Toby Barrett said Caledonia seems to have become “a whipping boy” for issues that have nothing to do with the town.

At one point, OPP met privately with Romberg and Caledonia resident Dana Chatwell, whose home abuts the DCE land.

Shortly after, police asked residents to leave the road. That was followed later with another request, an ultimatum and a stronger show of force by officers.

Residents complained police were being heavy-handed with their blockade, while not showing the same force to native actions.

Eventually, police and residents agreed to leave the road, with officers exiting first and residents following.

A young man from the residents’ side was arrested and has been charged with mischief and resisting arrest.

It’s alleged he ripped a native flag from the antenna of a car trying to cross the residents’ blockade.

Six Nations spokesperson Hazel Hill said a tentative date of Sept. 11 had been set to resume negotiations with the provincial and federal governments, but she had not received word if the meeting would go ahead.

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