Trouble in Caledonia
April 21, 2006 12:50 PM   Subscribe

Newsfilter: The situation is getting worse by the day in Southern Ontario, as a standoff with Native People has escalated rather dramatically in the last couple of days. A group of Native Canadians has been occupying a development site for more than 50 days, and yesterday, provincial police attempted to remove them, failed, and now rail lines are being occupied by Mohawks as a sympathy gesture, cutting off train travel between Ottawa, Montreal and Toronto.
posted by loquax (46 comments total)
Woah. Thankfully Mike Harris won't be handling this one.
posted by GuyZero at 12:52 PM on April 21, 2006

Oka Part 2?

Let's hope not, although the comparison is a little too obvious for comfort.
posted by arcticwoman at 12:54 PM on April 21, 2006

This is reminiscint of previous standoffs, including Oka in 1990 and Ipperwash in 1995.
posted by loquax at 12:54 PM on April 21, 2006

This may be profoundly cyncial, but I can't help thinking that Harris is probably praying for somebody to be shot and killed. Preferably several unarmed somebodies.
posted by stinkycheese at 12:57 PM on April 21, 2006

And for those who don't get my elliptical reference to Mike Harris: The Ipperwash Inquiry, looking into the death of Dudley George at the Ipperwash standoff. Allegations have been made that then Premiere Mike Harris gave orders to get the protestors out at any cost, with some alleging he essentially told police to shoot people.

Hopefully we can work this one out without any shooting.
posted by GuyZero at 12:58 PM on April 21, 2006

First Nations news site with a posting from the occupier's perspective before the raid (I think).
posted by loquax at 12:59 PM on April 21, 2006

Can anyone say more about the Six Nations' position here? The articles just say they claim the land was stolen from them. That may be true, but it applies just as well to a lot of other land. Why has this particular housing development caused such an uproar?
posted by nebulawindphone at 1:04 PM on April 21, 2006

Can anyone say more about the Six Nations' position here?

A history of the land claim.
posted by loquax at 1:08 PM on April 21, 2006

Can anyone say more about the Six Nations' position here?

This seems relevant:

In 1989, a group from the Mohawk Warrior Society, led by Loran Thompson, and Paul Delaronde, entered the longhouse at Onondaga to disrupt a Grand Council. Francis Boots entered carrying a large wooden club and placed it inside the doorway, with the implied threat they were there to club the chiefs who oppose them. The warriors stated that they no longer recognize the authority of the Chiefs over them and walked out, leaving the protection of the circle of the Great Law. Louis Hall, the warrior leader, stated in a 1991 interview that the Warrior Society would not go to the Grand Council at Onondaga to seek recognition. Hall viewed himself as a "spiritual general."

The Warrior Society was dedicated in provoking a violent showdown with Canadian authorities in order to create bloodshed that would then give themselves leverage to negotiate their view of sovereignty. In a press release during the confrontation at Oka that turned violent after the arrival of the warriors, the Mohawk Nation News Service stated: "Now that war is being forced upon us, we will turn our hearts and minds to war and it too we will wage with all of our might." (Toronto Star, aug 28, 1990)

posted by jefgodesky at 1:12 PM on April 21, 2006

Hopefully we can work this one out without any shooting.

I'm sorry to say the onus for this lies squarely with the occupiers in my opinion. Obviously I don't want to see violence or anybody get hurt, but this is a legal dispute over property rights involving a tract of land that hasn't been occupied by Aboriginals for roughly 200+ years. There are several court injunctions requiring the protestors the leave the premises, and ample time has been given for them to do so peacefully. How else can this situation be resolved other than either giving in to their demands wholescale, whether they are right or wrong, or using force to evict them? The occupiers have forced the situation to the current standoff, and I hope their leaders care more about preventing arrests, injuries, and god forbid, deaths than making a point to the government. What is the possible endgame here, other than a violent confrontation? I support every right of theirs to contest the development and the ownership of the land under law and make use of every legal tool at their disposal, but blockading roads and rail lines, criminal acts of violence and this kind of brinkmanship can't be allowed to take place.
posted by loquax at 1:18 PM on April 21, 2006

Who are the occupiers, loquax?
posted by angrybeaver at 2:17 PM on April 21, 2006

loquax, while I essentially agree with you, many of these sorts of confrontations have taken place because the federal/provincial governments in question simply refused to comply to previous agreements. i.e. Ipperwash; the land was appropriated by the government during World War II, with the promise that it would be returned after the war. Long story short, it wasn't.
posted by you just lost the game at 2:18 PM on April 21, 2006

I'll be interested to see what happens. I heard one of the protesters on the CBC radio news just now. He wanted to reassure the people who already live there that they aren't going after those who are already settled there. Is anyone clear what the Six Nations band is after? A halt to the development? A cut of the profits? Something else?
posted by raedyn at 2:23 PM on April 21, 2006

I understand what you mean angrybeaver, but according to the courts in two judgements, the Six Nations protesters are the illegal occupants of the land, barring a future injunctions against the developer or further legal clarification of the status of the land.

you just lost the game: I understand that that too, and it's unconscionable for the government not to live up to treaty obligations, if that's what they're doing here. I won't pretend for a second that I fully understand the vagaries of treaties signed hundreds of years ago or the Indian Act, but I can't side with these kinds of actions. If there is a legal claim, that's what lawyers are for. I cannot imagine that there's a lawyer alive that would hesitate for a second in taking the government to task for something like this.
posted by loquax at 2:24 PM on April 21, 2006

If it's any consolation, I bet Henco Industries' subdivision is going to be really ugly and also going to be something that buyers might just regret in the next decade of high oil prices...
posted by anthill at 2:29 PM on April 21, 2006

Dasein. Who said that? angrybeaver asked a question, and didn't offer some long winded tirade. S/he may have been only raising the question for consideration, not declaring loquax wrong.
posted by raedyn at 2:29 PM on April 21, 2006

By the way, what the Mohawks are doing is completely unjustified and unacceptable. Blocking rail lines 400 km away? Service cancelled over the weekend? Where is the police? How are they just allowed to bring the heaviest travelled rail corridor in the country to a standstill? Jail. For the lot of them. Absolutely crazy.
posted by loquax at 2:39 PM on April 21, 2006

No long-winded tirade today - I don't understand enough about the whole issue. But here's an interesting historical paper about the 6 Nations.
The territory occupied by the part of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy that led the application for membership in the League of Nations had been guaranteed to them by General Haldimand. It was seen as a replacement for the traditional homeland along the Mohawk River near Albany, New York that had been lost as a result of their British military alliance during the American Revolution. Originally designated as being six miles wide on either side of the Grand River from Lake Erie to its head, the 'Six Nations' territory cut through the heart of what was to become one of the richest parts of Canada, including the modern cities of Brantford, Waterloo and Kitchener. However, confusion over the legal status of this territory coupled with a laissez faire attitude towards squatters on the part of Upper Canadian officials led to the dissipation of most of the land during the 1800's under circumstances that can only be described as unjust...
posted by angrybeaver at 2:40 PM on April 21, 2006

Why isn't McGuinty or Harper removing the Mohawks? They're causing trouble for trouble's sake.
posted by oaf at 2:49 PM on April 21, 2006

This is very interesting to me, a New Zealander, for we have many seeming parallels with Maori land ownership claims, up to and including the not infrequent occupation of disputed land (google "Moutoa Gardens").

You get wise old heads counselling using the law, and angry young folks pointing out that that has worked SO well so far, and maybe direct action would be a good idea for a change, and there are yet other people for whom eventual outcomes no longer matter, only the assertion of power and dignity.

"If there is a legal claim, that's what lawyers are for."

You need a commitment and faith in the state and its laws to accept that with equanimity. For some native people the law is is relevant only in so far as it advances their aims, because they don't recognise the sovereignty of the goverment, and hence the laws of that government. I bet you a brick to London that there are people on that site whose conception of the country, its laws, sovereignty and the foundation of state authority are completely different to yours.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 3:08 PM on April 21, 2006

Just to add, the feds are under a new directive (not originating with Harper, but with the courts) to consult with Aboriginal groups whose current or future land claims might be affected. One would think that alleviates to some degree the need to illegally occupy as a means of negotiation. I am unaware of how this has been interpreted or affects the province, however.
posted by dreamsign at 3:20 PM on April 21, 2006

Daesin: Then what should the police/government do? Negotiate with people that (in this case) basically amount to terrorists? About what? Either it's acceptable to barricade rail lines when the mood strikes or it's not. I don't see a middle ground here. Bullets need not be fired, are there no water cannons available? Tear gas? Whatever?

Of course, I know that such a thing is not politically possible, and probably counter-productive. Which makes me sad. I have no idea what I'd do in such a situation, I just know that what the Mohawks are doing disgusts me, regardless of any injustices, real or perceived.

i_am_joe's_spleen: I agree. I wish somebody knew how to reconcile the two perspectives somehow. Until then, I suppose the choices are complete capitulation to Aborignal demands, fair or not, or this sort of low-level civil war. Scratch that, it's not a civil war, it's an unrecognized international war being fought for semi-independence. I guess. I don't know anymore.
posted by loquax at 3:26 PM on April 21, 2006

Is it possible that the Native People do not have faith in the laws of the land to give them their just right? How have similar cases in the past been resolved?

In addition, I know no specifics here, but in the US treaties were made and then disregarded many times. Is this the case in Canada also? If so, which treaty do you use to decide who owns the land?
posted by batou_ at 3:44 PM on April 21, 2006

I think I am going to head back to Holland where my ancestors originated from, plop myself down in a farmers field and claim the land for myself. Because you know, it was taken from my ancestors 200 years ago. While I'm there I'll burn tires, drop vans off bridges, brandish a crowbar with a bandana covering my face concealing my identity to the authorities, and disrupt all the train traffic to Germany. No one will dare arrest me because I am entitled to the land after all since I am "native Dutch". (In actual fact I'm only 50% Dutch, sshh don't tell anyone).

The "native Canadians" need to realize this is 2006, not 1806, and that this type of behaviour is not acceptable.
posted by ilaidlaw at 4:03 PM on April 21, 2006

The natives blocking the train tracks should, however, be removed. Occupying a vacant lot is one thing - holding up rail traffic in southern Ontario is quite another.

Those are the folks I was referring to when I said "terrorist", and I agree it's over the top, but I can't think of a different word.
posted by loquax at 4:04 PM on April 21, 2006

If you had genuinely been deprived of your birthright through chicanery and violence, ilaidlaw, you might think differently.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 4:09 PM on April 21, 2006

Are you sure the protesters in Caledonia were deprived of their birthright? What about the protestors in Belleville? Show me the proof please. History is filled with people(s) who have been displaced, what makes this case special? I'm not saying that what happened in the past was acceptable either, however, there comes a time and point where so much time has passed that we just need to move on whether we like it or not.
posted by ilaidlaw at 4:13 PM on April 21, 2006

I don't know and I have no proof, ilaidlaw. What I do know from my own country is that calls to move on and let things become history almost always come from members of the majority who benefit from that attitude.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 4:17 PM on April 21, 2006

Daesin, sure but they're not just protesting, they're actually disrupting Canadian infrastructure and negatively impacting uninvolved people's lives.
posted by loquax at 4:21 PM on April 21, 2006

I think anthill's point needs emphasis. I mean, it is just one more chunk of suburban sprawl - ugh!
posted by Chuckles at 4:27 PM on April 21, 2006

There was a kind of peak in discontent in the 80's when the courts made it clear that they could not deliver on the fundamental premise of Native land claims: that aboriginals had a right to land before the Crown. Once that was given up, it's mostly been about i) reparations, and ii) land use rights for existing claims. There is a long history of resettlement in Canada -- where it turns out that the land we put aside was too "valuable" and a band gets shifted again and again, basically until we can't find a worse swamp to put them in, but that was several decades back. The unfortunate thing to come out of B.C. land settlement is a kind of divide in Canada: either you were one of the "un-negotiated" or "unconquered" bands (B.C.) or your claim was either settled via negotiation or conquest. We've made some strides -- DIAND is mostly staffed by people onside these days, who just want to solve the problem but have little idea how; there is Nunavut which really is quite an achievement; recently, there is also an agreement for reparations for residential schools (though not an apology), and I believe that Harper has stated that they will carry out the promise made under Martin.

Valid reasons for protest/occupation still occur, but often in terms of straightforward environmental protest -- mine tailings, corporate dumping, etc. And not to suggest that any protest isn't "valid", or that I could tell which is and which isn't -- I just mean this from the perspective of "people who are likely to get screwed completely if they don't resort to extra-legal means". Maybe my bias, though. I've done some enviro law but little touching on aboriginal claims directly.
posted by dreamsign at 4:31 PM on April 21, 2006

Sekon, Brothers,

Keep it up, It is about the further taking or permanent "borrowing" of land that seems to be the Motis Operandi of the current stewards of OUR FUCKING land! You took it By Force and Smile and when we complain you take it by force again and SMILE again and poo poo our arrogance at thinking we had first rights to it and Use YOUR Courts to enforce it! regardless of the treatise. In Fact WHAT Treaty have you NOT Broken?, so I thankfully say "F*ck you very much great white brother"

-= Proud Member of the Kahniake-haka Nation in St. Regis =-
posted by Elim at 5:14 PM on April 21, 2006

I'm not bitter or anything though.
posted by Elim at 5:15 PM on April 21, 2006

loquax, if they're not deliberately hurting or killing anyone, they're not terrorists.

Causing inconvenience is the _point_ of peaceful protests. Would you rather they firebomb things instead?
posted by Malor at 5:24 PM on April 21, 2006

Link to mostly off-topic amusement
posted by anthill at 6:09 PM on April 21, 2006

Half (well, honestly more like 1/16th) of me is all Elim. The other half is just sad. As for the sympathy action by the Mohawks—just like unions, those without power must band together in solidarity in order to project power. Divided the Natives are maybe a few hundred, united they can be thousands. Just ask Custer how that goes.

Nice presentation in the FPP, loquax. We may disagree in thread, but you did an admirable job not poisoning the well.
posted by Fezboy! at 6:16 PM on April 21, 2006

Is Indian still the right word? the Toronto Star uses it.
posted by wumpus at 6:51 PM on April 21, 2006

Ah, this explains why my train from Toronto to Ottawa was cancelled. I almost missed the Sens first playoff game! I wish that VIA had explained to passengers what was going on, since we would've been relieved it wasn't just VIA's usual incompetence.
posted by krunk at 7:39 PM on April 21, 2006

I'm all for the protest and action. Bravo.

There is some unfinished business in this country and this is, sadly, the only possible way to get things done (and it's doubtful that will work.)
posted by juiceCake at 7:42 PM on April 21, 2006

This goofiness has got to stop; until we get a government(Right or Left, they're both boar-tit useless when it comes to these issues) that isn't afraid to deal openly and honestly, and aboriginal representatives who are willing and able to work the system and compromise, these incidents are going to continue and escalate.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 8:30 PM on April 21, 2006

You took it By Force and Smile and when we complain you take it by force again

I have noticed that is very difficult to negotiate deals with aboriginal groups, their starting position is usually the same as their final position and politically dramatic statements, along with office trashings and high profile direct action like we are seeing in Ontario tend to fly politically in aboriginal circles. Militant speech and disruptive protests are how one obtains political power in aboriginal circles. I think you are trying to look cool in this post, and the protestors are trying to build their fame.

You want me to sign a petition for the government to honour treaties? I will do it - but Canadians have never responded to threats or this kind of dick swinging - not from Quebec seperatists, not from other countries, and not from aboriginal groups. This kind of talk will hurt you, ask the PQ about what the FLQ did for their public sympathy.

In fact, you may want to study the War Measures Act and if you are truly advocating "might makes right" as the native position I think you should do a serious examination of your military strength.
posted by Deep Dish at 11:20 PM on April 21, 2006

It looks as though the blockade is over, by the way, as CN obtained a court injunction, and the Mohawks were "encouraged" by negotiations in Caledonia between the occupiers and the police.

Provincial police sources told CTV that there were no plans for arrests of the protesters for setting up the blockade.

This I cannot understand.
posted by loquax at 12:09 AM on April 22, 2006

The comments here are ridiculous. No Canadian or provincial governments have EVER acted in anything even resembling good faith where the Indians are concerned in Canadian territory, and for a people like the Mohawks and other Iroquois who have been in close contact for over 400 years, this is painfully obvious and must be addressed before any progress can be made. The US, by the way, has a much better (though not stellar) record in this regard - in the US they actually respect, nominally, the treaties that do exist (most importantly the .

British settlement of any kind was absolutely dependent on the Iroquois in particular for most of the history of this territory, and in response to that, treaties and agreements were made with these nations - and they were considered, by Europeans, sovereign nations as a matter of law. And they have all been broken as circumstances made it expedient.

Meanwhile natives have never been unwilling to negotiate, but they are faced with dictates, a legal system that has always been totally gamed against them and goes against longstanding principles of international and common law, and the constant threat of extinguishment of rights. It is simply not enough to say, "enough already, this is how it is now, deal with it."

There's a long uphill road to travel before Indians will trust Canadian governments. Those governments have never been willing to take even the first step towards developing good faith trust. It's a matter of simple respect. Until they do, this kind of thing will crop up again and again.
posted by mikel at 6:42 AM on April 22, 2006

mikel, you have no clue. DIAND bends over backward for aboriginal groups, to the point where their Justice advisors have just about thrown up their hands in futility, because the legal checks and balances placed on any other subject group suddenly disappear when aboriginal bands are concerned. Budgets, limits on lawmaking powers, human rights (within bands, which can be far from stellar, but I expect to get shouted at even mentioning it, because I guess two wrongs make a right) -- all of it is suddenly ok because no one dares apply the same standards.
posted by dreamsign at 10:34 AM on April 22, 2006

It's basically "Oh, we want this land now that it's worth something." Sorry, the land wasn't stolen from you, and it belongs to someone now, so take it to court. Otherwise, stop acting extralegally and damaging uninvolved third parties.
posted by oaf at 3:29 PM on April 22, 2006

TheToronto Star sure does a really good job at making the situation sound as a purposeful affront to rail passengers.
posted by pwedza at 9:38 PM on April 22, 2006

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