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Settler “victims” unsettled

Anti-Native reactionaries’ Ottawa event disrupted

by Andy Crosby

Demonstrators gathered at Library and Archives Canada on Mar. 22 to oppose an anti-Native event on the Six Nations land reclamation in Caledonia.

“Casting the white residents of Caledonia as the true victims of police and government ineptness is anti-historical, short-sighted, and can too easily be construed as anti-Native,” remarks Elke Dring, an Ottawa resident from Caledonia.

The conservative Free Thinking Film Society and the International Free Press Society hosted the event, which focused on what speakers described as a two-tiered justice system that favours Natives over non-Natives. The poster for the event professed that “extremist factions [are] seeking to destroy cherished Canadian values for their own selfish ends.”

Opponents gathered to distribute pamphlets and two people gained access to the auditorium. They heckled the speakers, disrupted the proceedings, and were eventually ejected from the building with the rest of the demonstrators by Ottawa police.

The competing narratives emanate from the five-year conflict surrounding the settler town of Caledonia. The grievances of some non-Natives centre around their claim of “Native lawlessness” and focus narrowly on the days of tension in 2006. On the other hand, the struggles of Six Nations to retain control of their land are based on historic treaties and international law.

Wes Elliot, Six Nations negotiator, clarified the importance of treaties to the current dispute at the Aboriginal Policy Forum in Calgary in May 2010.

“When European contact came, two wampum belts or treaties were agreed upon, the Two Row and the Silver Convenant Chain. They became the law of the land. Today, they are still the law of the land. They govern the conduct between our nations. In Caledonia, both treaties have been violated. This basic understanding of the treaties, honouring them and then abiding by them, is the formula for peace.”

The treaties are supplemented by the Nanfan Treaty of 1701 and the Royal Proclamation of 1763, which is enshrined in the 1982 Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and reaffirmed in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Six Nations are fighting to regain portions of the original 955,000-acre Haldimand Tract granted to them by the British Crown in 1784. The deed granted them six miles on either side of the Grand River, which winds from northwest of Toronto to Lake Erie.

Since then, 95 per cent of the territory has been eroded through settlement and confiscations by the federal and provincial governments.

On Feb. 28, 2006, Six Nations youth, with the support of community elders, set up a small camp at the entrance of the Douglas Creek Estates to prevent further subdivision construction. The reclaimed Kanonhstaton, or “protected place,” is on the outskirts of the Six Nations reserve and Caledonia. The reclamation remained low-key until Henco Industries obtained a court injunction and the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) increased surveillance.

On Apr. 20, 2006, 150 heavily armed OPP officers raided the camp and arrested 16 people, but local warriors and community members successfully repulsed the attack. From there, the tensions and conflict escalated as Six Nations expanded the camp’s perimeter and set up checkpoints on Highway 6 until May 24.

The Ontario government has since purchased the land from Henco Industries and over five years later, the reclamation camp still stands. Although a formal decision has not yet been made, the land is expected to be transferred over to Six Nations.

Since the standoffs and incidents of violence between Six Nations, their non-Native opponents, and police in 2006, anti-Native activists have continued to agitate by planting Canadian flags on the reclamation site and provoking Six Nations and their allies.

On Feb. 27, an anti-Native group held a “truth and reconciliation” rally, where they tried to erect an “apology monument” at the reclamation site. The group continues to allege that “race-based policing” has discriminated against non-Natives and demand apologies from Six Nations, the OPP, and the Ontario government.

“Their objectives are to get the police to crack down on any kind of indigenous protest, to put Natives ‘back in their place,’ and also to discredit the entire negotiation process. They claim that there are no valid land claims at all. They are doing this work on our side of the wampum and we’re trying to counter them,” said Tom Keefer, a Six Nations solidarity activist.

Six Nations and allies continue to counter anti-Native efforts, shedding light on the racism inherent in the group’s demands, slogans, and posturing. Meanwhile, anti-Native organizers around Caledonia have refused to distance themselves from known white supremacists who have promoted and attended their rallies.

This article originally appeared in the April 2011 edition of The Leveller.

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Topics: Indigenous
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