On Thursday August 10th, 2017 First Nations people representing the Haudenosaunee Confederacy Chiefs Council blocked Argyle Street in Caledonia adjacent to the Douglas Creek Estates.
The blockade is still ongoing and requires a 24-hour police presence and prevents residence, businesses and the general population entering Caledonia from the HWY# 6 by-pass side. This is causing a lot of frustration and the tension is palpable. The blockade is reminding everyone of the 2006 blockade that was very similar and caused intense tensions with physical encounters. Back then the Burtch Lands were promised to the people of the Six Nations in exchange for taking down the barricade in Caledonia.
The Haudenosaunee say that the new barrier will not come down until their three demands are met:
1) That the provincial and federal governments sit down for more land claim negotiations
2) That the injunction against the farmer be removed so she can go back to farming the Burtch Lands
3) The Burtch Lands be returned to the Haudenosaunee Chiefs Council instead of the elected council.
As a contestant to be the Provincial Liberal Candidate for Haldimand-Norfolk I am very concerned about this situation. The Caledonia people feel that they are a pawn in the dispute between the SNEC and the Haudenosaunee. Since the Burtch Lands are the subject of the dispute people don’t understand why the blockade is happening in Caledonia.
I contacted Premier Kathleen Wynne in regards to this situation and she explained to me that the people of the Six Nations were awarded the Burtch lands by the government of Ontario in 2006. After a thorough clean-up of the land, the Province honoured that commitment earlier this year by transferring the lands to a corporation established by the Six Nations Elected Council that will hold the lands on behalf of the people for the Six Nations.
I also contacted the Minister of Indigenous Affairs, the Hon. David Zimmer, and also he stated that Ontario committed to transfer the Burtch lands to the people of the Six Nations in 2006. “We honoured that commitment earlier this year by transferring the lands to a corporation established by the SNEC that will hold the land on behalf of the people of the Six Nations” the Hon. David Zimmer explained.
“We remain hopeful that all parties will be able to work together in a spirit of mutual respect to ensure the land benefits all the people of the six nations”. But ‘as this matter is in the courts, any further comments would be inappropriate’ the Minister said.
On the phone Haldimand County councilor Craig Grice, representing Caledonia, expressed his concern about this situation and the safety of the people. He commented that there are a lot of people in Six Nations thinking that this issue should be kept internal. He urged residents not to approach the barricade and that the time for a fight in Caledonia is gone.
This protest is unfortunately damaging the progress that has been made to the communities.
The Confederacy supporters were front and center at the 2006 blockade and the Douglas Creek Estate development occupation. The 154 ha Burtch Land property, formerly the Burtch correctional facility lands, about 30 km west in the Brant county.
Some consider the Confederacy as the real government and the band council created by the Indian Act from 1924 as invalid. There is a disagreement over the leadership within the Six Nations community.
Hagersville, Aug 17, 2017