Aboriginal occupation rally revives tensions in Ontario

A rally to mark the fifth anniversary of an aboriginal occupation in Caledonia, Ont. has revived tensions between some of the town’s residents and aboriginal supporters.

Members of Canadian Advocates for Charter Equality (CANACE) carry a makeshift  monument back to their trucks after being turned away from Six Nations land by protesters in Caledonia

Members of Canadian Advocates for Charter Equality (CANACE) carry a makeshift monument back to their trucks after being turned away from Six Nations land by protesters in Caledonia

CALEDONIA, Ont. — A rally to mark the fifth anniversary of an aboriginal occupation in Caledonia, Ont. has revived tensions between some of the town’s residents and aboriginal supporters.

Members of the local Six Nations reserve and aboriginal rights activists turned out on Sunday to block the path of a march led by Gary McHale, a vocal opponent of the occupation.

“Let’s end this conflict right now,” a Six Nations woman told McHale and his group, urging them to turn around and go home.

McHale and his followers were trying to place a monument near the entrance to a section of disputed land but were forced back by the protesters.

Both sides started shouting and provincial police intervened after a scuffle broke out. No one was injured.

The monument represents the apology the group is seeking from Six Nations leaders, the Ontario government and Ontario Provincial Police for “terrorizing” Caledonia residents, Mark Vandermaas, another organizer, said.

He accused police of favouring the aboriginal protesters and “creating an environment where there will be violence.”

Some homeowners and businesses near the site have complained that provincial police aren’t enforcing the law with Six Nations demonstrators.

The simmering dispute has erupted in violent clashes between protesters and local residents since the land was occupied by Six Nations members in 2006.

Some at Sunday’s rally blamed the demonstration for stirring up conflict at a time when the town is growing more peaceful.

“As long as you keep doing this, it won’t stop,” Jan Longbow, a Six Nations resident, told McHale. “We’ve got to stop this, we’ve got to stop it now.”

Six Nations activists moved onto a former housing development called the Douglas Creek Estates on Feb. 28, 2006.

The former housing development is currently held in trust by the province, which paid $16 million for the land.

The government has said protesters can remain there while all sides negotiate a resolution to the land claim.