Demonstrators retake Caledonia residential development as Premier criticizes actions

Six Nations demonstrators have returned to a housing development in Caledonia less than 24 hours after a clash with police that saw several people arrested.

Police say rocks were thrown at officers and a rubber bullet was fired Wednesday

An OPP officer guides car past a blockade on Argyle Street, south of Caledonia, Ont. on Wednesday August 5, 2020. (Dan Taekema/CBC)

Six Nations demonstrators have returned to a housing development in Caledonia less than 24 hours after a clash with police that saw several people arrested.

OPP said they arrested fewer than 10 people who had been occupying McKenzie Meadows after they moved onto the site Wednesday to enforce a court injunction.

"The situation escalated as demonstrators at the site failed to comply with the injunction and reacted by throwing large rocks at police, which struck several officers," stated Const. Rod LeClair in an email to CBC Thursday.

Officers responded with "non-lethal force," according to LeClair, including firing a single rubber bullet.

Police say no demonstrators were injured.

A group of protestors from Six Nations of the Grand River took over the site roughly two weeks ago, dubbing it "1492 Land Back Lane" and creating a Facebook page by the same name where they've been sharing updates.

"McKenzie Meadows is one of several housing developments within the area that are directly violating the sovereignty of the Haudenosaunee," reads a description of the group.

"Collectively we remain firm in our stance that action must be taken to stop the ongoing development of our lands."

Skyler Williams, one of the administrators of the group, has posted several videos about the situation and requests for donations.

In an early morning post on his personal Facebook page Thursday he wrote that the demonstrators had retaken the site and not suffered any serious injuries.

He described those occupying the development as "peaceful people reclaiming their land."

"They brought the violence to us and our community responded unarmed but with the intent to make their voices heard," he wrote. "Now, highways and train tracks running on the outskirts of our community are shut down."

Barricades continue to block several area roads, including Highway 6 between Fourth Line and Greens Road and Argyle Street between the highway and Braemar Avenue.

LeClair confirmed that demonstrators have returned to McKenzie Meadows.

"Open dialogue is continuing today in an effort toward a peaceful resolution," he added.

Premier 'disappointed'

Asked about the demonstrations Thursday, Premier Doug Ford said he was "disappointed."

He described the situation at the development as "unacceptable" and said he believes the protests are the actions of a "couple bad apples" who want to cause problems.

"I have a great deal of respect for [Indigenous] communities right across the province. We're there to support them and help them. But it has to be a two-way street here. You just can't go in and take over people's future homes. It's wrong," said Ford.

The premier added he's concerned the situation might escalate.

"It is, this is not Ontario, that's not Canada. You don't start throwing rocks, you don't start tossing things. This is about living together, working together."

Colin Martin and Colleen Davis shared a different perspective.

The couple are both Mohawk and members of Six Nations. They're not occupying the development or blocking roads, but referred to those who are as "land defenders."

"It's people who are committed to continuing to fight the ongoing oppression of our people from all of their colonial tactics," said Davis. "The people are committed to stay there."

Barricades were still in place around Caledonia Thursday, blocking area roads and the rail line. (Dan Taekema/CBC)

McKenzie Meadows is a joint-project by builders Losani and Ballantry Homes. 

The Six Nations of the Grand River elected council says the band had been "accommodated" in two ways for the work being done at the site, including and transfer of 42.3 acres to Six Nations in 2016 $325,000 to the elected council, which was put into a land banking account for future purchases in 2019.

But Martin says the elected council does not have the support of most band members and does not have the authority to be making land deals.

"They're right there on our doorstep," he said of the developers.

"They're pushing us off and taking our land fraudulently to build for other people to benefit from. We're now saying we're no longer going to accept that … we're going to stand up."

with files from Colin Côté-Paulette