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Idle No More protesters blockade Hwy. 6 near Caledonia

A stretch of Highway 6 at the Caledonia bypass was shut down by demonstrators for about two hours on Wednesday evening.
Protester Gary Wassaykeesic spent two hours as part of an Idle No More blockade in Caledonia on Wednesday evening. (Adam Carter/CBC)

Idle No More protesters blockaded a highway near Caledonia, Ont., on Wednesday as part of a nationwide effort to raise awareness about aboriginal issues.

A stretch of Highway 6 at the Caledonia bypass was shut down by a group of about 15 demonstrators for around two hours before clearing.

OPP were on the scene but made no move to remove the blockade, said Laura Lepper from the Canadian Union of Public Employees, who was part of the protest.

After about an hour, the protesters headed north on Hwy. 6 toward the former Douglas Creek Estates, which caused traffic to snarl up on Argyle Street, the town's main thoroughfare. Traffic started moving again around 5 p.m. OPP reported one accident due to the traffic congestion.

"People are just starting to get fed up with everything we have to put up with as a people," said protester Gary Wassaykeesic, who cited problems in residential schools, land claims and missing native women as issues that are a central drive to the Idle No More protests.

"We live in third world conditions on quite a few of our reserves, and I know that for a fact because I've travelled through them," he said. "How can that be right, in one of the richest countries in the world?"

Lepper said "growing support" for the movement speaks to a need all Canadians should feel to protect the environment.

"Our government isn't upholding treaties, so it's up to the people that live on this land to uphold them," she said. "It's not just a native issue. It's all of us."

The former Douglas Creek Estates housing development in Caledonia was a flashpoint for tensions over Six Nations land claims in 2006.

Six Nations protesters occupied the site of the 40-hectare housing development between February and October 2006 to back claims that the land had been illegally taken from them in the 1800s. The disputed land is now owned by the province, which awarded $20 million in compensation to residents in July 2011 to settle a class-action lawsuit.

The protest sparks emotion in a community still raw from the 2006 stand-off, said Craig Grice, a Haldimand County councillor whose house faces the former Douglas Creek Estates.

With Idle No More, as in 2006, the residents most affected have the least power to resolve the issues, he said. It lands on the provincial and federal governments.

"The ghost of '06 looks on everyone in the area," Grice said. "They're tired of looking backward. The majority of residents in Caledonia want to move forward."

CBC Hamilton reporter Adam Carter's live blog from the blockade:

Caledonia highway blockade gallery