Canada

Protesters can stay in Caledonia: appeal court

A three-judge panel of the Ontario Court of Appeal has ruled that aboriginal protesters can remain on lands they have occupied in Caledonia, Ont., for at least another month.

A three-judge panel of the Ontario Court of Appeal has ruled that aboriginal protesters can remain on lands they have occupied in Caledonia, Ont., for at leastanother month.

The panel ruled Friday in favour of the provincial government, which sought to stay a judge'sAug. 8ruling that ordered the protestersto end the occupation until criminal contempt charges against some of them could be heard.

Judge David Marshallalso told the government to stop negotiations with the occupiers until they leave.

The appeal court stayed Marshall's ruling until the province's formal appeal can be heard. It is scheduled forSept. 25 and 26.

The former owner of the property,a subdivision development called Douglas Creek Estates near Caledonia in southwestern Ontario near Hamilton, won a court order to remove the protesters in March.

But theOntario government bought the property in July for $12.3 million. It wanted to continue the negotiations with the protesters.

In the ruling, the appeal court judges wrote: "The province owns Douglas Creek Estates.It does not claim that the protesters are on its property unlawfully.It does not seek a court order removing them.It is content to let them remain.We see no reason why it should not be permitted to do so."

Asfor Marshall's ruling forbidding negotiations, the appeal court judges said he made the comment orally, but it was not in his written decision.

"Despite what Justice Marshall said in his reasons of Aug. 8, 2006, he did not include in his final order a direction that the parties cease negotiations," the ruling said.

"Thus in our view the parties should be free to continue to negotiate if they choose to do so without fear of being in breach or contempt of a court order. To be clear, the order of Justice Marshall does not preclude continued negotiations."

Haldimand Mayor Marie Trainer told the Canadian Press that the ruling was not good for Caledonia residents,who want the occupiers to leave until ownership has been settled.

"The residents of Caledonia, of course, are going to be upset, but they [people in authority] don't care about that," she said."It's very frustrating to them. It seems no one is listening to them."

Protesters from the nearby Six Nations reserve occupied the housing development site on Feb. 28 in a land-claims dispute.

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