Indigenous

Ontario Provincial Police have warrant for arrest of 1492 Land Back Lane spokesperson

The spokesperson for the 1492 Land Back Lane reclamation camp in Caledonia, Ont., says the Ontario Provincial Police have a warrant for his arrest.

Skyler Williams says his possible arrest won't stop camp at site of Caledonia housing development

Skyler Williams, spokesperson for the 1492 Land Back Lane camp, takes a break from insulating a wooden shelter at the site. (CBC)

The spokesperson for the 1492 Land Back Lane reclamation camp in Caledonia, Ont., says the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) have a warrant for his arrest.

Skyler Williams said he received a call Tuesday from an OPP officer informing him that there was a warrant for his arrest for disobeying the current injunction against continued occupation of the land. 

Williams said he's also wanted for mischief and for breaching conditions from his Aug. 5 arrest, the day of an initial OPP raid on the site. 

"I mean I'm … angry. It's the court's typical reaction, Canada's typical reaction to Indigenous people standing up for our lands," said Williams.   

"If you can throw enough of us in jail and put enough of us under heavy bail and release conditions we can't fulfil our responsibilities to the land, to our future generations… until there is no one else left on the land to defend it." 

The warrant for Williams's arrest comes after the Haldimand County Police Services Board met with a senior OPP officer last week and criticized the police's handling of the camp. The police board issued a document calling the actions of the people at the camp, "acts of terrorism." 

The document also singled out Williams and his involvement in alleged conflicts in 2006, when Six Nations members took over another subdivision project, called Douglas Creek Estates, which was eventually purchased by the province.

The OPP said in a statement that an officer contacted Williams and he was asked to turn himself in "regarding outstanding charges." The statement said the OPP asked other individuals to turn themselves in as well. 

In mid-August, an Ontario court extended an injunction over the property forbidding continued occupation of the site. Since then, the OPP has arrested about two dozen people.

Caledonia is about 20 kilometres south of Hamilton and next to the Six Nations reserve, which has the largest population of any First Nation in the country with over 27,200 members.

Six Nations members occupied the Caledonia property, the site of a housing development called McKenzie Meadows, in July to retake land once part of the Haldimand Tract granted to the Haudenosaunee of Six Nations of the Grand River in 1784 for allying with the British during the American Revolution. 

Squatter sold land

The Haldimand Tract was originally meant to encompass 10 kilometres on either side of the 280-km Grand River from its source in the region around Waterhen, Ont., to Lake Erie.   

The portion of the tract under reclamation was sold by a squatter to a settler in the mid-1800s and colonial authorities later authorized the settler's ownership. The land is also part of a 25-year-old court case between Six Nations and the federal and provincial governments over the illegal dispossession of lands and trust monies. 

A spray-painted car blocks the entrance to the 1492 Land Back Lane camp. (CBC)

The Six Nations elected council signed an agreement with the developer for 42.3 acres and $325,000 put into a land banking account as accommodation for the development.

However, the traditional government, the Haudenosaunee Confederacy Chiefs Council, opposes the development and says it is within a designated "red zone" that should be under a construction moratorium. 

"The Haudenosaunee Confederacy Chiefs Council is opposed to this development and as the holder of collective rights for the Haudenosaunee people has not granted any type of consent which would allow this development to proceed," said a statement from the Chiefs Council issued on Aug. 15. 

Contractors want access

Contractors with the developer were turned away from the site last Thursday. The contractors wanted to locate a natural gas pipeline as part of prep work to connect the development to water and electrical networks. 

Williams said the OPP also told him in the phone call that contractors would be returning on the site and completing their work. 

"They didn't give me any heads up as to when they were coming," said Williams. 

"One morning I will wake up and they'll be there."

Contractors for Losani Homes walk away from the entrance to the housing development site after being turned away from conducting locating work for a natural gas pipeline on the contested parcel of land last Thursday. (CBC)

The OPP statement said that "discussions are ongoing in relation to the locate work that was previously scheduled by the contractors."

Williams said there are no plans to allow contractors access to the site and the camp would continue whether he is present or not. 

"I am just one person. I am just the spokesperson. There are lots of people who are very interested in seeing this action come to fruition in whatever way that looks like," said Williams. 

"Absolutely there are enough people to step up for it. My responsibility is to the Great Law and my people and to my great-great grandkids. They are going to need a place to grow and thrive. My responsibility to them far outweighs anything that the court or the OPP can do to me."

Williams said he would consult with lawyers before deciding what to do next.

About the Author

Jorge Barrera is a Caracas-born, award-winning journalist who has worked across the country and internationally. He works for CBC's Indigenous unit based out of Ottawa. Follow him on Twitter @JorgeBarrera or email him jorge.barrera@cbc.ca.

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