Natives wager casino land is theirs
Sheryl Nadler, the Hamilton Spectator
Natives waving Six Nations flags conducted a peaceful 'educational awareness campaign' on a road near the Brantford Casino yesterday.
Information picket claims Brantford casino built on 'unceded, unsold Six Nations territory'
By Marissa Nelson
The Hamilton Spectator
(Jun 1, 2006)
Native protesters took their fight on the road yesterday, setting up an information picket at the Brantford Casino, claiming the site as theirs.
That came on a busy day, with action on several fronts in the ongoing dispute over Douglas Creek Estates. Today, there is a critical court appearance called by Superior Court Justice David Marshall so he can hear why injunctions he granted over native barricades haven't been enforced.
A disagreement is also brewing about the deal struck between the Six Nations and the province to get the barricade on Argyle Street in Caledonia down.
Federal and provincial representatives met with Six Nations delegates yesterday to talk about land claims. That was one reason native protesters said they were out at the casino yesterday -- to show Canadians their fight is for more than Douglas Creek Estates.
More than two dozen Six Nations people waved flags and handed out information pamphlets for several hours at the casino.
"It's an educational awareness campaign," spokesperson Janie Jamieson said.
The casino property which backs onto the Grand River is on land that wasn't sold or given to Canada by Six Nations people, she added.
"This is unceded, unsold Six Nations territory. Look at the prosperity this brings and not a penny comes back to Six Nations," she said. "The bottom line is Canada is prospering big time and it's on stolen land."
Organizers handed out a letter the elected band council sent to the province in 1999 that says the Crown hasn't given fair or full compensation for the casino land.
The standoff at the Douglas Creek Estates began Feb. 28 after several information pickets were held there.
Teresa Roncon, spokesperson for the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation, which runs the casino, said their operations hadn't been affected.
"We're pleased it was a peaceful and respectful protest and that operations weren't impacted," she said.
Hazel Hill, one of the Six Nations spokespeople at the protest yesterday, said provincial representative David Peterson is trying to renege on a deal that saw the Argyle Street barricade come down. She said the agreement was that one barricade would open and Six Nations would get a moratorium on development on the land, an archeological survey of the land, the lands from the former Burtch correctional facility and meetings to discuss changes to Ontario's curriculum.
"That is not accurate," countered Peterson in an interview from Toronto. He said the deal was the Six Nations people would get that package if all of the barricades came down.
"It was a package for all of the barricades," he said, noting the deal was clear and written down.
Marshall has ordered everyone involved, except Peterson, into his courtroom for a hearing today at 11 a.m. He wants to know why two injunctions against the native protesters haven't been enforced.
OPP Commissioner Gwen Boniface, who was included in the order, is sending two lawyers as her representatives. The elected Six Nations band council intends to send one.
Both Jamieson and Hill said they won't be in court because they don't recognize the court's authority. Hill, however, added they planned to talk at a meeting last night about whether to send any representative.
Jamieson did recognize that the judge may try to force the OPP to act.
"It's a possibility and we're prepared to deal with it."
Michael Bruder, the lawyer who represents the developers of Douglas Creek Estates, will also be in court today.
"It's unusual but there is precedent for this," he said.
Michael Lynk, a law professor at the University of Western Ontario, said usually when there's a strong political element to a dispute, the court hangs back if progress is being made.
There's no way of knowing what will happen today, he added. Some judges might step in due to the scuffle on the May long weekend, others might simply want an explanation, others might be deeply offended on behalf of the judicial system.
"The law can be a blunt instrument or a very flexible one," he said. "It may be a scolding or a real attempt to hear a full explanation."
If he isn't satisfied with the answers he gets, Marshall can charge people with contempt of court which can result in fines, jail time or further orders from the court.
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