Tory: Talks in aboriginal land dispute should be suspended
- Tory: Talks in aboriginal land dispute should be suspended
By CHINTA PUXLEY
CALEDONIA, Ont. (CP) - Ontario should break off talks with aboriginals occupying a housing development near Hamilton until the Six Nations members end their occupation of the hotly contested land, provincial Conservative Leader John Tory argued Monday.
The rule of law needs to be restored in Caledonia, Ont., Tory said, before the province negotiates with aboriginals over their land claim.
"We shouldn't be carrying on negotiations until court orders are being followed, until the law is respected by all people at all times," said Tory, who went door-to-door to speak with residents caught in the middle of the months-long dispute.
"I don't think that's inflammatory. I think that's good sense."
Six Nations protesters have occupied the site of the Douglas Creek Estates since February, claiming the land was wrongfully taken from them by the Crown more than 200 years ago. A court order evicting them from the property hasn't been enforced.
The Six Nations members have said they do not recognize Canadian law or its court orders, but Tory said aboriginals are not above the law.
"The Criminal Code of Canada applies to everybody who lives in Canada and we can't have it any other way," he said.
The province will continue working with all involved until the situation is resolved, Premier Dalton McGuinty countered, acknowledging life in Caledonia has not yet returned to normal.
But he said there's a table in place that brings all levels of government together and Ontario will "keep working at it."
Residents of the close-knit community vented their frustrations to Tory on Monday, saying they continue to live in fear. One man, who refused to give his name, likened the aboriginals to terrorists.
"Let's call it what it is," he said to Tory. "You do not negotiate with domestic terrorists. We're sick of it."
Other residents near the occupied site said they are afraid to go on holiday for fear their houses will be burned or destroyed while they are away.
"This should have been settled a long time ago," said Sam Stargratt, who lives a block away from the occupied land where there have been several violent skirmishes between aboriginals and other town residents.
"People have got to start working together again," added Stargratt.
The Ontario Provincial Police has also come under fire from residents who criticize the department for not enforcing the court order to remove the aboriginals. But residents shouldn't expect the police to settle the dispute, said departing OPP Commissioner Gwen Boniface.
A lasting peace has to be negotiated and not imposed, she said.
"I have every expectation of a lasting resolution being reached," said Boniface who recently resigned her post to take a job in Ireland, but insisted the pressure to resolve the situation in Caledonia has nothing to do with her departure.
"We'll continue to work day-to-day the best we can and rely on the negotiating table to reach that lasting resolution," said Boniface.
One step in the process toward that resolution involved the province buying out Henco Industries, the developer of the subdivision - although the land has not been turned over the aboriginals and remains held in trust by the province.
And aboriginal members are still camped out on the site as the negotiations continue.
Darrell Doxtdator, adviser to the Six Nation's Chief David General, said visits and comments like Tory's can disrupt the ongoing negotiations and fragile peace which has been in place since aboriginals removed a road blockade in late May.
"This constant intrusion is just agitating the situation for no value whatsoever," said Doxtdator.
"It's crossing the line into more of a deliberate attempt to grandstand and embarrass the existing government. It's not serving the residents of Caledonia," said Doxtdator.
Those still occupying the site won't go anywhere until the land is returned to them, he added.
"We've been waiting 100 years," Doxtdator said. "We can wait a considerable time longer.
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