The current Grand River land dispute came to the attention of the general public of Canada on February 28, 2006. On that date, protesters from the Six Nations of the Grand River began a demonstration to raise awareness about First Nation land claims in Ontario, Canada, and particularly about their claim to a parcel of land in Caledonia, Ontario, a community within the single-tier municipality of Haldimand County, roughly 20 kilometres southwest of Hamilton. Soon after this demonstration, the demonstrators occupied the disputed land.
The land at the centre of the dispute in Caledonia covers 40 hectares which was to be developed by Henco Industries Ltd. into a residential subdivision known as the Douglas Creek Estates. It is part of a 385,000-hectare plot of land known as the "Haldimand Tract", which was granted, in 1784, by the Crown to the Six Nations of the Grand River, for their use in settlement. Henco argues that the Six Nations surrendered their rights to the land in 1841, and Henco later purchased it from the Crown. The Six Nations, however, maintain that their title to the land was never relinquished.
The Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) have 24-hour surveillance teams operating near the claim site. Media, agitators, supporters and others who attend the area may be subject to video and audio monitoring by members of the Provincial Emergency Response Team or OPP Negotiations Unit.
October 25, 1784: The British Crown awarded, as reward to the Six Nations for their loyal military service, and support of the Crown during the American Revolution, a tract of land from either side of the Grand River, from its source to its termination at Lake Erie. On October 25, 1784, Frederick Haldimand wrote in his Haldimand Proclamation:
I have, at the earnest Desire of many of these His Majesty's faithful Allies purchased a Tract of Land, from the Indians situated between the Lakes Ontario, Erie, & Huron and I do hereby in His Majesty's name authorize and permit the said Mohawk Nation, and such other of the Six Nation Indians as wish to settle in that Quarter to take Possession of, & Settle upon the Banks of the River commonly called Ours [Ouse] or Grand River. running into Lake Erie, allotting to them for that Purpose Six Miles deep from each Side of the River beginning at Lake Erie, & extending in that Proportion to the Head of the said River, which them & their Posterity are to enjoy for ever.
January 14, 1793: Lt.-Governor Simcoe confirms the grant with a limited deed.
1795 to 1797 Joseph Brant sold to land speculators comprising the northern half of the reserve for £85,332. Simcoe opposed this sale. The interest on the annuity promised an income of £5,119 per year, far more than any other Iroquois people had received. The land speculators were unable to sell farm size lots to settlers fast enough and by 1801, all of the land speculators had fallen behind in their payments.
1825: The Crown approached the Six Nations about developing Plank Road (now Highway 6) and the surrounding area. The Six Nations agreed to lease half a mile of land on each side for the road, but did not surrender the land. Lt.-Gov. John Colborne agreed to the lease but his successor, Sir Francis Bond Head, did not. After 1845, despite the protests of the Six Nations, Plank Road and surrounding lands were sold to third parties.
1840: The government recommended that a reserve of 8,000 hectares be established on the south side of the Grand River and the rest sold or leased.
1841: On January 18, according to the Crown, the Six Nations council agreed to surrender for sale all the lands outside those set aside for a reserve, on the agreement the government would sell the land and invest the money for them. On February 4, and again on July 7, then again two years later in 1843, the Six Nations petitioned against the surrender, saying they agreed only to lease the land.
1843: A petition to the Crown said Six Nations needed a 22,000-hectare reserve and wanted to keep and lease a tier of lots on each side of Plank Road (Highway 6) and several other tracts of land in the Haldimand area. In 1850 the Crown passed a proclamation setting the extent of reserve lands to about 19,000 hectares, which was agreed to by the Six Nations chiefs.
1844: A document is signed by 47 Six Nations chiefs that appears to authorize sale of land to build Plank Road.
1848: The land comprising the current development was sold to George Marlot Ryckman for 57 pounds and 10 shillings, a Crown deed was then issued to him.
1924: Under the Indian Act, the Canadian government established an elected government on the reserve.
1931: Statute of Westminster put into effect; Government of the United Kingdom relinquishes the ability to legislate on behalf of Canada. All Canadian First Nations affairs are now fully within the jurisdiction of the Canadian Crown.
1992: Henco Industries Ltd. purchased 40 hectares of land for what it would later call the Douglas Creek Estates lands.
1995: Six Nations sued the federal and provincial governments over the land. The developer called it "an accounting claim" for "all assets which were not received but ought to have been received, managed or held by the Crown for the benefit of the Six Nations."
2005: The subdivision plan for Douglas Creek Estates was registered with title to the property guaranteed by the province of Ontario.
February 28: The conflict itself started when a group of members from the nearby Six Nations reserve erected tents, a tipi and a wooden building on 40 hectares of land known as the Douglas Creek Estates. Henco Industries, the developer of the land, obtained an injunction on March 3 ordering the protester off the land. The Sheriff tried to deliver Justice Matheson's order to the protestors late Sunday evening, March 5. They would not accept delivery. One of the protestors respondents Dawn Smith, burned the order. The burning was broadcast on local television. The next day the protestors burned the order again.
March 9: Justice Marshall made three orders. At Henco’s request, he made the March 3 order, the interim and interlocutory injunction, permanent; he adjourned Henco’s contempt motion against the First Nations protestors to March 16; and he ordered that the service of the contempt motion on the respondents could be effected by the same methods Justice Matheson had provided for service of the injunction order (by police).
March 17: Justice Marshall made a finding of contempt and ordered the Sheriff to go to Douglas Creek Estates, read aloud the March 17 contempt order and the March 3 injunction order of Justice Matheson, and distribute copies to anyone present. Finally, the motions judge ordered that warrants of committal for contempt be issued. However, he delayed their execution for five days to permit the respondents to “quit the blockade and leave Douglas Creek Estates.”
April 20: The Ontario Provincial Police (OPP), more than three weeks after the motions judge’s second contempt order, the OPP went to Douglas Creek Estates and arrested twenty-one persons under the warrant of arrest. But later that morning, the protesters returned to the site in greater numbers. Shortly thereafter, the protesters started a tire fire on Argyle Street, the main road into Caledonia, and also dumped gravel on the road to form a barricade.
April 24: Caledonia residents hold a rally demanding an end to the occupation.
April 25: Mayor Marie Trainer gave an interview to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, where she commented that the residents of the town were being hurt economically by the protest and don't have money coming in automatically every month. The protesters took this as an insult, opining that it insinuated they are all recipients of provincial welfare. The Mayor clarified that this was not her intent, however the municipal council acted quickly to distance itself from her comments.
April 30: The provincial government appointed former premier David Peterson to help negotiate a settlement in the conflict.
May 10: Edward McCarthy of McCarthy & Fowler Barristers and Solicitors called upon the OPP, the Premier of Ontario, the council of Haldimand County, and the Indian Affairs Minister to intervene and restore the rule of law in Caledonia.
McCarthy cited the alleged Surrender of March 18, 1841, which Six Nations representatives claim was fraudulent and repudiated by the Confederacy Council , purportedly signed by six Chiefs of the Six Nations indicating that:
This document further declares:
The document was then signed by 37 Chiefs.
McCarthy then called upon the OPP to "please discharge your duty under Section 42 of The Police Services Act and the provisions of your Agreement with Haldimand County which requires you to provide adequate and effective police services in accordance with the needs of the municipality which you are not, and have not, been doing. Specifically, you are not enforcing or discharging your duties to prevent crimes and other offences. You are not enforcing the provisions of The Trespass to Property Act and The Criminal Code of Canada and, in particular, you are not enforcing a valid court order of the Superior Court of Justice."
In conclusion McCarthy asks:
To date no official response from any level of government has been received. (Source: Brantford Expositor)
May 16: Protesters opened one lane of Argyle St. after an accident closed MacKenzie Rd., the main detour route into Caledonia from points South of Town. After the accident was cleared, Argyle St. was closed again, though the protesters had agreed to let emergency vehicles through.
May 17: A second car accident east of Hagersville sent a 46-year-old Caledonia woman to hospital with life-threatening injuries. This accident, along with the accident on May 16, has led the Caledonia Citizens Alliance to call for the immediate removal of the barricades. Jason Clark, a member of the Alliance, told the press that "Enough is enough. People are now getting hurt and those barricades need to come down. Nothing else is acceptable at this point.” (Source: Simcoe Reformer)
May 22: At 6am EDT, native protesters removed their blockade on Argyle St. Although the native blockade was removed, traffic remained blocked due to the presence of several dozen residents on the road, who were blocking passage to natives.
Later in the morning, the members of the two sides traded shoves, punches and insults before OPP were able to separate the two sides.
Around 2pm natives re-established a physical barricade across Argyle St. and the two sides face each other separated by dozens of OPP officers. Scuffles continued to break out through-out the day, resulting in injuries to natives, residents and police.
Also, at some point during the afternoon, a fire at a nearby Hydro One substation caused a power blackout throughout Haldimand and in parts of Norfolk. The fire started when vandals placed a burning truck in the substation, damaging two transformers. Crews fully restored power to all areas by May 27. Hydro One officials estimated the costs of repairing the damage at $1.5 million.
A state of emergency was declared late in the evening due to the escalation of violence and the power-outage.
In Saskatchewan, Cree protesters blockaded the Yellowhead Highway near North Battleford in solidarity with the Six Nations protesters in Caledonia. Following negotiations with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the roadblock was removed after about two hours.
May 23: By 2pm EDT, the barricade across Argyle St. was again removed by natives and workers could be observed filling in the trench that was dug across the road the previous day. By 3:30 pm EDT the road was fully open to traffic.
May 24: After Hydro One crews worked throughout the night, power was restored to Caledonia during the morning hours.
June 5: Six Nations protesters and Caledonia residents clashed on the town's main street after a police cruiser drove through an area protesters considered "restricted".
June 9: Two CH News camera operators were surrounded by Six Nations' protestors and assaulted when they refused to hand over video tape containing footage of an altercation between natives and two non-natives in a parking lot adjacent to the Douglas Creek site. One camera operator was taken to a nearby hospital for a head injury after his video tape was stolen. Caledonia residents say the OPP did not assist the camera operators, substantiated by the camera operators themselves, and shaky amateur video footage. Although the Hamilton Spectator reports that Lynda Powless, publisher of the Turtle Island News has produced photos which show OPP officers intervening.
Following the altercation in the parking lot, more than 300 Caledonia residents gathered at the Canadian Tire lot before moving to a near by school yard adjacent to the construction site, where some clashed with OPP officers in full riot gear.
During the evening, a U.S. Border Patrol vehicle, with agents reportedly observing the OPP's management of the crisis, was swarmed by Six Nations' protesters. The occupants were removed from the vehicle, which was then driven at an OPP officer. The OPP officer was injured during the incident. Protesters seized sensitive OPP documents from the vehicle, which included identities of undercover officers and information from confidential informants. The documents were later returned, but not before they were photocopied and distributed to the media. The Ontario government has asked Six Nations that all photocopies be handed back. The vehicle was returned.
Arrest warrants have been issued for Albert Douglas, 30, Skylar Williams, 22, Arnold Douglas, 61, and Ken Hill, 47, all of Ohsweken, Audra Ann Taillefer, 45, of Victoria, B.C., and Trevor Miller, 30, who face a total of 14 charges including attempted murder, assaulting a police officer, forceable confinement, theft of a motor vehicle, dangerous driving, assault and intimidation.
June 12: Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty calls off negotiations with aboriginals protesting at the Caledonia site, saying that public safety has been compromised by Friday's violence. He says the province will return to the table only when the barricades come down and native leaders assist police in finding seven suspects in connection with earlier incidents. Aboriginal protesters respond by removing one of the blockades, and negotiations resume on June 15.
June 16: The Ontario provincial government announced that it had bought the disputed site from Henco Industries, the company which had sought to develop the land. It simultaneously announced $1 million in additional compensation for businesses in the Caledonia area adversely affected by the protest. The fate of the land, now in provincial hands, is currently unclear.
Also, Audra Ann Taillefer, 45, of Victoria, B.C. was taken into custody on charges of robbery and intimidation, stemming from the June 9 incident involving a Simcoe couple.
June 20: Native protesters start an unofficial archeological dig on the Douglas Creek Estates. This prompts some residents to erroneously claim that the protesters are tapping into Caledonia's water supply, a supply that comes from Hamilton, a city in the other direction.
Rumours spread that the natives are building bunkers, digging trenches and discharging firearms. Natives explain that the bunkers are no more than a house they have occupied being renovated, that the trenches are part of the archaeological dig, and that the gunshots are merely fireworks.
July 11: Native protesters remove the concrete blocks and the hydro tower which have been blocking the main entrance into the disputed area. They say they have nothing to hide.
August 7: Native protesters and non-natives began throwing rocks and golf balls while shouting insults at each other. Approximately 100 people participated in the violent event which lasted nearly 3 hours. OPP spokesman Const. Dennis Harwood commented to The National Post "There was some property damage, but no injuries were sustained.
According to the Canadian Press, Harwood stated that the "altercation was sparked by minor incidents on Sunday, beginning when Six Nations children cut the middle out of a Canada flag."
"They were taunting at the Caledonia residents, then the Caledonia residents put up some signs," said Harwood." Mayor Marie Trainer stated that the residents' anger had started earlier, when the natives had been throwing rocks at the home of an 89-year old resident.
August 8: At a hearing in a Cayuga courtroom, Superior Court Justice David Marshall ordered the Ontario provincial government to break off negotiations with the Six Nations community until the Protesters have left the disputed land. Six Nations protesters indicated that they had no intention of leaving.
August 11: The Government of Ontario announces that it is appealing Superior Court Justice David Marshall's ruling to break off negotiations to the Court of Appeal for Ontario. The Government will first seek a stay of Justice Marshall's Order, so that negotiations may resume while the appeal is being prepared. A court date of August 22, 2006 was set in the Ontario Court of Appeal, where a 3 member panel will decide whether or not to grant a stay.
August 14: Natives set up an information booth on government property in Brantford, Ontario. The government stated that they weren't using the land anyway. They do not want this situation to escalate into one like in Caledonia, so they have no intentions of asking the natives to leave.
August 27: The judges of the three member panel of Ontario Court of Appeal dealing with the Provincial government's appeal 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." Furthermore they stated "Despite what Justice Marshall said in his reasons of August 8, 2006, he did not include in his final order a direction that the parties cease negotiations."... "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."
September 22: Gary McHale from Richmond Hill, Ontario and his wife organized a rally on the Caledonia Wake Up Call website, due to take place on October 15 at the occupation site. McHale was quoted saying "It's not an army base. It's just standard government land and we can walk on government land." At the same time, Hazel Hill, spokesperson for the Native protestors, organized a "defence" group of the people of Six Nations.
October 15: McHale's rally contained approximately 400 participants. The rally was blocked from the main entrance to the Douglas Creek Estates by the OPP, which is where the rally planned to march. Instead, they went to the grounds of the school that borders the site and one of the side entrances that is blocked off. McHale encouraged his rally to control their temper and not to resort to violence. Meanwhile, about 750 Six Nations people and their Native and non-Native supporters gathered together for a "Potluck for Peace" on the reclamation site whose status is currently under negotiation between the Haudenosaunee Confederacy Council and the Provincial and Federal Governments.
January 27: Federal negotiator Barbara McDougall says land claims will not hold up in court.
April 12: Haldimand County Mayor Marie Trainer said she received an e-mail from OPP commissioner Julian Fantino implying that the town is encouraging "divisive rallies" at the occupation site. He added that if any officers are harmed, he would not support a renewal of the town's policing contract in 2008 and would back any lawsuit brought against the town by individual officers. An OPP spokesperson said to The Hamilton Spectator that the OPP will neither confirm nor deny the authenticity of the e-Mail because it is correspondence meant for a particular person.
September 13: A local construction worker suffered serious head injuries after a confrontation with occupiers at the 90-home Stirling Woods development. A small group of natives had occupied the property that morning. The occupation was about to end when the clash occurred.
At around 4:30pm Protestors in Caledonia dug a trench across the Highway 6 bypass and dragged a large part of a hydro tower over the road. The OPP also erected two blockades on either side of the bypass to ensure public safety.