By MPP Toby Barrett
This coming February 28th marks 16 years of illegal occupation of Caledonia’s Douglas Creek Estates subdivision, and 16 years of intermittent road and rail blockades, detours, violence and intimidation.
For 16 years my position and communications have remained steadfast – we have our institutions of government and law for a reason. Living in a free and democratic society, we in Ontario have one law for all, and nobody is above the law. The credibility of government is lost and policy is doomed to failure when the law and democratic processes are allowed to be sabotaged.
Over the past 16 years, many others and I have tried just about everything we can think of to bring resolution to the debacle in the Caledonia area.
One very recent proposal has come forward from the Haldimand Police Services Board to Haldimand Council. I feel it has merit. The proposal is to rewrite the OPP policy document titled, A Framework for Police Preparedness for Indigenous Critical Incidents.
As the county delegation testified, “This OPP response to any associated lawlessness simply has not worked in Haldimand County. . . This strategy results in a potentially dangerous situation with the potential of causing not only property damage, but personal injury to innocent citizens and first responders. The social costs and the psychological trauma associated with the current one-sided OPP response to Indigenous criminal activity is unacceptable.”
This coming February 24th marks the second anniversary of a blockade of the Caledonia Bypass and the CN rail line, in support of the Wet’suwet’en Coastal Gaslink pipeline project – part of the ‘Shut Down Canada’ movement.
On July 19, 2020, yet another subdivision, McKenzie Meadows on McKenzie Road was occupied by force and, as with Douglas Creek Estates, remains occupied to this day. In response to the reading of a court order to vacate the property and the arrest of some of the occupiers, a round of destruction ensued on August 5, 2020. Militants set fires on area roads. Construction equipment was stolen and torched. Local firefighters were attacked. And, again the CN railroad was vandalized and shut down.
On October 22, 2020, Justice John Harper made two permanent injunctions to clear the roads and vacate McKenzie Meadows. Activists set fires on roads once again, and to a transformer pole cutting hydro to neighboring homes. A stolen excavator was used to destroy tracks and the control box at the CN line. As well, a trench was excavated across the Caledonia Bypass, across Argyle Street, and two trenches across McKenzie Road. Yet again, area residents were subjected to the nuisance and danger of heavily travelled detours to bypass Caledonia. For months, the Caledonia stalemate was symbolized by a school bus blocking Argyle Street, the main thoroughfare of town — a bus stolen from an adjacent church parking lot and crushed into a trench dug by a stolen excavator.
An email from a Caledonia resident summarized the position of many people I represent: “This is about the terrorization of an entire community, lawless acts of intimidation, assault and willful destruction of infrastructure. The issue now should be about the government regaining control and restoring some semblance of civilized order back into the town of Caledonia.”
Anarchy affects the well-being of us all!
Toby Barrett is MPP for Haldimand-Norfolk