February marks seventh anniversary of Caledonia

Inspire us to decisions which establish and maintain a land of prosperity and righteousness where freedom prevails and where justice rules. – Speaker’s Prayer

By MPP Toby Barrett

The day a handful of people blockaded the entrance to Douglas Creek Estates seven years ago, I crossed the floor of the Ontario Legislature to ask the Aboriginal Affairs Minister: “who is in charge?” He showed me his briefing note – it indicated the federal government. The next day I walked back into DCE and was told by the occupiers they would talk only with the federal government. In the following weeks I wrote, phoned and then drove to Ottawa to hand-deliver documents to Canada’s Governor General. Then we all waited as the province abdicated its responsibility to maintain rule of law, and land/jurisdictional issues failed to move forward.
It has been seven years and militants continue to occupy the Douglas Creek Estates subdivision in Caledonia. A burnt out truck trailer and hydro barricade remain at the entrance, smoke shacks remain on government property and power towers from Niagara have yet to be wired.
Seven years ago a group of people were photographed throwing a van off an overpass at Haldimand County Sixth Line, on to the provincial highway below. Although the front page photo was widely distributed — including to every MPP in Ontario — no one has ever been charged.
Unanswered questions and little action into the handling of events in Caledonia by government, the police and the courts – have created mistrust and lack of confidence in our cherished institutions. It’s called the Caledonia Cover Up: for example, you can let loose with an AK-47 from a provincial highway, put a guy in a local hospital, and not see it in the media
It’s now been seven years of lost economic opportunity across Haldimand, Brantford, and Brant as businesses, homeowners and investments continue to be scared away by threat of confrontation and violence.
Illegally occupied on Feb. 28, 2006, and the site of an aborted OPP raid on April 20, 2006, the subdivision was purchased by the McGuinty government that summer. However, in spite of a court ruling by Justice David Marshall, Mr. McGuinty sent taxpayer-funded lawyers to essentially legalize the militant occupation — basically arguing that since Mr. McGuinty welcomed the occupiers, there should be no injunction against their presence.
This raises serious questions about the adherence of this Ontario government to the rule of law. One of the most fundamental principles of a free and democratic society is the principle of having one law for all. The process by which laws are interpreted and executed is the essence of our democracy, and that democratic form of governance is the basis of our success as a society. When that process is sabotaged we see bad results, and when that process becomes lawless it gets worse. Credibility is lost and policy fails when a government moves away from democratic processes, justice and the rule of law.
We see these problems repeated as illegal blockades are allowed to continue with little enforcement. Recently, Ontario Supreme Court injunctions granted to CN to clear aboriginal blockades of major railway lines near Sarnia and Belleville were not enforced. This mirrors similar lack of action on the Caledonia injunction of 2006.
As Lorrie Goldstein of the Toronto Sun noted, “What we’re left with is a perfect circle of buck-passing by the premier and the police,” – continuing the double standard where certain Ontario residents face different applications of justice.