By MPP Toby Barrett
Next month marks the 15th anniversary of the illegal occupation of Caledonia’s Douglas Creek Estates subdivision, and the consequent 15 years of road blockades, detours, intimidation, and confrontation.
Next month also marks the blockade of the Caledonia Bypass, one year ago on February 24, in support of the Wet’suwet’en Coastal Gaslink pipeline project — part of the ‘Shut Down Canada’ movement.
As with railroads across Canada, last February also saw the shutdown of the CN Line from Caledonia to the Nanticoke Industrial Park. This followed police action to clear the railway blockade at Deseronto, Ontario, enforcing a court injunction on behalf of CN Rail, and following a statement by Prime Minister Trudeau that blockades “must come down and the [court] injunctions must be obeyed and the law must be upheld.”
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. Militants set fire to roads on the south side of town, as well as to the Caledonia Bypass. Construction equipment was stolen and torched. Local firefighters were attacked. And, again the CN Railroad was vandalized and shut down.
On October 22, Justice John Harper made two permanent injunctions to clear the roads and vacate McKenzie Meadows. Activists set fire to 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 are subjected to the nuisance and danger of heavily travelled detours to bypass Caledonia.
Since October, the Caledonia stalemate has been 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.
As you can imagine, I have received hundreds of emails and phone calls about this destruction and defiance of our society’s laws. I have received hundreds of thousands of communications since the first act of lawlessness on February 28, 2006.
A recent email from a Caledonia resident summarizes much of the position of the 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.”
With respect to this ongoing crisis, I advocate and remain in communication with hundreds of people — not only constituents but also all provincial government MPPs, Cabinet Members, and the Premier.
For 15 years my position remains 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 – 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.
Toby Barrett is the MPP for Haldimand-Norfolk