Occupy Caledonia will be six years February 28

By MPP Toby Barrett

On February 28, 2006, Dawn Smith and Janie Jamieson blocked the entrance to Douglas Creek Estates in Caledonia. Six years later, the scars of the resulting mayhem remain, continuing to seed division in the community and to block home building, commercial and industrial development.

The subdivision – festooned with warrior flags, still occupied by militants, featuring a burnt-out tractor trailer and hydro tower barricade – sits undeveloped and untouchable, as do nearby yet-be-wired hydro towers, as a reminder of mistakes made and perpetuated.

It has been six 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. Haldimand County, home to the fastest-growing town in Canada up until six years ago, has now lost 650 residents in part to dismal economic conditions locally and the erosion of justice, rule of law and democratic process.

Regrettably the apparent tolerance of those in authority for chaos and intimidation, up and down the former Grand River Tract, has resulted in mistrust and loss of confidence in our institutions of policing, justice and governance.

One email I’ve received captures what many continue to tell me they are feeling: “This erosion of our long held beliefs in justice, fairness, equality under the laws among our other supposed Canadian tenets has me deeply troubled.”

Last month’s sentencing of Richard Smoke in the beating of Caledonia’s Sam Gualtieri has reignited much of the debate of two-tier justice that has been a mantra for six years.
22-year-old Smoke had been sentenced to time-served – amounting to less than 2 years – for his conviction of aggravated assault, in the 2007 beating of Gualtieri, a home builder. At the time, now-Opposition Leader Tim Hudak went to Caledonia’s Sterling Street to call for action. Hudak also wrote the Attorney-General urging him to appeal the Smoke sentence, describing the attack on Gualtieri as “vicious” and “just a notch below culpable homicide”. The sentence was not appealed.

Over six years, John Tory, Tim Hudak and I have been appraising the Legislature of the $116 million Niagara to Middleport hydro project standing wireless and useless, stalled by intimidation.

The concern remains that government may completely cave and legally hand over the subdivision to militants in spite of federal statements that there is no valid land claim. Militants remain onsite and Ontario residents are prevented from setting foot on land purchased with their tax dollars, thus some feel a handover of sorts has already taken place. After all with a stroke of a pen both Ipperwash Provincial Park and the Burtch property were transferred with zero public consultation.

Opposition Leader Tim Hudak understands the impact of any possible official handover of DCE to Six Nations on families in Caledonia stating succinctly, “The Ontario PC Caucus opposes this move. We believe it is the wrong thing to do.”

Six years of chaos, unanswered questions and little action speak to the need to move on Opposition calls for an inquiry, and recommendations for action, into the handling of events in Caledonia by government, the police and the courts. If not, the mistrust and lack of confidence in our cherished institutions will remain.