Who trashed our home?

Natives in Caledonia deny it and police say it's too early to point a finger

By Stories by Paul Legall
The Hamilton Spectator
CALEDONIA (Dec 19, 2006)

Natives on the former Douglas Creek Estates are rejecting accusations they are behind the weekend trashing of the home of Caledonia residents.

The incident occurred on the weekend to the home David Brown owns with Dana Chatwell on Argyle Street West on the border of the Douglas Creek Estates.

The couple told police they'd been out for the evening and when they returned home at about 1:30 a.m., Dec. 17, they saw several people running out the back door onto Douglas Creek Estates.

OPP spokesperson Paula Wright said the intruders had overturned furniture and scrawled graffiti on the inside walls, but apparently didn't steal anything.

"Racist go home," was one of the slogans painted onto the walls.

A group of non-natives who gathered near the house Sunday afternoon blamed protesters for the break-in. But Wright said it's too early to point the finger at anybody.

Native spokesperson Janie Jamieson disputed the suggestion that native people might be responsible for the burglary.

"I spoke directly to a night security person (doing a patrol of the site) and she told me she had seen a brown van from the town pull into the driveway (of the Brown home) and drive back to Caledonia," Jamieson said yesterday.

She said the security person, who hasn't talked to police, would have noticed "people running wild on the site, whether or not it was our people."

She added the guard didn't see anybody running around the site during the night.

Since July, when the province bought the land, the protesters have been allowed to remain legally on the site while native leaders and government officials try to settle the dispute through negotiations.

Brown or Chatwell couldn't be reached for comment. But Ken Hewitt, of the Caledonia Citizens Alliance, said the couple have been living in siege-like conditions on the border of the disputed territory, through most of the 10-month native occupation.

Unlike most of the other homeowners, who have neighbours to rely upon, Brown and Chatwell are off by themselves at the corner of Argyle Street and the Sixth Line.

When protesters blockaded area roads in April, the couple found themselves trapped inside the disputed territory.

The natives set up a military-style checkpoint on Argyle Street West and Brown had to show a special pass to get to his property if he went off the site. If he missed his 11 o'clock curfew, Hewitt said, they wouldn't let him through.

Meanwhile, Chatwell had spent about $30,000 renovating the basement of the house for a hairdressing salon. But she abandoned the project during the blockade and has been working out of a shop in the town.

Brown's home has been referred to as the Alamo, but the joke is starting to wear thin. "His standard of living and quality of life has been affected, not through any fault other than being caught in the middle of the dispute," Hewitt added.

Brown is among a number of Caledonia homeowners who have appealed to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing for compensation.

Roger Moyer, manager of local government in the ministry's London office said yesterday he interviewed Brown and other homeowners last June after Municipal Affairs Minister John Gerretsen announced an assistance program for residents who were adversely affected by the native occupation of Douglas Creek Estates.

As of yesterday, Moyer said the ministry hadn't decided whether any homes would be purchased.

Jamieson also disputed the claim that Brown and Chatwell were being forced off their property by the protesters.

"We've never infringed on his life. You can ask the people who own the garage. We've been focusing on the land issue. It's not about flags ... it's the land," she said.

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Protesters urge release of native

TORONTO About 30 placard-waving protesters staged a small demonstration at Queen's Park yesterday for the release of a native activist facing charges in connection with the Caledonia standoff.

Trevor Miller, 31, has been in custody awaiting trial on assault and theft charges since his arrest in northern Ontario five months ago. The charges relate to a July attack on two CH TV cameramen in a Caledonia parking lot.

Miller's legal adviser, Pat Holley, said native and non-native supporters gathered for the peaceful rally outside of Attorney General Michael Bryant's office.

They presented a written statement through a ministry representative appealing to Bryant to release Miller before Christmas on compassionate grounds.

Holley said Miller has served the equivalent of a 15-month sentence because aboriginals are usually granted three months credit for every month they spend in jail awaiting trial. Even if convicted, he probably wouldn't get that much time, Holley added. He also suggested the case against Miller is weak.

He's scheduled to appear tomorrow in Cayuga court for his preliminary hearing, and for a bail review on Jan. 8, 2007.