Protest hits the slow lane

Fed-up Caledonians plan 70 km/h trek to Queen's Park

By Daniel Nolan
The Hamilton Spectator
(May 1, 2007)

A convoy of town residents and their supporters are heading to Queen's Park tomorrow to keep pressure on the Liberal government to help end the 14-month native occupation of a former housing project.

Haldimand County Mayor Marie Trainer can't say the protest will lead to anything dramatic. But she said reminding the province that the Caledonia issue remains unresolved can't hurt.

Negotiations among Ontario, Canada and Six Nations officials to resolve the lands claim dispute are continuing.

"It's not going to hurt anything," said Trainer, who is taking part in the protest along with Caledonia Councillor Craig Grice. "Hopefully, it will keep it in the minds of the province.

"Businesses are hurting. It's terrible. Caledonia people have done nothing wrong."

The convoy, organized by a group called R2R (Resident 2 Resident), is set to leave the Haldimand County Caledonia Centre on Haddington Street at 9 a.m. Participants will drive at 70 km/h on the highways to Queen's Park. It is hoped the convoy will arrive at Queen's Park at 11:30 a.m. where a rally and a press conference will be held featuring Trainer, Grice, MPP Toby Barrett and former Onondaga Township reeve Mabel Dougherty, who will speak about the province allowing natives to possess the former Burtch Correctional Centre lands.

Organizer Valerie Vanderwyk said numbers were still being compiled yesterday so she couldn't say how many will attend. But she predicted a good turnout. Police have worked with organizers on the convoy route.

"What we hope to accomplish is for the government to know we are still here in Caledonia," said Vanderwyk. "Premier (Dalton) McGuinty still has not visited Caledonia. We want them to understand ... we do not think this going on indefinitely is sufficient. We think there's much more they can do."

Anne Marie Flanagan, spokesperson for Aboriginal Affairs Minister David Ramsay, said Ontario has been at the negotiating table since the start and supports and encourages the federal government to settle land claims.

"We continue to work on this," said Flanagan, who said there is no plan for Ramsay to meet the convoy. "This continues to be a priority for us."