Convoy from Caledonia rallied at Ont. legislature

Updated Wed. May. 2 2007 4:45 PM ET

toronto.ctv.ca

A slow convoy of 85 vehicles driven by upset Caledonia residents made its way to Queen's Park on Wednesday morning to protest the ongoing Aboriginal occupation.

The frustrated residents, which included the town's mayor, drove between 70 and 80 km/h and waved Canadian flags along the busy QEW and Gardiner Expressway to the provincial legislature. Ontario Provincial Police cruisers escorted the convoy.

The vehicles hit the road at about 9 a.m. and reached Toronto before the noon hour.

The group, which rallied on the front lawn of Queen's Park, urged the Ontario and federal governments to speed up negotiations to end the year-long dispute is resolved.

"We've got to get the governments to do what we've put them there for, and they're the only ones that can stop this," said one resident.

"It's not a native problem or our problem, this is a government problem and they have to get off their tails and do something."

Resident Ken Hewitt said the group is looking for a timetable for resolution.

"We want to see some form of measurement that we can measure the performance of the politicians and the bureaucrats that are involved in negotiating this," he told CTV Newsnet.

Dan Roberts, who lives near the former housing development site being occupied by Six Nations protestors, said all sides should be in negotiation full time, not meeting once every two weeks as they are now.

"We get the feeling (politicians are) just not interested in discussing it and would like to bury it," Roberts said.

"With an election coming up, they don't want the Caledonia albatross hanging around their neck."

Hewitt said the occupation has caused severe damage to the community.

"It has affected friendships from both communities. It's affected the businesses. We've seen a lot of loss of income and economic stability in the community, and it's affected our building, as far as homes and development," he said.

Resident Val Vanderwyk said she wants an end to the tense situation in her town. She added that after living with the occupation for 15 months, residents are exhausted and want to see life return to normal.

Aboriginal Affairs Minister David Ramsay said Tuesday he had no plans to meet with the upset residents, saying land claims negotiations are Ottawa's responsibility.

But then on Wednesday, Ramsay agreed to meet with the protestors after the rally.

"We are working as hard as we can to resolve this and we do understand the problems that are created by this occupation and the hardships that their citizens are still enduring," he told reporters.

On the weekend, OPP Commissioner Julian Fantino spoke about the Caledonia situation, and said the federal government should be doing more to help resolve Aboriginal land claims.

There have been several violent clashes between Six Nations protesters and Caledonia residents since the occupation began in February 2006. The Aboriginals say the land was stolen from them by the Crown more than 200 years ago and they will remain on the site until it is returned.

With a report from CTV's Paul Bliss