Province to ponder Caledonia dispute mediator

Thu, May 3, 2007

By CP – posted London Free Press

TORONTO -- The Ontario government will look at bringing in a mediator to help end a 15-month aboriginal occupation after meeting with a group of frustrated non-aboriginal residents living with the dispute who spearheaded a slow convoy to the legislature yesterday.

David Ramsay, minister responsible for aboriginal affairs, said he will consider doing whatever he can to speed up the negotiations aimed at ending the occupation of a former housing development in Caledonia.

The government will propose bringing a mediator to the talks and will consider whether further compensation is needed for town residents and businesses, Ramsay said. But he said the province can't set a deadline for the occupation to end.

"That's what makes it so difficult," Ramsay said after meeting with a group of four residents and the mayor of Haldimand County.

"One cannot predict the outcome of this type of very complex negotiation."

It wasn't the firm commitment many residents were hoping to get following their 100-kilometre slow convoy to Toronto and subsequent rally on the legislature's front lawn.

Residents talked about having the provincial police force replaced by Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

Others said they wanted more compensation from the province for businesses still losing money.

Most just wanted federal and provincial negotiators to meet around the clock until the dispute is resolved.

"We got what you would expect from government -- promises," said Dan Roberts, a Caledonia resident who lives near the occupation site.

"Now we just wait for action."

In the meantime, the group is already planning a similar trip to Ottawa so they can deliver the same message of frustration.

"Prime Minister (Stephen) Harper, don't think for a second that we don't have you . . . within our line of sight," Roberts said.