'We're carrying it alone'

Caledonia convoy protests at Queen's Park

By BRIAN GRAY
Ottawa Sun
May 3, 2007

Frustrated and tired Caledonia residents landed on the front steps to Queen's Park yesterday looking for someone to take up their battle with Natives occupying lands in their hometown.

"This is not a Caledonia problem," said Craig Grice, who lives three doors away from the disputed Douglas Creek land and represents the area on Haldimand County council. "This is a national issue (but) we're carrying it and we're carrying it alone."

Grice and about 100 people from Caledonia made their way to Toronto in a slow-moving, police-escorted convoy along Hwy. 403, the QEW and the Gardiner Expressway, to draw attention to the 15-month Native occupation of a former housing development in the southwestern Ontario town near Hamilton.

Residents said they want the province and Ottawa to work together to resolve the problem before another summer of unrest plagues local homeowners and businesses.

"Caledonia will no longer be silenced," Dan Roberts, a convoy organizer, told the crowd on the front lawn of the legislature. "Premier (Dalton) McGuinty, you can run, you can duck but you're not going to hide from Caledonia."

McGuinty didn't attend the protest but said a resolution is up to Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the federal government. "I have chatted with the prime minister about this on a number of occasions," McGuinty said. "He's indicated that he is willing to put in place an accelerated process to deal with this issue. And I remain hopeful that will in fact come about."

Caledonia residents are readying their maps of the nation's capital, Roberts said.

"Prime Minister Harper, don't think for a second that we don't have you and local MP Diane Finley within our line of sight," he said. "We hear Ottawa is a beautiful city and we may be coming to visit you shortly."

Lifelong Caledonia resident Art Lyall said the problem is only with a handful of troublemakers. "We went to school with them and all our kids have gone to school with Native people and played sports both with and against them and we've never had any problems until now," he said.

Residents near the Douglas Creek site have complained occupyiers have harassed them in their backyards and interrupted the usual peace of living in the town.

Haldimand County Mayor Marie Trainer said the province needs to know the people of Caledonia are still hurting.

"They need some help," Trainer said, adding some businesses have lost up to $50,000 a month in sales since the beginning of the dispute.