Builder injured in clash at Caledonia site

Native occupation about to end peacefully when confrontation occurred between contractor and several young men, police say

UNNATI GANDHI AND JAMES RUSK

With a report by Shawn McCarthy

September 14, 2007
Globe & Mail

A contractor putting the final touches on a home he was building for his daughter and fiancé was seriously injured yesterday after a confrontation with several young men in Caledonia.

Owners of the Stirling South development had spent the day negotiating with Six Nations members after they occupied and shut down the site yesterday morning.

The site had been briefly occupied two weeks ago.

The occupation was about to end peacefully around 4 p.m. when the subdeveloper entered the house and clashed with several aboriginal youths.

Sam Gualtieri, 52, of Caledonia, was found unconscious on the floor inside the home with at least four young men, his brother Joe, told The Globe and Mail. His brother was trying to chase them out of the house when they punched him, his nephews later told him.

"The Indian was striking him on the head with a two-by-four while he was unconscious."

Mr. Gualtieri was rushed to West Haldimand General Hospital with serious injuries.

"He's in and out of consciousness. He has a concussion, a broken nose, he's bruised all over the face. His teeth are broken. He might have fluid in his spine as well," Joe Gualtieri said.

OPP Constable Paula Wright confirmed there was a confrontation between a 52-year-old contractor and a "number of unknown young males" shortly after 4 p.m. yesterday near the building site where protesters from the Six Nations reserve were gathered.

Protesters put up yellow tape, signs and flags in front of an infill project being built by Venture Homes, a local company, but did not stop construction. The site is about a kilometre from the former Douglas Creek estates development, which protesters have occupied since February, 2006.

Constable Wright would not say whether the attack was linked to the land dispute, but said the OPP are "conducting a criminal investigation into the situation and all angles will be looked at."

The protest came only days after the government privately warned developers that the province can do little for them if they become the target of native protest.

While the province purchased the Douglas Creek site from the developer, builders who now become the target of protest should not look to the province for help, according to industry sources who attended a recent private briefing by John Burke, the deputy minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing.

Industry sources said that, last Friday, the final business day before the writ calling the provincial election came down, Mr. Burke said the province stands behind its land registry system and development approval process.

But he cautioned that native protests turn a construction site into police business, and even if the builder gets a court injunction ordering protesters off the site, the police will be cautious in enforcing it because their priority is avoiding conflict, the sources added.

"The message to individual developers was: Pray to God that your land doesn't get occupied," said one developer who heard Mr. Burke.

Mr. Burke, reached by e-mail last night, said that once a protest disrupts activity, "it automatically becomes a police matter and the provincial government does not direct the police."