Police stood by as man was beaten, brother says

JAMES RUSK

Globe & Mail

September 15, 2007

Aboriginal protesters left Sam Gualtieri one blow short of death when they ran away after attacking him in the house he was building in Caledonia, Ont., for his daughter and her fiancé, Mr. Gualtieri's brother Joe said yesterday.

Joe Gualtieri said that his brother survived only because the gang of youths who were hitting his unconscious brother's head with a piece of wood - possibly an oak rail from the house - ran away when one of Sam's sons shouted: "He's dead, he's dead."

Mr. Gualtieri was attacked after a Thursday protest stopped construction at the Stirling South building development in Caledonia, southwest of Hamilton. The 90-unit subdivision, on eight hectares, is about one kilometre from the disputed Douglas Creek development, which has been occupied by protesters from the nearby Six Nations reserve since February, 2006.

In an interview shortly after Sam Gualtieri underwent an MRI in a Hamilton hospital yesterday, his brother said Mr. Gualtieri was attacked when he went back to see what was happening at the house.

Joe Gualtieri said Ontario Provincial Police officers on the site "stood there, and they did not intervene" until after the beating, when the attackers had fled.

The attack was the most serious incident since the first protest at Caledonia, and it brought the aboriginal conflict squarely into the Ontario election.

Liberal Leader Dalton McGuinty blamed Ottawa for the protracted conflict, arguing that the only resolution is to get the natives and Ottawa to agree on a land claims settlement in negotiations, which have been under way for more than a year.

Progressive Conservative Leader John Tory and NDP Leader Howard Hampton said that the province has gone missing in action on the Caledonia file. Mr. Tory said that a Conservative government would bring civil actions against those who violate the law in order to recoup the "huge public expense" of having the police keep order.

The chiefs of the Six Nations Confederacy Council said at a news conference yesterday that they did not condone the violence and apologized to the Gualtieri family.

Six Nations hereditary chief Allen MacNaughton said in an interview that the confederacy council, which is trying to negotiate an understanding with Ventures Homes Ltd., the company that owns Stirling South, was surprised by the protesters.

"The confederacy was not aware of the movement," Mr. MacNaughton said.

He said that the chiefs tried yesterday to talk the protesters into leaving the site, but "the people there are not listening to us at this time."

John Kragten, one of the partners in Venture Homes, said the company will spend the weekend trying to negotiate an agreement that would allow construction to resume on Monday.

The confederacy has adopted a policy of seeking development agreements with those building on the Haldimand Tract, a strip of land 9½ kilometres either side of the Grand River, and its lawyer Aaron Detlor has been in Caledonia negotiating with Mr. Kragten.

Haldimand Mayor Marie Traynor described the proposed development fee as "like the old-time Mafia, isn't it? That's what people have been telling me. That's how they see it, and I have to agree. If you give me some money, I'll leave you alone."