Premier shares blame, beaten man's kin says

First Nation protesters who knocked builder unconscious `weren't youths,' says angry brother

Sep 15, 2007 04:30 AM

Peter Edwards
Toronto Star

CALEDONIA–A building contractor is undergoing tests in hospital to look for brain damage after he was clubbed on the head by a First Nations protester, the man's brother said.

"I believe that my brother was one strike away from being killed," an emotional Joe Gualtieri said yesterday near the building site where Sam Gualtieri was beaten unconscious Thursday.

He wants Premier Dalton McGuinty to shoulder some of the responsibility for a simmering native protest that has hobbled construction in this new community outside Hamilton.

Joe Gualtieri held up photos of his brother's bloodied face and said, "I would like the premier to look at these pictures and tell me that he's protecting my family."

A meeting was planned last night at Six Nations to discuss the incident while local residents said they plan to renew protests over native occupation of housing sites.

He said his brother found a First Nations flag attached to the roof of a home being built for his daughter. Later in the day, he returned to the site and clashed with First Nations protesters he found inside.

First Nations spokespeople said yesterday they believe the protesters were defending themselves. The OPP is investigating.

The occupation was set to end peacefully Thursday when the altercation with Sam Gualtieri began. The builder's crew said he was attacked as he ordered the Indian youths to leave the partly built home.

Aboriginals said they occupied the southern Ontario site because developers had broken a promise to learn more about their new development protocols.

The site is just kilometres away from a housing development targeted by a contentious Six Nations occupation for more than a year and a half.

OPP Const. Paul Wright said Gualtieri remained in serious condition in hospital yesterday. His brother said he had a broken nose and bruised skull.

Wright said no arrests had been made but police were "working around the clock" on the case.

Joe Gualtieri said his brother was attacked by adults. "They were not youths," he said. "There were more than three involved and they repeatedly hit him – even when he was unconscious."

He said he expects his brother will be able to identify the attackers in photographs once he regains full consciousness.

During a bedside visit, he said his brother "nodded when I said, `Can you identify if we show pictures?'"

The natives were maintaining their protest yesterday at the housing site, watched by police.