Caledonia couple sue province, OPP

Pair say they have faced threats, trespassing and barricades around their home

UNNATI GANDHI

September 22, 2007
Globe & Mail

A couple suing the provincial government and the OPP say they feel abandoned by the country's political leaders after 18 months of depredations living in the heart of the disputed lands in Caledonia.

"Stephen Harper and Dalton McGuinty, two of the most powerful men in this country as far as I'm concerned - one of them, be a man, be a leader and come down here. Nobody cares about whose fault this is ... we're past that," Caledonia resident David Brown said. "We just want our life back."

Mr. Brown, 40, and his wife, Dana Chatwell, 44, allege that native protesters have trespassed on their property, threatened them, put up barricades around their home and repeatedly demanded passports and an adherence to a nightly "curfew" for them to be let back into their house.

As a result, they say, Mr. Brown suffered mental distress and was let go from his job as a forklift operator. Ms. Chatwell, who ran a professional hair salon in her basement, lost her business because clients couldn't make it past the barricades.

Their teenage son, Dax, has been forced to live at a friend's home because he couldn't concentrate in school. They say they are "borderline bankrupt."

Mr. Brown and Ms. Chatwell's public plea comes a little more than a week after a 52-year-old contractor was found beaten unconscious in a house he was building for his daughter and her fiancé after a confrontation with young protesters near the Stirling South development.

The couple announced at a press conference in Hamilton yesterday that they are suing the province of Ontario, the Ontario Provincial Police, two OPP commissioners and one inspector because the government and the force failed to protect them and enforce the law.

OPP Inspector Dave Ross said the force is aware of the lawsuit, but could not comment further. A spokesman for Mr. McGuinty said the Premier does not comment on ongoing legal proceedings.

Mohawk Chief Allen MacNaughton could not be reached yesterday.

Mr. Brown and Ms. Chatwell's home at 445 Argyle St. in Caledonia is directly adjacent to the Douglas Creek Estates, where native protesters have demonstrated since February, 2006.

Ken Hewitt, a spokesman for the Caledonia Citizens' Alliance, said the location of the couple's house alone increases the merits of their grievances.

Their back deck is just metres from the boundary of the occupied land.

"The protest site is still pretty barren. You have different native flags up and houses that are half built and half torn down. People on the other side of the river wouldn't have that in their backyards," he said.

"I hope this situation gets the people of the province to see that there's a lot more than health care and religious-based schools as election issues. I mean, there's a huge election issue happening right here," Mr. Hewitt said.

Speaking a day after contractor Sam Gualtieri was taken to hospital, Mr. McGuinty blamed Ottawa for the protracted conflict, arguing that the only resolution was 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.

But Progressive Conservative Leader John Tory and NDP Leader Howard Hampton say Mr. McGuinty is failing to show leadership in the standoff.