Flag raising march for everyone who's still being hurt

Regional News This Week
April 8, 2009
By Bill Jackson

A Canadian flag raising march planned for May 10th in Caledonia aims to unearth the roots of injustice that are still impacting Haldimand County and many places and people abroad.

On April 20, 2006, provincial police converged on the Douglas Creek Estates site in Caledonia to act on a court injunction against Six Nations protesters who managed to push them back using brute force. Many violent clashes between 'natives' and 'non-natives' ensued and Six Nations protesters still occupy the property know as DCE that was once slated for a residential subdivision and is now owned by Ontario.

The upcoming flag raising march organized by the Canadian Advocates for Charter Equality (CANACE) is the only way to illustrate the two-tier system of raced-based law enforcement that continues to impact everyone in Haldimand according to the group's leader, Gary McHale.

Politicians have done nothing to solve the situation, he argues.

"They're a bunch of talkers and meanwhile people are going bankrupt and getting hurt."

Local resident Bo Chausse says that although things have been relatively calm lately, there is still a huge, looming elephant in the field next to his home that can stop anyone at any given time.

Many of his neighbours say that the Ontario Provincial Police continue to employ two different sets of laws - one for natives and one for non-natives.

During the past three years native protesters have brought residential and commercial developments in Hagersville, Dunnville and Cayuga to a screeching halt despite the fact that developers hold legal title to the lands slated for buildings.

In communications with upper levels of government, Haldimand Mayor Marie Trainer and county council members have voiced their concern with the impact to the local economy following multi-million dollar building losses as a result of the Caledonia occupation.

Residents living close to the Douglas Creek Estates site still complain of sporadic disturbances that aren't dealt with in a lawful manner by the OPP.

"The message to the government and to the OPP is we will not submit to two-tier justice," said McHale. "It's not that the two-tier justice isn't affecting me today. it's that we're not submitting to it."

Politicians, McHale believes, would rather that people learned to live with current, underlying conditions.

Police have prevented residents from erecting Canadian flags near the DCE site in the past, something that McHale says has garnered widespread attention in the national media.

While politicians haven't been successful in attracting much outside attention to the problems here, little else garners more spotlight than someone being disallowed to hang a Canadian flag, he contends.

In a recent letter to OPP Commissioner Julian Fantino, McHale reiterated a Supreme Court ruling that allows citizens to hang and post objects on hydro poles and the fact that police have allowed native protesters to hang flags opposite to DCE.

"If the OPP plan once again to stop the People from exercising the Rights as ruled by the Supreme Court then I will seek a court injunction against the illegal actions of the OPP," McHale warned Fantino, adding that officers have a legal duty to uphold the Charter of Rights and the Criminal Code of Canada.

He contends that the courts are the only way to enforce the law and that another attempt to raise flags will help.

"It's not a one day event for us. Each one of these things has created a mountain of evidence."

McHale, a Binbrook resident, is currently not allowed in Caledonia due to a bail condition. He still faces a charge of mischief not committed in relation to a Dec. 1, 2007 smoke shack protest, but hopes to win a one-day exemption so he can come to town for the flag raising next month.

Caledonia Counc. Craig Grice sent out an email last week hoping that people will not be drawn into what could be equated to as "school yard bullying."

He said that quote and his comment which were quoted in last week's edition of The Regional News were taken out of context, however.

They "were actually made in relation to the weekend appearances of (native) flags that infuriated area residents and to chastise those responsible for these events," he stated.

"I received a number of calls and emails questioning the existing flags at illegal smoke shops and the emergence of new flags around Caledonia and Hagersville," he stated in an email. "In my opinion, these actions serve only to provoke or insult and I appealed to residents not to be drawn into what could be equated to as, 'school yard bullying.' As a resident and Councillor, it is indeed my hope that Caledonia not be subjected to more games of capture the flag or look where I can put mine. The opinions expressed (to) me (which I share), is that these antics only serve to frustrate residents and solve very little. At Council, I elaborated on these thoughts and brought forward the fact that businesses and residents want to enjoy their summer and not see Caledonia fall victim to the childish antics of a few."

Grice wonders if a flag raising will prove anything.

"What will Caledonia gain? Does one action create another? Who really wins and what agenda is satisfied? Given that tourist season is around the corner, what could Caledonia lose with another action?"

McHale said he would like Grice to come up with a season that is proper to stand up for the Charter of Rights.

He said that his flag raising has nothing to do with the recent actions of natives and their smoke shacks. In fact, his letter to Commissioner Fantino is dated March 19.

"As far as I know, they're responding to us," he said.

"So why are (police) stopping us? Why aren't they stopping the natives then?"

Chausse pointed out that politicians have done little to clean up the DCE site such as removing the barricades that remain in place off Kinross Street.

'So how can we expect anything significant to change?" he wonders.

McHale would like to know how political discussions with Six nations are paying the bills of developers and solving problems for taxpayers.

There is no construction on the old Northview school property in Hagersville that protesters stopped back in 2007, he pointed out. More recently another townhouse development on the east side of Main Street was halted by Six Nations protesters.

That a judge has barred native protesters from the development site will probably change very little, McHale opined.

"It would be far better for everyone if the OPP would start to see that all citizens in Canada are equal before the law and have equal benefit