by Bill Jackson - The Regional
July 1, 2009
A new group of community "peacekeepers" will oppose criminal activity.
That was the message delivered last week by Doug Fleming who is orchestrating the group to deal with issues in Caledonia that aren't addressed by the OPP.
The group was initially referred to as a militia to get the attention of the media, but the group will not possess weapons, so it can't be referred to as a militia, Fleming added.
Approximately 30 people showed up at the Lions Hall in Cayuga last week to hear Fleming speak about the formation of the new group that was announced following the establishment of a native smoke shack on private property. Fleming was joined by well-known activist Gary McHale.
Across the street there were more than 125 protesters from across Ontario who opposed the idea.
Representatives on behalf of the Canadian Union of Public Employees led by Tom Keefer made their way to the village to support the people of Six Nations.
some protesters held signs that said "Klan meeting in progress," however none of those opposing Fleming chose to hear him speak.
"I've been following this issue for the past three years," said Niki Thorne, a member of the CUPE 3903 First Nations Solidarity Working Group.
"We're opposed to the escalation. It's not good for either community, Six Nations or Caledonia. Vigilante justice isn't going to solve anything. It's not going to uphold the rule of law."
Thorne said she was also there to reveal links to neo-Nazi organizations and white supremacist groups who have expressed support for the militia and McHale, an organizer of many local rallies who has attempted to highlight two-tier justice in Haldimand.
Keefer said that even though Gary McHale does not identify himself as a white supremacist and doesn't say racist things, white supremacists have a connection him "because of the space that he opens."
"If we are alerted to criminal activity it won't make a difference what the makeup of the person is," Fleming said.
The peacekeeping group won't act on private property unless it is asked to do so by the property owner. The primary target is not necessarily smoke shacks which Fleming said are just one of many problems.
'I think if you look at most people from Six Nations, the consensus position is that they don't want to displace anybody off of the land," Keefer said. "They want a political solution in a broader sense and they want the returning of land immediately that is theirs, that is vacant and not being built upon."
The Canadian union movement has developed into social unionism and has stances on a range of issues these days such as women's rights and many international issues, Keefer explained.
He believes that a political solution to land claims would help solve the smoke shack movement which not all people of Six Nations support.
Todd Easton was with a group of friends from Cayuga who were carrying a Canadian flag and he said that people demonstrating from out-of-town were just there to stir things up. He called them hypocrites.
On one hand demonstrators were accusing people of extreme racism. At the same time they were there in support of one race.
"Combating race-based policing is combating racism," Fleming argues.
According to McHale, citizens arrests are made quite frequently. Ultimately, that's what the peacekeepers would do if police choose not to uphold the law.