Both communities held hostage

Letter - The Regional

September 9, 2009

This letter, among others, was presented by councillor Craig Grice to senior officials in the province last Wednesday.

My husband and I are in our mid sixties, retired. After our marriage in 1965 we remained in Caledonia, as did many family generations before us, to raise our children. What better place than this community that cared - small town Ontario.

While building our family life it was our pleasure and responsibility to give back to our community through various volunteer activities. My husband served on the Caledonia Volunteer Fire Department for over twenty-five years. My business partner and I initiated the Spring and Christmas Tours, bringing customers from afar to our area studios and specialty shops. We then became founding members of the still active Caledonia Tourism Committee.

I want to impress on you the pride that we as well as many others felt, as our town on the Grand River grew and prospered through hard work and dedication. It soon became a choice place for people to visit and to live. Businesses and developers were attracted to the Region, stimulating a healthy local economy. Life here was good.

Not now. Long gone. Over three years go Caledonia residents were taken hostage by a group of self-proclaimed Native Warriors protesting land claims. Somehow we were suddenly considered the enemy because we were of European descent and proud Canadians. This after years of peacefully living, working and playing together. We are not the enemy and should not be used as a battering ram to settle land claims. That is for the courts to decide. Neighbours should not treat each other this way.

Douglas Creek Estates was strategically chosen for occupation. Caledonia properties abut DCE on three sides with the fourth side to the west backing onto Six Nations Reserve. There is direct access from the Reserve on the Sixth Line, the southern border. The O.P.P. are not allowed to patrol or police the Caledonia families trapped on this road while DCE occupiers are free to come and go as they please. These unprotected residents fear for their safety daily but are unable to sell and relocate because their property is virtually worthless.

DCE is also accessed by an entrance off Argyle Street, the eastern border. Argyle Street is the only corridor through Caledonia as it connects the north end and south end of the town via the Argyle Street Bridge over the Grand River. Perfect for blockades, tire fires and escapes to DCE, a "Home Free Zone." Neither O.P.P. nor Six Nations police are allowed to enter this No Man's Land. Native lawbreakers still routinely threaten, harass and cause property damage on all three sides of DECE and then beat a hasty retreat to their safe spot, out of reach.

Several times we have personally witnessed laws being broken with O.P.P. officers, reluctantly I believe, choosing to not intervene in order to keep the peace and not offend the Natives. Many of those affected around the perimeter do not even bother to call 911 anymore. It is useless.

It does not seem to matter that we, the residents of the town, are also greatly offended. Race-based policing and inaction is practiced everyday to avoid reprisal. Douglas Creek Estates was purchased by the Ontario government (that's us folks) three years ago. It should be cleared immediately with law and order restored there and on the Sixth Line. Those forgotten people should not be left in limbo, fending for themselves. It is disgusting and unconscionable.

Because of the lack of enforcement and back-down attitude, the O.P.P. and government officials have become a laughing stock to the brazen Native radicals. They are now building illegal smoke shacks on residents' private property including an Ontario Hydro right of way. They dare authorities to intervene while they sell from their illegal structures, accessed by their illegal driveways and illegally advertise tobacco on their illegal signs on a major highway. Who in Canada, other than an aboriginal, would ever get away with this? Contempt for the law grown by the day.

Meanwhile, our residents are sitting ducks. Those elected and hired to serve and protect us are playing politics, bouncing responsibility from one to another. Our respect is gone, our trust is gone, our hope is fast fading.

We are a town divided. Some believe that if we play nice the terrorism will stop; if it does not affect them personally they can dismiss those who do suffer daily. Others feel the need to push back, be heard and demand justice. Families of mixed blood are forever broken. Businesses have been forced into bankruptcy long before the global recession. Some people are leaving their hometown, unable or unwilling to cope with the anger, stress and frustration. Others wish they could go but cannot afford to leave the DCE fringe properties. Residents have been beaten, one almost to death. Public property is defaced and vandalized. Businesses and developers avoid Haldimand, fearing expensive work stoppages by Native protestors. A Hagersville developer is suffering this fate, at this moment, for a second time. The local economy is grinding to a halt.

I fear that our children for generations to come, Native and Non-Native, will have a warped and cynical view of their neighbours. When this is all over we will have to co-exist. All this because of a gang of bullies who control illegal activities, without consequence, on and off the Reserve. Good law-abiding citizens on both sides live in fear while waiting for someone to stop those who believe they are above the law. Society depends on one law for all.

I believe that our elected Municipal government struggles with its very limited ability to solve the problem every day. They live here, they see the damage, they hurt with us, they understand.

For those who do not live here it must seem that we surely exaggerate, that this cannot happen in Canada to innocent everyday citizens. I have Barely scratched the surface of events in the last long three years but please believe that we are in deep trouble as Caledonians, as Ontarians, as Canadians.

It is like living a movie scene from Dodge City in the Old West, waiting for Wyatt Earp to clean up the mess. But we are not seeing any heroes. We did not cause this, we do not deserve this. We have been abandoned by our province and by our country.

Those who do protest the lack of leadership and accountability, or dare to actually prove it in court, are portrayed as racists and labeled troublemakers and  rednecks to stifle their voices. We must not question O.P.P. Commissioner Fantino's decisions nor offend Natives. Meanwhile those in authority wring their hands, pass the buck and play for time, not wanting to make an unpopular decision in the eyes of an uninformed public.

I do commend our new interim O.P.P. Detachment Commander Inspector John  Periversoff for aiding the Provincial Ministry of Revenue officials by confiscating contraband cigarettes recently. It is a welcome step in the right direction. Maybe it will help to educate those customers who have convinced themselves that buying illegal smokes on Argyle and #6 Highway is a victimless crime. In reality they are aiding and abetting by supporting the shacks. They then go to their safe homes and leave residents and O.P.P. to solve the problem. Totally thoughtless and inconsiderate - for shame.

Signs similar to those posted with speeding fines should be erected now, alerting prospective customers to fines for possession of contraband cigarettes and then the law enforced. Shut off the tap.

Please talk to us, hear us, help us. All we want is one law for all, the end of race-based justice. Too many lives are being destroyed, too much money is being wasted, too much tension is building. Is that too much to ask?

Gayle Hagan