Settlement reached in Brown, Chatwell claim

by Bill Jackson - The Regional

January 6, 2010

For the first time in a long time, Dana Chatwell purchased some home and garden magazines.

"I'm just excited to get back into landscaping, gardening and decorating," she said Monday, while cleaning and packing up boxes of belongings.

Chatwell, 46, and her partner Dave Brown, 42, reached a settlement with the provincial government last week, allowing them to move out of their house on Argyle Street South and putting an end to their multi-million dollar lawsuit against Ontario's government and police force.

The couple claimed that both the police and government failed to provide adequate protection throughout the Douglas Creek Estates land occupation which continues to this day.

The trial that began last November garnered national attention and highlighted hard hitting testimony provided by Brown and Chatwell, as well as OPP officers and former Detachment Commander, Brian Haggith.

But the struggle was far from over, Chatwell explained.

It still would have taken months for a decision to  be rendered and if the judge found in her family's favour, the province likely would have appealed it.

"We were told it probably would end up in the Supreme Court and that it could take up to another two years just to get a date set," she said.

"Our health was really more important."

To the dismay of some people who were following the trial, the settlement was reached without any admission of liability. Financial details are being kept confidential.

"We can't say what the settlement was and we're not allowed to bash the government," Chatwell said.

The couple's lawyer, Michael Bordin, said that he's please with the outcome which is best for his clients.

"Really what's in their best interest is that they want to put this behind them and move on and have an opportunity to move forward and rebuild their lives," he said.

"Any settlement is a weighing and balancing of interests and risks... This was the right thing for them."

Brown and Chatwell are moving to another home located in Caledonia, along with their 18-year-old son Dax who will complete grade 12 a McKinnon Park Secondary School this January.

The family has lived in fear of violent protests and threats since 2006.

"I'd never known fear and stress like I do now," said Brown, who recalled barricades on Argyle Street and needing a passport to get back home.

"This is not a home anymore," he said.

The million dollar question for the community is: What will happen to the couple's old house on Argyle Street South that abuts the DCE occupation?

Native protesters have argued that the house falls within the Plank Road Claim, on land that belongs to Six Nations. The province has continued to allow protesters to stay in a home on DCE which was built prior to the occupation in 2006.

According to a statement issued by the Ministry of the Attorney General, "The province is taking steps to transfer the land to the Crown as part of the settlement. Questions about the land should be directed to the Ministry of Energy and Infrastructure."

A spokesperson from that ministry told The Regional News that next steps beyond the land transfer are under review. More details regarding plans for the property will be available in the next couple of months.

Brown and Chatwell should have the keys to their new home later this week and believe they could move into their new abode as early as this Sunday. For insurance purposes they've been advised not to leave their old house unoccupied until the land is officially transferred.

Brown said he wants to start working again after losing his job due to the ongoing Caledonia land dispute.

"I'm just tired of being on the center stage here," he said. "I'm relieved. I'm happy as hell to be out of here."

Mayor Marie Trainer also said that she's happy for Brown and Chatwell and hopes that something can be done for other residents in town who have coped with similar issues the past four years, including those living on the Sixth Line who are still without provincial policing.

"They have been to hell and back several times," she said. "I would hope that there will be maybe something forthcoming."