Letter - Subtext of a land settlement

The Regional

January 13, 2010

Reading about the out of court settlement obtained between the province, the O.P.P. and the Caledonia couple who have been living alongside the forefront of the native occupation of a former building site in Caledonia, which will be ongoing for four years as of this February 28th, I am certain that I was not the only one, either here in Caledonia or watching events from elsewhere, who read of its contents with anything other than mixed emotions.

I was pleased that Dave Brown and Dana Chatwell had finally received some compensation for the four years that they have had to endure the threats and intimation of not only native occupiers but a police force which, far from making any attempt to guarantee their personal safety, instead, according to testimony, branded the family themselves as the antagonists in several actions in which they became involved with while defending what they saw as their legal property and civil rights; attempting to safeguard their home and family in the overt absence of any police willingness to do so. The police view even evolved to the point that when the family's home was ransacked and vandalized in their absence theĀ  O.P.P. preferred to believe that it was probably self inflicted and proceeded to secretly install surveillance equipment in the family's kitchen in their attempts to prove it.

Much less welcome was that almost everything else that this settlement appears to entail leaves not only articles, much more far reaching than this one isolated case, still unsettled or even properly addressed while forever silencing two voices which should rightly be able to be hears on any related matters in what most people still might consider a free and representative society. The very little that is allowed to be known about this agreement between two private citizens and the people's elected government is that there is a settlement to which the involved citizens' only permitted comment is that "We're supposed to say we're happy" according to Chatwell.

To this end as well, the government has seen fit to draw a line through the very centre of this family by demanding that not even their teenage son is to know the dollar value which could buy off an adjudicated justice in exchange for the removal from their shared lives, untold years of continued anxiety, torment and financial hardship; an effort in which they were well aware would have found their own government's bottomless public coffers used against them to fund appeal after draining, drawn out appeal... all the while obligating them to remain in their isolated and unsaleable home.

More disturbing though than any financial short-sell the couple may have been coerced into making is the gag order which this settlement has effectively placed upon both of them to speak "negatively" anymore about what they have experienced during the nightmarish times in their own home, while simultaneously absolving both the government and the O.P.P. of any accountability for how events were handled. If the plaintives' accusations had ever been proven in the courts the government is well aware that it would have set the groundwork for not just more lawsuits but also the vindication for all of those who had dared to challenge the actions of both institutions and had been, in turn, publicly pilloried for their claims'

The idea that our elected public servants, in concert with those who are obligated to enforce our laws and who are sworn to serve and protect us all, might be allowed to extort protection from the consequences of their own dereliction and negligence through offers of deliverance from a hell of their own creation is perhaps one of the most repugnant concepts that I can imagine for a free people to accept living under. That they can also permanently muzzle those who might speak against them and do so using the money of those whom they are threatening makes it only the more detestable.

The house in question is now to pass into the ownership of the provincial government. The family that for so long had considered it their own personal domain and had lived their lives believing themselves safe within it, will now take their negotiated payment for it from the government and, with the tethered compensation granted to them, seek somewhere else they consider safe and secure, even now, within the community that they have grown to know and trust. The home itself will, no doubt, sit empty for a time upon the edge of what has remained for these four years contested land. Yet given the established management of other provincial properties located within the town, I truly question if many will be surprised upon hearing of its unexpected demise one night amidst a fire of indeterminate but suspicious origins.

And the line in the sand will have been redrawn further back, once again.

Robert Sorrell, Caledonia