Tensions flared and no apology was received from non-native and native supporters during a “Truth and Reconciliation” rally held on February 27 at 1 p.m. by Gary McHale, founder of the Canadian Advocates for Charter Equality (CANACE), and Mark Vandermaas, founder of the Caledonia Victims Project.
The rally that was to be held outside of the Lion’s Hall in Caledonia was moved to Chris Syrie's property beside Gord’s Garage and Towing on Argyle Street South.
“The location was changed due to the fact that the OPP (Ontario Provincial Police), has refused to agree to keep the two groups separated if we meet at the Caledonia Lion's Hall,” said McHale.
Vandermaas and his supporters marched down Argyle Street South that was blocked off by the OPP for approximately three hours as they tried to place a temporary ‘apology’ monument on the road allowance at the entrance to the DCE (Douglas Creek Estates) occupation site.
During the march approximately 200 non-native and native supporters confronted Vandermaas and his supporters with face-to-face verbal exchanges and lined up in front of the entrance to DCE to prevent Vandermaas and his supporters from placing the monument on the road allowance at the entrance.
“Caledonia has the right to an apology,” said Vandermaas during a confrontation with a native supporter.
Vandermaas said the OPP had assured CANACE members the monument could be placed where they wanted.
“We never said we were going to place the monument on DCE, but on the road allowance in front of DCE,” said McHale.
Eventually, Vandermaas and his supporters were unsuccessful placing the monument on the road allowance and left walking back with the monument to Chris Syrie's old property beside Gords Garage on Argyle Street South.
“I've told the OPP that we will be back every month until this monument goes where we want it to go,” said Vandermaas.
“Since the OPP refused to maintain peace on February 27 we are compelled to return on March 27 in order to continue to move forward and place the monument near DCE. We were never under any belief that one attempt at truth and reconciliation would end up solving all the issues but it was a start,” said McHale.
He added, “We cannot allow the OPP or the radicals to hinder what otherwise was a good first step.”
Vandermaas and McHale believe erecting a monument on Douglas Creek Estates will affirm for Ontarians that race-based policing and violence against innocent people are not legitimate tools in a free and democratic society.
“While radicals were bussed in from Guelph and Toronto in an attempt to confront residents and create violence, the residents were very restrained and remained coolheaded,” said McHale.
“There were some who came out from Six Nations that wanted the healing to begin, like Jan Longboat, a 74-year-old elder, who spoke with me about knowledge being the true wealth that people need to seek and she called for an end to fighting over land. I shook her hand and we agreed to respect each other's rights and try to get our own communities to move forward,” he said.
“This was a great sign of hope that there are many on Six Nations who have had enough of the violence. People need to have courage to move forward and we believe it is time that all sides admit the truth in order that reconciliation can take place,” noted McHale.
“We need to focus on positive change,” said Amai Kuda from the seven directions group in Toronto.