Ontario buys land at centre of Caledonia dispute

Breaking news from CTV:

Updated Fri. Jun. 16 2006 12:18 PM ET
CTV.ca News Staff

The Ontario government has made a deal to buy out the developer who owns the land currently occupied by Six Nations protesters in Caledonia, moving the two sides closer to a possible solution to the months-old standoff.

The development was announced today in an Ontario Superior Court hearing in Cayuga, Ont. by Dennis Brown, the lawyer representing the province.

“In his submission this morning, he announced Henco (Industries) the developer, and the province of Ontario have come to an agreement in principal for the purchase of the land,” CTV’s Denelle Balfour told CTV Newsnet.

“So the province is going to purchase Douglas Creek Estates, the contested area, and the development will come to a halt.”

Under the agreement the province will hold the property in trust, while discussions continue about the ownership of the property.

There is no word on how much the province has agreed to pay for the property.

By late morning about two dozen lawyers were hammering out the details of the agreement in the courthouse, while protesters continued to occupy the site, Balfour said.

“The development will come to a halt. The roadblocks are down, but the native protesters are still on the property and there was no information in court as to whether or not that occupation will end.”

After the announcement, Balfour spoke with one of a handful of natives who were in attendance at the hearing. There was no indication that protesters would be abandoning the occupation.

“They maintain, and still do, that this land is their land and should have never been sold in the first place,” Balfour said.

The key players in the simmering land dispute were back in court to explain why a judge’s ruling that ordered them off the land they have occupied since February was ignored.

The decision was issued in March by Ontario Superior Court Justice David Marshall.

So far, they’ve stayed put, and in recent weeks the standoff with police and local non-native Caledonia residents has become tense.

Earlier in June, Marshall ordered a hearing into why the court injunction hadn’t been followed, and heard suggestions about how to resolve the impasse.

He adjourned the hearing until Friday, so that he could get in touch with the federal Indian Affairs Minister and the attorney general of Canada.

Aboriginal representatives — who have continually maintained that they are subject only to their own laws — were notably absent from the proceedings.

Meanwhile, separate negotiations to end the dispute resumed on Thursday after being put on hold Monday by Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty.

He called off the talks after tempers boiled over following allegations that natives had attacked two camera operators and confiscated their tape.

Following that, an angry group of several hundred non-native Caledonians confronted the protesters, and riot police had to keep the two sides apart.

Those negotiations will continue Friday with a conference call between provincial and federal negotiators, and Six Nations representatives.

The protesters are trying to prevent construction of a housing development on land they claim as their own and have vowed to stay on the site until there is a resolution to the dispute.

Protesters argue that the site of the Douglas Creek Estates housing project was part of a large land grant in 1784, but the provincial and federal governments insist the land was surrendered in 1841 to help build a major highway.


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