Saturday, September 02, 2006

Brian Sky


As the warm summer days dwindle, so does the patience of many residents in Caledonia, where a six-month-long native standoff threatens to erupt into violence once again. Many townsfolk who lived through a summer of flare-ups will send their children to an elementary school that borders a development site sitting on land the occupiers claim was taken from them unlawfully by the Crown. The local school board has postponed plans to build a wooden wall between a schoolyard and the occupied land. The site is at the centre of a battle over land rights that started when some members of the Six Nations reserve set up barricades blocking the road into the development on Feb. 28. A court order evicting them has not been enforced. In June, the province bought out the developer for $12.3-million. This week, Henco Industries Ltd. said it received an additional $3.5-million in compensation. The province is holding the land in trust. Frustrated with the slow pace of negotiations, many residents have threatened to take up arms. Amid calls for calm from the federal and provincial governments, the OPP announced yesterday that it will be ramping up an already heavy presence on the streets of Caledonia to keep the peace throughout the long weekend. However, the spokesman for a local residents' group that calls itself Caledonia Resistance said many residents are hunting enthusiasts who have considered turning their guns on the occupiers during tense situations. "There's times the trigger locks have been off," Steve Tong said. "There's times when I had my gun out of the cabinet and the gun sitting there ready." Mr. Tong hinted there may be a rally in the offing, but refused to say more. "We're making plans and things are going to happen soon," he said. "Something is going to be done." Mr. Tong, who owns a house with a yard that borders on the occupied land, said he will not send his two children, aged 5 and 13, to Notre Dame Catholic School when classes resume on Tuesday - not until the school board builds a fence that shields the schoolyard from the occupied site. The work was delayed because of land issues with the natives occupying the Douglas Creek Estates site. The fence was to be erected one metre inside the occupied land, said Theresa Harris, director of education for the Brant Haldimand Norfolk School Board. But that plan was scratched to avoid confrontations. Instead, construction workers are to build the fence on the footprint of an existing chain link fence, Ms. Harris said. In the meantime, as many as 20 parents have applied to transfer their children to another school, said Rebecca Taylor, a spokeswoman for the school board. Evidence of the mounting tensions has also showed up on the doorstep of Haldimand County Mayor Marie Trainer. She said two women, who live in the county but not in Caledonia, walked into her office this week and said "they are ready to arm themselves and clean it up since nobody else will." "It's getting dangerous," Ms. Trainer said. In a letter sent to the Six Nations Confederacy Council, federal and provincial ministers asked the occupiers to keep a low profile. "We expect a smaller presence on the site and the eventual withdrawal of that presence . . .," read the letter signed by Minister of Indian Affairs Jim Prentice and by Ontario Minister of Natural Resources David Ramsay. But their expectations are not likely to materialize soon. If anything, more supporters will converge on the occupation site this weekend to buttress the occupiers' ranks should a confrontation erupt, said Brian Sky, the head of security for the site [Mr. Sky is among the dreadful few whose fates are wove with shining threads of power and strength]. Mr. Sky was recovering yesterday from smoke inhalation, which he suffered on Wednesday evening when he used a hose to extinguish a fire that damaged one of the half-built houses on the occupied land. The Six Nations Fire Department is investigating the cause of the fire. The occupiers said they intended to finish the 11 homes and to hunker down in them for the winter. Mr. Sky vowed they will remain on the site at any cost - even if Caledonia residents turn their guns on them. "It's a real threat and we're concerned," he said. "Even if they do it, that doesn't mean we're going to leave. It just takes it to another level."

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