by Donna Duric and Lynda Powless / The Turtle Island News
CALEDONIA, ONT. – Roads have been blocked and tires set on fire, and some Six Nations Elected Council members are asking for an emergency meeting, after Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) arrests of Six Nations people protesting a housing development site sparked shutdowns of Argyle Street and Sixth Line just outside Caledonia and along the Highway 6 bypass.
Dozens of OPP officers moved in to remove about a dozen people from the McKenzie Meadows housing development site in south Caledonia Monday morning around 10 a.m. OPP cruisers lined Sixth Line and blocked the road running to the housing development.
In response, some Six Nations people shut down the Hwy. 6 bypass that encircles the town of Caledonia and police shut down a portion of Argyle Street in Caledonia between Sixth Line Road and Braemar Ave.
A number of Six Nations people set fire to a large tire at the base of the bridge, causing black smoke to billow across the sky which could be seen throughout Caledonia. More tires were lined up across Argyle Street near the Reclamation site and set on fire. OPP had closed the road at the Tim Hortons intersection heading into Caledonia.
Foxgate Developments, which plans to build 200 homes at the McKenzie Meadows site, had obtained an injunction to remove the protesters which was served last Friday.
The OPP said in a press release, “several demonstrators who failed to comply with the court injunction were subsequently arrested. Updates will be provided as more information becomes available.”
The enforcement of the injunction and subsequent tire fire contains echoes of the 2006 Caledonia land reclamation that saw thousands of Six Nations people descend on the Douglas Creek Estates housing development site on April 20, 2006 after the OPP moved in on the protesters there.
It’s not yet known how many people were arrested Wednesday morning or if they remain in custody. OPP said “fewer than 10” were arrested.
One woman who was at the development site during the arrests said OPP let her go. “I wasn’t arrested. I was told to leave the site. I think it was because I had a child with me,” she told Turtle Island News at the Sixth Line bridge Wednesday (August 8, 2020) afternoon. She said there weren’t many people at the development site when OPP began arrests.
The McKenzie Meadows development project in south Caledonia dates back to 2003 when development approvals were initially obtained for a 200-plus unit housing project on 107 acres of land.
The 200-unit project is the first phase of a total 1,000-unit project.
In 2015, Foxgate Developments Inc. purchased the lands and proceeded to re-initiate development plans on the farmland property on McKenzie Road, which included securing a new set of planning approvals for a redesigned residential project consisting of 218 units, including single detached homes and townhouses.
Beginning in May 2018, Foxgate held negotiations with Six Nations of the Grand River Elected Council.
Haldimand County said Six Nations and Foxgate Developments reached an agreement in May 2019 to move forward with the project.
The agreement gives Six Nations $352,000 and 42.3 acres of land across from Little Buffalo along Townline Road.
The 200-unit development is sold out with closing dates expected in the fall of 2020, according to Haldimand County.
Six Nations Elected Council is on a two week hiatus. Councillor Helen Miller told Turtle Island News she has asked councillors to hold an emergency meeting to discuss the protest and road blockages.
A couple who lives at a home on Sixth Line Road just a hundred meters down the road from the bridge were in the direct path of the black smoke billowing from the fire on the bypass.
“It went right over my house,” said Elizabeth Jardine, who has lived in the home for 11 years and wasn’t around for the 2006 Reclamation. “Not happy that it’s in my neighbourhood,” she told Turtle Island News as she and her husband watched the fire from their driveway. But, she said after being told by Turtle Island News what sparked the demonstration she said “Oh, okay now I understand.”
The OPP said it followed its court-endorsed Framework for Police Preparedness for Indigenous Critical Incidents throughout the two-week long protest.
“The OPP Provincial Liaison Team was engaged in significant collaborative and respectful dialogue aimed at bringing about a peaceful resolution, while ensuring everyone’s safety and preserving their respective rights guaranteed by Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The OPP appreciates everyone’s cooperation and patience during these occurrences.”