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Haldimand police services board urges OPP to enforce injunction at Caledonia development

Haldimand's police services board says the OPP needs to revise its framework for responding to 'Indigenous critical incidents' amid the ongoing occupation of a Caledonia construction site. Lisa Polewski / Global News

Haldimand County’s police services board is calling on the OPP to step up its enforcement of a court injunction at a residential development site in Caledonia.

In a presentation at its Wednesday meeting, the board said the existing framework for responding to “Indigenous critical incidents” fails to address the “lawlessness” associated with the ongoing occupation at a Caledonia construction site by a group from Six Nations who say the residential development is part of unceded Haudenosaunee territory.

Vice-chair Brian Haggith says the citizens of Caledonia want police to be more proactive in their enforcement.

“Obviously the framework doesn’t work,” said Haggith. “They used it in 2006 in Caledonia — it never worked. There was lawlessness and incidents going on where infrastructure was being destroyed by the protesters, and this has occurred again in 2020.”

Read more: Another Indigenous journalist faces charges tied to injunction at Caledonia development

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He said the document that the OPP is using in these situations needs to be reviewed and revised.

“And there should be a component in there to deal with when a protest goes from being peaceful to being lawless. And when that happens, the OPP has to change tactics.”

In the presentation, the board cited blockades on two major roads in Caledonia that were set up by demonstrators in solidarity with nine people who were arrested during an OPP raid at the construction site at the beginning of August.

Those blockades were eventually dismantled, but the group of self-described ‘land defenders’ moved back onto the site shortly after the Aug. 5 arrests and have been there ever since.

Read more: Demonstrators removing road blockade on Highway 6 in Caledonia

The board had requested that Sylvia Jones, the minister of the solicitor general, and OPP Commissioner Thomas Carrique attend the Wednesday morning meeting for the presentation, but both denied the request — although OPP Chief Supt. John Cain attended the meeting on the commissioner’s behalf.

During Monday’s council meeting, Haldimand councillor Dan Lawrence expressed his disappointment that Jones and Carrique would not be on hand to listen to the board’s concerns.

“To me, that’s a total snub to this county,” said Lawrence.

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“It is extremely disappointing that they turned down our request — not invitation — to be here and share some accountability to why, again, this engulfs our community.”

Skyler Williams, who has spoken with media on behalf of the land defenders, did not respond to an interview request before publication time but told Global News in a previous interview that the group has remained peaceful during their occupation.

“The only bit of violence that has ever been brought here was brought here by the OPP,” said Williams. “The further escalation of things by the OPP by arresting folks that are simply bringing food and water. This is what people are being arrested for — for bringing food and water to people who are defending their land rights.”

Ever since Foxgate Developments was granted a court injunction in July, OPP have arrested and charged 23 people, who have all been released and instructed to appear in court at a later date.

The most recent arrest happened this past Monday, when a 54-year-old from Six Nations was charged with arson, two counts of mischief, failing to comply with an undertaking and disobeying a court order.

The Ministry of the Solicitor General and OPP did not reply to Global News’ request for comment by publishing time.

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