Barricades removed on two Caledonia roads tied to land dispute

Supporters marching to police barricades on Oct. 25, 2020 chanting "land back", with Caledonia residents looking on. Gord Edick/Global News

A spokesperson for protesters involved in a land dispute in Caledonia says the group will remain on the property, even with the recent removal of three road blockades in Haldimand County on Tuesday.

Despite harsh weather, ‘land defenders’ — with the help of municipal work crews and the ministry of transportation — removed cars, cement blocks and even a school bus within’ a matter of hours from Argyle Street South and McKenzie Road.

Read more: Reopening of Highway 6 in Caledonia will take weeks, says OPP

“The weather this morning was quite vicious,” spokesperson Skylar Willaims told Global News. “I mean, ‘snowmageddon’ certainly made the roads through a little bit slower.”

Williams characterized the move as another goodwill gesture for the community burdened by the roadways closures on Oct. 22, as part of so-called safety measures in response to entanglements with Ontario Provincial Police.

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A spokesperson for Haldimand County says municipal work crews will likely take a couple days to assess damage to the two roads over the next couple of days.

“Once assessments are complete, repairs will commence as soon as possible — dependent on both the weather and availability of materials,” said corporate affairs supervisor Kyra Hayes said in an e-mail.

“We will have a more comprehensive update to provide once damage assessments are complete.”

The closures are connected to the occupation of the McKenzie Meadows housing development which has been renamed “1492 Land Back Lane” by a group that calls itself “land defenders.” The occupiers claim the project is on unceded territory that belongs to the Haudenosaunee.

Read more: Six Nations group on Caledonia development site to remove barricades on Highway 6

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In early August, Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) began arresting demonstrators on the site after a judge issued a pair of injunctions — one that prohibits people from trespassing on the construction site and another that prohibits blockades from being set up on roads in Haldimand County.

The land defenders are seeking a dialogue with the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations Carolyn Bennett, as well as Minister of Indigenous Services Marc Miller and Ontario Indigenous affairs MPP Greg Rickford.

The groups occupation of the development is now at 215 days as of Feb. 16 and Williams says there’s still “minimal” communication with the federal government over the issue.

“Ottawa appears to be a long way away,” Williams said.

“I mean, it’s taken them a little while to get here. So hopefully in the very near future, we will hear something back from them.”

Global News reached out to the office of the minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations who said in a recent statement they were “encouraged” by the news of the removal of the blockades at Highway 6, Argyle Street South and McKenzie Road.

The ministry said it is “working collaboratively to address Six Nations historical claims and land rights.”

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