Developer cancels McKenzie Road subdivision in Caledonia due to ongoing land dispute

OPP closed off roads for several hours as a group of protesters lit tires on Highway 6 near Argyle Street in Caledonia, Ont on Aug. 5, 2020. Lisa Polewski / 900 CHML

The developer of the McKenzie Meadows subdivision in Caledonia, Ont., is citing an ongoing occupation “with no sign of it ending” as a primary reason for cancelling the project.

William Liske, vice-president and chief legal officer for Losani Homes – one of two partners that make up Foxgate developments – told Global News that notices were delivered to all home buyers earlier this week advising that for various reasons, the sale contracts have been frustrated.

“All deposits are being returned in full now,” Liske said in an e-mail.

Read more: Land defenders re-occupy Caledonia residential development, say ‘trust has been broken’ with OPP

The planned Phase 1 subdivision, called The McKenzie, which boasted a life “where small town charm and the Grand River meet,” ran into issues 11 months ago when a group from Six Nations dubbed ‘land defenders’ occupied the site and renamed it ‘1492 Land Back Lane,’ claiming it’s on unceded Haudenosaunee territory.

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The demonstrators claim the tract of land was “promised” to Six Nations in 1784 but “unlawfully” sold to a developer by the Canadian government in 1853.

Developer Foxgate planned to sell close to 200 homes on the stretch of land not far from the Six Nations of the Grand River reserve.

Click to play video: 'Protests heat up over Caledonia, Ont. land rights dispute' Protests heat up over Caledonia, Ont. land rights dispute
Protests heat up over Caledonia, Ont. land rights dispute – Oct 25, 2020

Despite several arrests tied to a pair of Superior Court injunctions granted to Foxgate in the summer of 2020, the demonstrators hunkered down, setting up blockades on Argyle Street South, McKenzie Road and the Highway 6 bypass.

The land defenders were seeking a dialogue with Carolyn Bennett, minister of Crown-Indigenous relations, as well as Marc Miller, minister of Indigenous Services, and Greg Rickford, Ontario’s minister of Indigenous affairs, to discuss land rights for Indigenous Peoples.

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The blockades at the three roadways were eventually cleared by demonstrators in February.

Developers, tied to Foxgate, acquired the 43-hectare parcel of land in 2003, submitting a subdivision plan for a mix of townhouses and detached homes the same year.

Read more: Spokesperson for Six Nations land defenders charged for violating injunction at Caledonia site

Just over 175 prospective purchasers paid deposits of $30,000 to $40,000 per agreement for expected home prices ranging from $300,000 to $600,000, according to a class-action lawsuit filed in November 2020.

In his note to Global News, Liske said little response from various levels of government and the OPP for an intervention was another reason for the cancellation.

OPP stated in a May 25 letter to the county that they were not in a position to resolve the dispute, just keep the peace.

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