Editor’s Note: On Wednesday, August 5, 2020 after press time “several demonstrators” were arrested by the OPP. Full update below story.
By Haldimand Press Staff
CALEDONIA—As the protest at the McKenzie Meadows housing development site heads towards its third week, Haldimand County released a statement in support of the developer and requesting the OPP put an end to the protest.
Meanwhile, demonstrators, self-titled “Land Defenders”, show no intent of leaving the site and have announced that they are beginning construction of their own structures on the site.
The developer’s work on the site has been halted since demonstrators arrived on July 19, 2020. Messages of “Landback” were hung and spray painted on construction equipment and storage containers, and demonstrators began referring to the property as “1492 Landback Lane”. The heavy machinery has since been removed by the developer.
Haldimand released the following statement: “Haldimand County Council stands with the developer, Foxgate Developments Inc., and Six Nations of the Grand River, who have a pre-established agreement regarding the development lands. Given that all proper approval processes have been followed and the rule of law has been disrupted by illegal activity, Council urges the Ontario Provincial Police – Haldimand County Detachment to enforce the law and take all necessary actions to end the occupation…. Protestors on site are not supported by Six Nations of the Grand River governing bodies.”
Six Nations Elected Council received 42.3 acres of land and $352,000 in cash in exchange for its support of the development.
Skyler Williams has been posting daily updates from the protest on his personal Facebook page. In his initial post, he claims that the site borders the “reserve on unceded Six Nations territory.” He later went on to share a statement signed by Dakota Brant of Six Nations, which argued there is little support for the elected council among Six Nations residents, adding, “In 2006, our people said NO development. Not ‘a little’ development. Not ‘wait 10 years then ask band council’. NO development.”
OPP have made a few visits to the site, with the first significant visit on July 22. Williams said, “They came to read and deliver a message that if we do not stop protecting our territory that we will be charged with mischief. We are taking this as a direct threat towards our people here.” Police returned the following day and delivered a written copy of the message they had recited and later returned with a copy of the agreement made between the elected council and Foxgate.
Police returned again on July 31 to read out the injunction granted to Foxgate, which said the protesters were trespassing. In its motion to the court, Foxgate said it has obtained all necessary approvals and spent “significant monies and efforts” already, and that the protest is causing issues for homebuyers who have already provided down payments. The injunction orders protesters to take down any structures, flags, and banners, vacate the site, and not disrupt any future work. The next court date is set for August 7.
Williams said they remained “undeterred” and will continue to “make a stand for our lands for the future generations”. He added, “We will stand our ground peacefully. We will build and plant and grow here as a community for years to come.”
On August 4 Williams added, “The cops called and said that we need to remove all the women and children. The injunction has been served. Arrests are coming. Then 15 minutes later they called back to say nevermind, that it was a miscommunication. We aren’t going anywhere.”
When asked about the current situation, Media Relations Officer Rod LeClair stated, “Members of the OPP Provincial Liaison Team continue dialogue with the demonstrators in an effort towards a peaceful resolution.
Updates will be provided.”
Williams’ posts have included points on how the weather has affected the camp, and a building fund was created to make simple structures for the protestors’ use. By August 3 an outhouse had been erected, and Williams expected “a kitchen structure” would be next: “Our building fund drive is growing…. We should have the beginnings of a structure in the next couple days. Some of our amazing women are organizing an online fundraising auction. Details will follow in the next few days. For folks that would like to contribute to the building and camp fund you can send e-transfers to firstname.lastname@example.org.”
Williams thanked those who had joined them on site, those who had donated money, firewood, or food, and those who had provided messages of support.
The McKenzie Meadows development dates back to 2003 when development approvals were initially obtained for a 200-plus unit residential project. In 2015, Foxgate Developments Inc. (a partnership between Ballantry Homes and Losani Homes) purchased the lands and proceeded to re-initiate the development plans, which included securing a new set of planning approvals for a redesigned residential project consisting of 218 units with a mix of detached homes and townhouses.
In May 2018, representatives of Foxgate commenced its’ consultation, discussion, and negotiation with Six Nations of the Grand River Elected Council. In October 2018, a term sheet was prepared and presented to Six Nations Elected Council. In November 2018, Six Nations Elected Council considered the term sheet and authorized it for signature. In May 2019 a written agreement was reached between Foxgate and Six Nations Elected Council.
In late 2019 and early 2020 Foxgate obtained all of its approvals for servicing installation and beginning construction from Haldimand County. Foxgate then proceeded to pre-grade and construct primary services on the land in support of the delivery of new homes to the families who were expecting closing dates later this year.
William Liske, Vice-President and Chief Legal Officer of Losani Homes, has stated that the protest “came as a complete surprise” and said the project had the “full support” of the elected council: “The project has proceeded for several years through a lengthy and exhaustive public process at the municipal level without complaint or objection and, accordingly, has received all requisite approvals to proceed.”
As of press time, the demonstrators remained on site and no arrests had been made.
COURT INJUNCTION SERVED TO DEMONSTRATORS IN CALEDONIA
CALEDONIA—Haldimand OPP were requested to assist with enforcing a court injunction that was granted with respect to demonstrators who were occupying the Mckenzie Meadows residential development site in Caledonia.
On Friday, July 31, 2020, the OPP assisted the Court Sheriff while the court issued injunction was read and delivered to the demonstrators.
On Wednesday, August 5, 2020, OPP members attended the demonstration site and assisted with enforcement of the court injunction.
As a result, several demonstrators who failed to comply with the court injunction were subsequently arrested.
Updates will be provided as more information becomes available.
Following its court-endorsed Framework for Police Preparedness for Indigenous Critical Incidents, throughout the incident, 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.