By Mike Renzella
The Haldimand Press
CAYUGA—Foxgate Developments, the proponent behind the cancelled McKenzie Meadows development in Caledonia, appeared in court again last week attempting to have a permanent injunction placed on the grounds to bar demonstrators who have remained at the site since first blocking its development in 2020.
One major difference between this hearing and the previous one in October 2020 is that self-described land defender and Land Back Lane spokesperson Skyler Williams was allowed to participate. His inclusion comes after a decision at the Ontario Court of Appeals last December, when the judges set aside the previous permanent injunction asserting it was unfair Williams was not allowed to participate previously.
Williams shared his thoughts on returning to court this week, stating, “It was a lot different from the last time. There’s a huge difference when both sides are heard.”
While Williams took part in the hearing, one notable party did not – the provincial government. Instead, lawyers representing the Attorney General claimed there was no need for them to participate on the grounds that Foxgate could “present sufficient evidence” on the matter.
Williams sees the dismissal as just another example of the government avoiding the issue, saying, “The province and the federal government are the folks that should be shouldering this burden. Not me or Six Nations people.”
Foxgate was represented at the hearing by Paul DeMelo, who argued that it is not the company’s responsibility to find a solution to the age-old issue of land rights.
“My clients are simply being held hostage in the dispute between the Crown and Indigenous communities,” said DeMelo during the hearing. He listed several reasons why a new permanent injunction should be granted, including that no legal challenge has been made against the title of the lands and that no Indigenous group has come forward to exercise treaty rights, as the law requires the concern be issued by Six Nations Band Council to be officially recognized by the Court.
Williams commented on the lack of recognition paid to a construction moratorium placed on lands within the Haldimand Tract by the Haudenosaunee Confederacy Chief’s Council (HCCC), a traditional governing body: “The federal government has and does recognize the chiefs. It’s just like pulling teeth to get them to have real conversations regarding land. So, these types of situations are going to keep coming up again and again.”
Lawyers for Williams argued that the actions of Williams and other self-described land defenders reflected Haudenosaunee values. Aliah El-houni from The Community Justice Collective was one such representative, and said that placing an injunction on the land at this time could force participants to either face charges or walk away from beliefs considered “sacred to their way of life,” adding that it would be a “de facto judgment” on the land claim issue at the heart of the dispute.
While no decision had been made prior to publication, Williams is not entirely hopeful of an outcome in his favour: “Our people do not put a lot of faith in the courts. They have not historically been fair or just, by their own admission, when it comes to Indigenous issues.”
The last time the Cayuga courthouse issued a permanent injunction on the site, it resulted in a skirmish between demonstrators and the police and led to an excavator being used to tear up sections of Argyle Street South and vehicles, including an overturned bus, being used in blockades.
Asked if he is worried about a similar outcome should the permanent injunction be granted, Williams replied, “I really hope not.”
The issue of Land Back Lane has remained divisive in the community, with some online calling for the occupants of Land Back Lane to be removed by OPP. Mayor Ken Hewitt has previously called for Williams and other participants to serve jail time for their actions.
On the other side, a dedicated following continues to support Williams and the Land Back community as they continue to assert that they are protecting the land they occupy.