By Mike Renzella
The Haldimand Press
CALEDONIA—Recently, a number of those charged last year for their involvement at the now-cancelled McKenzie Meadows development have had all charges dropped. Rob Lamothe of Dunnville is one such example.
Lamothe moved to Dunnville with his family in 2005 and soon after met Suzie Miller, a teacher on Six Nations. The family began volunteering for an annual Pen Pal event aimed at connecting children from Six Nations and Caledonia to ease tensions created during the Douglas Creek Estates protests. In 2011, he took a job at Jukasa Media Group and helped start a School of Recording Arts; he now produces albums, including for Six Nations’ Logan Staats.
“Over the past 10 years, I’ve learned some basic history of the land along the Grand River and of the people who were here for thousands of years before there was a ‘Canada’,” said Lamothe of these interactions. “I learned more than enough to be absolutely stunned when Haldimand County signed off on the development at Land Back Lane.”
Lamothe was invited to perform at a concert on the site following a court order for people to vacate the lands last year. He was charged with Mischief and Disobeying an Order of the Court and turned himself in, which started seven months of virtual court appearances: “The charges against me were backed up by 231 pages of ‘evidence’, essentially four or five grainy photos of me playing music at the first Unity Jam at Land Back Lane, a few screenshots of Facebook comments about my singing voice … and a couple hundred pages of information that had nothing to do with me.”
Lamothe, who turns 63 next month, handled the charges well: “I’m a straight, white, middle class male. That level of privilege means the charges have minimal effect on me. When OPP arrests an Indigenous woman in front of her children, though? That is part of a continuum. That is 500 years of ongoing colonization that continues to this day.”
He added that he always expected the charges to be dropped: “Why? Because, unlike the unimaginative men who sit at decision-making tables in Haldimand County, I don’t cling to the belief that there is ‘one rule of Canadian law’. The Crown’s decision … that it was ‘not in the public’s interest to proceed’, speaks volumes.”
Land Back spokesperson Skyler Williams, whose numerous charges have not been dropped, became the focus of a conversation held at a Police Services Board (PSB) meeting on June 23, during which members of the board asked why he had not been arrested again after allegedly returning to the site, which would be a breach of his terms of release after turning himself in.
Board Chair Brian Haggith called Williams’ actions “an insult to the community; it’s an insult to the court system,” and the board collectively wrote a letter to the Attorney General and Solicitor General’s offices to voice this concern.
“We are aware of a comment made at a recent Police Services Board meeting and can advise that the incident in question is under investigation,” said Haldimand OPP Provincial Constable and Media Relations Officer Rod LeClair.
Williams, in a video posted to his Facebook page, responded to the call for his arrest: “Am I thumbing my nose at that system? Absolutely I am. Do I have respect for that? Not a chance, because this is a system that continues to oppress our people. We go from residential schools … to taking our men and women away to put them in these jails.”
Lamothe called for members of the PSB to resign, and additionally called for the replacement of the current Haldimand Council with “a more diverse Council” following “the ridiculous statements from the Mayor and Council in regard to land defenders.” He added, “There are people working in County administration who care deeply about the citizens of Haldimand. They understand community-building. Working with them will always be a pleasure.”
The Haldimand Press reached out to members of the PSB for comment but did not receive a response prior to publication.