By Haldimand Press Staff
CALEDONIA—Over a dozen people assembled on McKenzie Road in Caledonia at Foxgate Development’s construction site on July 19, 2020. The demonstrators were still in place as of press time, having raised flags on the equipment, along with hanging or spray painting messages of “landback” across the site.
The Press approached those present at the site on July 20 for comments. A member of the group said a press release would be sent out sometime this week, but nothing had been received as of press time. A second member of the group told our reporter that they did not wish to be photographed and to return to the roadway to take photos.
The OPP are “aware and are monitoring the situation,” said Media Relations Officer Rod LeClair. He added, “Everything is peaceful at this time.”
LeClair continued, “Members from our Provincial Liaison Team are engaged at the scene to maintain dialogue with protesters at the site. Our primary objective will be to maintain the safety for everyone involved.”
Local Councillor Dan Lawrence wants the OPP to take action to end the protest immediately.
“I have not spoken to the illegal protestors nor will I,” said Lawrence. “The developer in the planning stages for the development consulted both the Elected Band Council and the Confederacy, reached an understanding, and received their approval to move forward on said land. At present, the developer is exploring an injunction to force the OPP to remove the protestors if necessary.”
“In my opinion this is ridiculous. An injunction should not be needed to remove illegal protestors who have damaged property and the developer’s equipment as well,” said Lawrence. “The law needs to be upheld and enforced, but unless the OPP hierarchy change their policies to allow the officers to do (their) sworn duty, it will not change, which is sad and unfortunate.”
Haldimand Council members have previously expressed frustrations with how the OPP handle protests, noting that the County has ultimately no control over the OPP as they are controlled at the provincial level, and that Indigenous affairs are handled federally.
MP Diane Finley provided the following statement to The Press when asked about the protest: “I have been in contact with Haldimand’s OPP detachment commander, Phil Carter, who has brought me up to speed on the current situation. He and his officers have my full support as they address these protests. I understand that talks to end the protests have been peaceful and I’m hopeful that they will continue in that manner. I have also been in direct contact with the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations, informing her of the protests and asking her to provide guidance on the federal government’s role in resolving this dispute.”
Foxgate Developments is a joint venture between Ballantry Homes and Losani Homes. The development in question is called McKenzie Meadows and is located on the west side of McKenzie Road south of Fuller Drive. The site is approximately 25 acres in size for Phase 1, which includes a mix of townhouses and single detached dwellings. Those who have already purchased a lot were required to provide a deposit in the tens of thousands of dollars, with the exact amount dependent on the cost of the future home.
Mark McSporran currently lives in Caledonia and is among those who have purchased a lot in Phase One. On Monday he drove by the site to take a look at his lot and found a tent had been erected on it.
“We were one of the first in line to purchase our home, which was supposed to be ready to move in before the end of the year. Even with construction delays due to COVID-19, things were relatively still on track, until today,” said McSporran, who is concerned how long this protest may last and the effect it would have on their move in date.
“To be clear, I am not passing judgement on whether the issues are real. There are many government officials and representatives of the protesters that are much closer and more knowledgeable to the situation than I am,” continued McSporran. “What I do know is how the people of Caledonia feel when this happens, and it isn’t a good feeling.”
Ultimately, McSporran feels that the federal and provincial governments, along with the OPP, have failed to resolve what has become an ongoing conflict: “I implore the provincial and federal governments to finally stand up and take action and I implore the protesters to change their tactics and seek out more peaceful ways to resolve their issues.”
Click here to see McSporran’s full response to the situation.
Further updates will be provided as available.