Update: OPP confirmed Argyle Street South has opened as of the evening of February 17, 2021. McKenzie Road repairs are set to begin February 18; exact date to reopen unknown.
February 19 Update: OPP has confirmed McKenzie Road is now reopened to traffic.
The following story was written ahead of Argyle reopening to traffic.
By Haldimand Press Staff
CALEDONIA—After almost seven months on site at McKenzie Meadows housing development, and nearly four months barricading the roads and railway around Caledonia, the 1492 Land Back Lane demonstrators pulled back from the remaining barricades on the morning of Tuesday, February 16, 2021.
Self-titled land defender and spokesperson for Land Back Lane, Skyler Williams, announced the plans to pull back on February 12, stating, “When police antagonized and shot at us, members of our community came out to make sure that we would be safe and able to stay on the land. These barricades have protected us for over 100 days now. On Tuesday morning we will be opening the roads, not to bow to police pressure, but because we are listening to our community.”
Williams said the decision was made to give community members of both Six Nations and Caledonia access to the roads and therefore to services, such as doctors’ visits.
“Further criminalization of the peaceful occupation of our lands is unacceptable. Any further escalation and antagonization by the OPP will not be tolerated by us, our community, or by our growing network of allies across the country,” continued Williams. “Land issues cannot be resolved by police. This lies at the feet of the federal and provincial government to make right with our people.”
Argyle Street South and McKenzie Road will require significant repairs before the public can safely travel the roads again, and CN Rail will need to repair the train tracks before trains can pass.
Haldimand Mayor Ken Hewitt said he is “encouraged” by the movement, calling it a “step in the right direction”.
In a statement to The Press on Tuesday morning, Hewitt said, “The bus (on Argyle Street South) has been removed, the debris has been removed, and currently contractors are on there clearing the site and preparing the road for reopening.”
Hewitt noted the reopening would take “several days considering the destruction and the current weather.”
“I maintain the same position I’ve maintained all along: no matter the cause behind it, the closure of roads is non-negotiable. Roads are infrastructure that everyone uses, everyone pays for, everyone should have the right to use. There is no excuse for those doing it and no excuse for the OPP allowing it to continue for as long as it has,” concluded Hewitt. “As a County it’s our expectation that our roads and infrastructure will remain intact and the OPP will do their job to ensure they’re not closed – and if they’re (closed) it’s them we’ll hold responsible.”