By Haldimand Press Staff
CALEDONIA—Two weeks after multiple roads and a railway were dug up, the self-titled land defenders at the McKenzie Meadows housing development, renamed 1492 Land Back Lane, are continuing preparations staying on site in winter. Meanwhile, Judge RJ Harper has ordered Skyler Williams pay the legal bills for Haldimand County and Foxgate Developments to the tune of over $168,000.
The temporary injunctions criminalized visiting the site without Foxgate’s permission and the creation of blockades on any Haldimand County roadways. Williams was named personally in the injunctions and found by Harper to be the “leader”, despite Williams’ denial.
Harper ruled previously that he would only hear Williams’ constitutional question if demonstrators vacated the lands. Harper struck Williams’ submissions to the court from the record and granted the permanent injunction on October 22, 2020. A few hours later, a skirmish broke out between OPP officers and demonstrators at the secondary camp on Argyle Street South and Sixth Line, which led to various fires and the digging of trenches across the roads.
Harper’s complete decision was released last week and reiterated many points from previous decisions. He ruled Williams has no “authorization to assert … Indigenous rights in this case” and noted the only court case brought forward by Six Nations for the lands is for an accounting of revenues.
“The dispute that is before me is not one of a land claim. This focus cannot be lost in the smoke of self-help remedies, violence, and threats of violence,” stated Harper. “The evidence (supports) that Foxgate’s root of title goes back to the Crown Patent. I find that Foxgate has a good and marketable title.”
Harper stated that Haldimand County’s request to have the injunction on any blockades made permanent is “an extreme remedy” but found that it meets the need for “cogent evidence of serious and ongoing risks of harm and disruption to the legal processes that the County must consider, enact, and enforce.”
Harper further ruled that, as “successful parties” who did not act “in bad faith” in the court, Foxgate and the County are “entitled to their costs” in participating in the hearings.
“I find, as a fact, that Skyler Williams acted in bad faith. He and the other unknown defendants took the law into their own hands and used self help to achieve their goals,” stated Harper. He then ordered Williams to pay $50,349.67 to Haldimand County and $117,814.18 to Foxgate for the rates charged and work done in this case” by their respective lawyers.
Williams however, has no intention of paying the fee: “I mean, I don’t have a $170,000 and I certainly don’t have the $20 million that the developer is looking to get for damages. It might as well be $20 billion. You can’t get blood from stone.”
“I think it is a typical response of the courts to further alienate Indigenous people from the court process,” said Williams of learning the legal fees had been levied against him. “That was what we were trying to shed some light on during the court proceedings. It had very little consideration and then (Harper) struck myself from even being able to defend myself in that court proceeding. So, I think the prejudice and bias in the court system when it comes to Indigenous people – certainly land claims – that it is alive and well in the Haldimand County court.”
Williams said the video released by OPP of three demonstrators striking a police cruiser with various objects is a “propaganda video” meant to “spur some PR support” and that it has resulted in a “heightened and escalated amount of racism being faced by our community.” Williams claims the video is also the reason Hydro One delayed sending in workers to return power to a handful of homes that did not come back online with others in the area after a demonstrator set fire to a hydro pole on October 22.
Harper argued in his decision that “it is the conduct of the few lawless protestors” creating a divide and said “the years of abuse inflicted on the Indigenous community and their resulting pain … is recognized by the court. However, that pain cannot be used as a battle cry that can only lead to division, hate, and future violence.”
Williams concluded, “We are adamant for calls of peace and for talks for our communities to live together while respecting that our claim to these lands is a significant one. We need to be able to honour these treaties and rights that we have.”
As of press time, the 1492 Land Back Lane Legal Fund had raised approximately $300,000, which is expected to support the over 30 people arrested in relation to the injunctions.
Williams’ daughters write open letters to community
Nora Williams, 18
Kahsenniyo and Skyler are my parents. I’d like to address the recent comments made by Haldimand County mayor Ken Hewitt, specifically that he “will continue to support the OPP in their efforts and applaud them for taking the stand such as arresting family members of Skyler Williams.” I do not appreciate being attacked in such a manner.
To try and convince police forces to focus on the partner, elders, and teenage children of a land defence spokesperson is cowardly. Whether you’re simply trying to force my father’s hand, or if you’ve simply decided to ignore basic human rights, either are beyond my understanding. If you’re so desperate for us to behave as “Canadians” and not care about our land and traditions, what is your own moral code as a Canadian government official?
Instead of trying to understand, you chose force. Instead of reason, you chose underhanded and violent tactics. Instead of basic rights, you chose to try to expand what power you have in a shameful attempt to sway OPP officials to target the elderly and children. Instead of questioning our right to land, question your own right to land. These kinds of attacks will not change my opinions and actions to defend my land and my traditions.
Makiyah Williams, 16
I am the daughter of Skyler and Kahsenniyo. I am writing this letter because I would like to address the comments made by Haldimand County mayor Ken Hewitt. These comments are wrong and racist. I am an Indigenous youth from Six Nations. Seeing these racist and awful comments was troubling and sickening.
How is Caledonia supposed to be represented by someone who openly targeted my parents, and applauded the OPP for arresting my mom? Hewitt is putting our family in danger, without understanding the impacts it has on my parents, grandparents, sisters, and on the generations to come. Tell me how this is okay.
Being a student in Caledonia means I am at risk for being targeted and threatened. Any threat to my family threatens me and my sisters. It is heartbreaking and saddening to see politicians cheer when my mom was arrested for tending to her Haudenosaunee responsibilities as a Mohawk woman.
Imagine this was your family being targeted: how would you feel?
It’s so hard to consistently worry about what will happen next, to worry for my sisters’ safety. Our people know how this feels, and our responsibilities will always guide our actions, even when we are afraid.
Lola Williams, 14
Skyler Williams is my dad. He has been a land defender for as long as I can remember. Me and my dad have always been very close. Our entire family has always been very close.
I am proud of both of my parents. But right now, after reading the Haldimand Police Services Board recommendations, and then the mayor, Ken Hewitt, applauding the OPP for arresting my mom, and encouraging them to go after others in my family, I’m scared. I’m scared of what this means for my grandparents, my sisters, and me.
I go to school in Caledonia. The OPP have set up right across the road from my school. These are the people that shot at my dad and arrested my mom when she was alone. Now I have to see them every time I look out the window or go to lunch. Every time I walk out the front doors of the school, I see all these white men with guns who are being encouraged to target me and my family.
I am so disappointed that the mayor of the County that I go to school in would choose to make such hateful and dangerous comments to target teenage girls and my elderly grandparents.