Indigenous land defenders walk contractor off McKenzie Meadows property

Contractors for Losani Homes and officers from the OPP provincial liaison team paid a short-lived visit to the McKenzie Meadows construction site in Caledonia Wednesday morning, just ahead of a court hearing into the disputed territory.

A lone worker in an orange safety vest was met at the entrance to the site by a dozen Indigenous land defenders, who have been occupying the site, which they have renamed 1492 Land Back Lane, since July 19.

The group walked the contractor off the property, telling him there would be no work done that day.

“You don’t get paid enough, bud,” one of the land defenders said while ushering the contractor off the property.

After a few minutes of discussion with Land Back Lane spokesperson Skyler Williams, the two police officers also drove away.

Williams said Wednesday’s visit, which officers texted him about last night, meant cancelling a scheduled appointment to present evidence to Superior Court ahead of Friday’s hearing in Cayuga, where Justice R. John Harper will review two injunctions related to the occupation.

“Instead of letting the (legal) process happen, we’re standing here on the side of the road,” Williams said.

This was the second attempt by contractors acting for the developers to locate a natural gas pipeline, as part of prep work for the planned 218-unit subdivision, only to be rebuffed by land defenders.

Police continue to arrest land defenders and their supporters for allegedly breaching the court order barring anyone not authorized by Foxgate Developments from being on the property.

“At some point there’s nobody left to stand on the land,” Williams said.

“And the OPP and the developers spiking this up on the doorstep of us being able to defend ourselves is absolutely ridiculous.”

Earlier this week, Indigenous land defenders blocked Argyle Street in Caledonia after police tried — unsuccessfully — to arrest one of the members outside an Ancaster grocery store on Garner Road West.

The 1492 Land Back Lane group tweeted around 6 p.m. Monday that Argyle would be blocked between 6th Line and Highway 6 for 24 hours, but traffic was flowing again just after 8 a.m. Tuesday.

In a news release Wednesday, OPP said demonstrators threw rocks when officers went to the Argyle site, damaging several police cruisers and civilian vehicles in the area.

Police also said a control box for rail tracks in the area of Sixth Line was damaged following a blockade there.

OPP say they continue to investigate.

In a statement on Facebook, Haldimand County Mayor Ken Hewitt said he does not agree with “many of the steps” the OPP have taken but he expects police will continue charging those attending the site.

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He said what is happening in Caledonia is “not peaceful.”

“It is not a peaceful protest when the threat of violence exists behind all decisions or direction the OPP make,” he wrote. “When roads are closed because the OPP are doing their job and enforcing arrests, it is not peaceful.”

J.P. Antonacci’s reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative. The funding allows him to report on stories about the regions of Haldimand and Norfolk.

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