Indigenous land occupants in Caledonia appeal injunction

Indigenous people who have been occupying a proposed construction site near Caledonia, Ont., and Six Nations of the Grand River for more than 130 days are appealing an judge’s order that they permanently leave the land.

In October, Superior Court Justice John Harper granted a development company a permanent injunction against the occupants of a camp known as 1492 Land Back Lane.

Harper also granted Haldimand County a permanent injunction barring people from blocking any public roads in the community.

Read more: Returning land defenders, new faces take up familiar fight in Caledonia, Ont.

Skyler Williams, who has been acting as a spokesman for the camp, was named on the orders, and he was ordered to pay costs of more than $168,000.

The appeal documents argue the court was unfair to Williams and did not properly consider his evidence.

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The land defenders maintain that the proposed McKenzie Meadows housing development near Six Nations of the Grand River is on unceded Indigenous territory.

Central to their argument is a 1784 agreement with the British promising lands along the Grand River that the Haudenosaunee people say were never surrendered.

In a statement, the camp said the case is undecided until there is a ruling on the appeal and they intend to remain at the site.

The documents served on lawyers for Foxgate Development Inc., Haldimand County and the attorneys general of Ontario and Canada give notice of the appeal related to the McKenzie Meadows development.

Read more: Tensions flare after injunction granted against demonstrators in Ont. Indigenous land dispute

At the Oct. 22 hearing, Harper did not allow Williams to represent himself in court or present constitutional arguments because he found Wiliams and others were in contempt of previous orders to leave the site.

“The pleadings and the evidence I put forward was an honest effort to engage in the legal system at a time that I was unrepresented in the Court process,” Williams said in a Thursday statement about the appeal.

“Any injunction that limits Indigenous land rights should be rigorously tested on its merits.”

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The documents ask that Williams be given leave to present fresh evidence, and argue the decision on costs against him was exorbitant and “plainly wrong.”

Wade Poziomka, one of the lawyers representing Williams, said in a statement that his client has strong grounds to advance the action.

Read more: Six Nations and Caledonia residents clash over land claim dispute

“This appeal raises important issues that speak to procedural fairness, natural justice, and an underlying tension of individuals who are Indigenous and their ability to engage with the Canadian legal system,” he said.

Police have arrested more than 30 people since the occupation began in July.

Several of those individuals, including protesters, allies and a journalist covering the story, appeared in court this week on criminal charges related to alleged connection to the camp.

© 2020 The Canadian Press

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