Community Friends for Peace and Understanding with Six Nations
This is the text of a leaflet that was developed by the Community Friends group in Caledonia, Ontario and distributed with the support of members of CUPE 3903
1. BECAUSE THEIR CLAIM IS JUST AND RIGHT.
Canada has a long and shameful history of mistreating First Nations peoples. Canada has broken treaty after treaty and has refused to fulfill its obligations to First Nation peoples, the Six Nations people included. Despite the fact that the Six Nations people have always been (and remain to this day) a national Confederation with whom the British crown entered into nation to nation agreements, the Canadian government imposed its own “Indian Act” by force upon them and encouraged the illegal sale and theft of land and revenue belonging to Six Nations. Respect for First Nations land and treaty rights and respect for indigenous sovereignty is a matter of upholding human rights, international law and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Colonization and appropriation of other peoples resources is morally wrong and must be opposed, even if we or some of our ancestors have benefited from it.
2. BECAUSE THE FAULT IN THIS CONFLICT LIES WITH THE FEDERAL CANADIAN GOVERNMENT, NOT THE PEOPLE OF SIX NATIONS OR CALEDONIA.
The government knew that the Douglas Creek Estates (DCE) lands were contested when it allowed them to be sold. If the government had developed a comprehensive land claims settlement process and had negotiated in good faith with Six Nations from the start, this problem would never have taken the form it has. People from Six Nations occupied the Douglas Creek Estates to stop a housing development from being built on contested land. Now that the situation has been escalated, non-natives on and off the Haldimand tract can best resolve this issue by pressuring the Canadian government to establish a fair and comprehensive settlement of all outstanding land claims with Six Nations.
3. BECAUSE THIS SITUATION WILL NOT BE RESOLVED BY VIOLENCE AND CONFLICT.
The time when the Canadian government or non-native vigilantes could drive First Nations peoples off their land has passed. Any attempt to use force to resolve the reclamation of Douglas Creek Estates will only make matters far worse and will likely end in bloodshed and serious injury on both sides. As events at Ipperwash and Oka proved, native land rights are political issues that must be solved through dialogue and negotiation. These are political and not “law and order” issues, and the use of force or threat of violence will not resolve them. Might does not make right, and attempts to raise the level of tension through the Friday night rallies in the Canadian Tire parking lot or through proposed events like the October 15 march against the reclamation site will only make the situation worse and increase the likelihood of people being injured or even killed.
4. BECAUSE THE ENVIRONMENT AND OUR QUALITY OF LIFE IS IMPROVED BY RECOGNIZING FIRST NATIONS LAND RIGHTS.
The conflict over the Douglas Creek Estates and the future conflicts brewing over the Haldimand tract stem from the greed of real estate developers who are turning farmlands, animal habitat and countryside into suburban sprawl in order to enrich themselves. This way of life is not sustainable in the long-term and although it makes profits for the bankers, realtors and lawyers it does not benefit rural life or the average people in small towns like Caledonia. As suburban sprawl spreads small businesses are pushed out by the major chains and big box stores, farmers are pushed off the land and our natural environment is degraded. First Nations peoples have a long history of protecting the environment and of respecting nature. A recognition of their rights will ensure that the lands on and around the Haldimand tract are not ecologically devastated by further suburban sprawl or clogged up by excessive road traffic and smog.
5. BECAUSE IT IS THE ONLY WAY THAT CALEDONIA AS A COMMUNITY CAN HEAL ITSELF AND MOVE FORWARD.
The people of Six Nations and of Caledonia live closely connected lives, sharing schools, workplaces, friendships and families. The tensions caused by this conflict need to be resolved. The people of Six Nations have made clear over and over again that they are not calling for the removal of non-natives from their lands. No non-natives living in Caledonia are at risk of eviction. What Six Nations wants is the compensation they are owed and recognition of their land and treaty rights. It is possible for natives and non-natives to live together in peace and harmony, but in order to have peace there must be justice.
*note: This piece originally appeared on CUPE 3903’s Six Nations solidarity website. It is available here.