April 28th Coalition BBQ A Success: Walk for “Peace, Respect and Friendship” draws condemnation from local Caledonia politicians

from: Toronto Media Coop,
April 16

On Saturday April 7, 2012, the April 28th Coalition held a community BBQ and passed out information on the upcoming walk and celebration for “Peace, Respect and Friendship” on April 28, 2012.

The walk is a commemoration of both the 6th year anniversary of the reclamation of Kanonhstaton (former Douglas Creek Estates) of February 28, 2006, and the Ontario Provincial Police armed raid with automatic weapons, pepper spray, and tasers against people from Six Nations who were peacefully reclaiming disputed land near the town of Caledonia, Ontario, on  April 20, 2006. The land claim remains unresolved.

The community BBQ at Kinsmen Park was a fitting place along the Grand River to hold the BBQ and it was busy with families and others taking walks, people fishing, and those just enjoying the beautiful spring day. “We spoke to hundreds of people enjoying a beautiful long weekend along a beautiful river. Everyone was polite and attentive,” said Eugene Jonathan from Six Nations. “We had to buy more hot dogs and photocopy more flyers to give out. The day was a success.”

Two days before the BBQ, officials from Haldimand County emailed the April 28th Coalition urging the group to cancel the BBQ for “important public health and liability considerations”. The day of the BBQ, a Caledonia city councilor voiced his displeasure with the BBQ taking place in his Ward and the O.P.P. even showed up to see what was happening. The officer left after he was given some information about the event.

The walk has been the focus of many rumours and organizers of the April 28th Coalition handed out flyers promoting the public info night on Thursday April 19 at the Caledonia Public Library. “The Coalition is working hard to inform Caledonians about what we are planning for the walk,” said Laura Lepper, organizer with the Coalition. “One of the most important parts of our outreach work includes one-on-one conversations with Caledonians’ about the issues and the 28th event. This successful work has shown that we can’t underestimate the power of this method of grassroots organizing.”

The walk itself has caused stirrings in town as Mayor Ken Hewitt has urged Coalition members to cancel the walk, referring to the current situation as a “quagmire”. Mayor Hewitt told the Dunnville Chronicle on April 3, 2012 that he could “appreciate the intent” of the April 28th organizers, but that “I believe taking this into the heart of the community is not the right way to do it.” As the date for the walk gets closer, Hewitt’s condemnation grows sharper. On April 13, 2012, Hewitt told the Chronicle:

“They have no idea what they are doing or could possibly do to the relationships that are just starting to come together … They don’t care. They’re so entrenched and selfishly absorbed in their own agenda that nothing else matters. At what point does the desire to stand up for their rights infringe on our right? I believe they’ve crossed it and as I’ve said to them before, stay out of my community. You’re not welcome.”

Luke Stewart, an organizer with the April 28th Coalition and lifelong settler on the Grand River, has stated into response to Hewitt’s claims that outsiders are not welcome:

“What happens in one region along the Grand River watershed impacts and influences the whole watershed. I can think of no other group of people to organize for Six Nations land rights and to build relationships with than those whose traditional territory we inhabit and those who have settled on the Grand River. Incidentally, none of this will matter if our grandchildren, native and non-native, cannot drink the water, breath the air, or grow their own food because of politicians with short-term solutions and unrestrained land developments. We need to organize our communities around our watersheds and the health of those watersheds – not for the profits of land developers.”

The Coalition has said that it is not asking for anything more than the treaties and agreements with Six Nations be respected and that the solution to the “Caledonia crisis” can be found within those treaties.

For more information, visit: www.april28.net

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Filed under April 28, Brantford, Caledonia, Dunnville Chronicle, Haldimand Tract, Organizations, Racism

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