Canada

Land Back Lane spokesperson ordered to foot legal bills for Caledonia land dispute

The spokesperson for a group from Six Nations that’s been occupying a Caledonia construction site has been ordered to foot the legal bills for those involved in a court injunction and ongoing land dispute.

Superior Court Justice R. J. Harper made two injunctions permanent last week — one that prohibits people from trespassing on a McKenzie Road construction site where Foxgate Developments plans to build more than 200 homes, and another that prohibits blockades from being set up on roads in Haldimand County.

Despite those injunctions being made permanent, there are blockades on roads near the McKenzie Road site and the group of self-described land defenders have not left the site that they’ve renamed 1492 Land Back Lane.

In a written ruling released Thursday, Harper said spokesperson Skyler Williams — who was the sole named defendant in the case — must pay $50,349.67 to cover Haldimand County’s legal fees, and a total of $117,814.18 for Foxgate’s.

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“I find, as a fact, that Skyler Williams acted in bad faith,” wrote Harper. “He and the other unknown defendants took the law into their own hands and used self-help to achieve their goals.

“Skyler Williams openly admitted that he was in contempt of my orders and if a permanent injunction was granted, he would not comply.”

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

Williams told Global News that he’ll be appealing the ruling, including the order to pay for legal fees.

“As far as I’m concerned, that liability lies solely with the Crown. And for this developer and this particular judge in Haldimand County, Ont., to be able to make a ‘once and for all decision’ for land claims for Haudenosaunee people over this particular tract of land is absolutely ridiculous.”

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He said the federal and provincial governments have failed to act and could have addressed the issue before it reached this point.

“This should have been happening 104 days ago. As soon as there’s a community that says absolutely no to development — certainly without adequate consultation by the Crown — I don’t understand why they would continue to develop our land without coming to our community with open and honest dialogue.”

Williams isn’t the only one calling on the federal government to take action.

Speaking to Global News Radio 900 CHML’s Scott Thompson Show, Haldimand County Mayor Ken Hewitt said he’s frustrated that he hasn’t heard from the feds.

“We understand this isn’t going to get resolved overnight, but even just an attempt from the federal government to suggest that there’s a willingness to have some dialogue with those on Six Nations to start moving things forward. That in itself would make people feel a little bit more comfortable with what’s happening.”

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

In a statement to Global News earlier this week, Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations Carolyn Bennett said there have been attempts made to meet with community leaders.

“Canada deeply values its relationship with Six Nations and is committed to continuing to work collaboratively to address Six Nations’ historical claims and land right issues,” wrote Bennett.

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“There has been a consistent effort by Canada, Ontario and Six Nations to address Six Nations’ claims through dialogue and we have put in place flexible processes to allow for the exploration of new ways to achieve this goal. We are actively working with the community and look forward to meeting at the earliest opportunity.”

No details about a possible meeting have been released.

—With files from Morgan Campbell Global News

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