Haudenosaunee land defenders to remain at 1492 Land Back Lane following court granting permanent injunction against them

Published by Brent Patterson on

Postmedia reports: “Foxgate Developments … the company behind a planned housing development near Caledonia [situated 95 kilometres south of Toronto] has won a permanent injunction against Indigenous protesters.”

That article continues: “Superior Court Justice Paul Sweeney released his decision Tuesday [December 13]. The latest round of legal wrangling over the property was heard in Cayuga court in September. The group that has occupied the site since the summer of 2020 has maintained that the land in question is on unceded Haudenosaunee territory.”

“Currently on the property, those protesting have created a gathering place for groups with a large kitchen, individual tiny homes for families, a garden and a fruit tree orchard, which [Haudenosaunee land defender Skyler] Williams said is dedicated to the memory of children who died in residential schools.”

Land defender Skyler Williams.

Responding to the court’s decision, Williams says: “Injunctions are what trigger police violence. The developer can now use this injunction to pressure police to clear us from the land. The Crown has lost its honour of nation-to-nation relationship when they put what should be negotiations into the hands of police.”

Williams also notes the ruling will be appealed.

On their Facebook page, 1492 Land Back Lane says: “Previous enforcement attempts led by police resulted in serious harm to our community; police shot at land defenders in the back with rubber bullets and tasers, and over 50 people were arrested.”

“Given the history of violence unleashed on our community by the use of injunctions, we are taking this as a very serious threat on our safety.”

They further state: “Canada’s colonial legal system is fundamentally designed for this purpose: to deny our inherent connection to our lands, to dispossess us in order to extract resources and develop our territory without our consent. This is exactly how land theft is made legal.”

Their full statement can be read here.

To donate to the 1492 Land Back Lane legal fund, click here.

Background

On July 19, 2020, Haudenosaunee land defenders began a reoccupation of a 25-acre area of land about near the city of Caledonia, located about an hour southwest of Toronto.

Foxgate Developments planned to build at least 218 houses on this land. That was reportedly the first phase of a 1,000 unit housing development.

The Haudenosaunee asserted it was their territory through the Haldimand Treaty of 1784 that granted them an area of 950,000 acres in southern Ontario.

On July 31, 2020, the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) escorted a court sheriff who delivered a first court injunction against the reoccupation.

Kate Gunn, a Vancouver-based lawyer with First Peoples Law, has also pointed out that an injunction is not a determination of which party is right, rather it seeks, in principle, to preserve the status quo until the underlying dispute is resolved.

That means, for instance, that a land developer can more easily persuade the court that the economic harm is greater to them than communities seeking to protect their culture and traditions from centuries of land dispossession.

Williams has stated: “This development must be seen as being yet another instance in an ongoing history of colonial land theft and genocide, that it is people from Six Nations who are facing the greater harm if this matter is decided against their interests.”

Solidarity from Honduran environmental defenders: “National and international companies in collusion with state security apparatuses criminalize land and water defenders to silence their legitimate struggle. Our solidarity with the Haudenosaunee people.”

On July 2, 2021, the developer backed down, temporarily at least.

On March 17, 2022, Williams commented: “After a year of relative peace, we have received word from what would have been the developer at Landback Lane. They intend to reapply for their injunction. We are taking this very seriously. We see it as an open threat against our people and our lands.”

The Haudenosaunee Confederacy Chiefs Council, the traditional government of the Six Nations of the Grand River, has stated that no development can proceed on their lands without the consent of the Haudenosaunee.

Cayuga Snipe Chief Deyohowe:to (Roger Silversmith) says: “It is time to end the injustice. We want the land that is ours. We are not interested in approving fraudulent dispossessions of the past. We are not interested in selling land.”

Photo by Steve Mongeau/APTN.

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