Ontario Superior Court Justice calls respected Haudenosaunee land defender Skyler Williams a “busybody”

Published by Brent Patterson on

Share This Page

Photo by Steve Mongeau/APTN.

On March 20, Justice Paul Sweeny released his ruling on the costs associated with the 1492 Land Back Lane occupation and ordered Mohawk land defender Skyler Williams to pay Haldimand $13,000 and Foxgate Developments Inc. $60,000.

Justice Sweeny ruled: “The unsuccessful litigant must have a bona fide belief that the litigation is in the pubic interest. However, as Ducharme J. noted at para. 19 ‘the test for a costs exemption must be more than mere sincerity as even the most misguided and quixotic litigant might genuine believe in her cause and in its importance for the public at large.’ While Mr. Williams might justify his actions using genuinely held beliefs surrounding land defence and the rights of Indigenous peoples, in my view, he appears at best to be a misguided litigant.”

Significantly though, 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.

In April 2021, Cayuga Snipe Chief Deyohowe:to (Roger Silversmith) stated: “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.”

Despite this, Justice Sweeny comments: “[Mr. Williams] was acting on his own throughout the occupation and did not have the support of Indigenous groups such as the Six Nations Elected Council or the Haudenosaunee Development Institute. …In my view, this lends support for characterizing Mr. Williams as a busybody or interloper.”

For clarity, a “busybody” is defined as “a meddling or prying person”, while an “interloper” is “a person who becomes involved in a place or situation where they are not wanted or are considered not to belong.”

Sweeny was appointed a regional senior judge of the Superior Court of Justice of Ontario for the Central South Region in 2020. At the time of his appointment, federal justice minister David Lametti wrote: “I am confident he will continue to serve Ontarians well…”

On January 25 of this year, Williams and Darryl Porter were in court to hear Justice Gethin Edward’s decision on sentencing for mischief and other charges related to the 1492 Land Back Lane occupation. At that time, Two Row Times reported: “Williams, who is a brand-new father to a one-month-old baby, says there is one silver lining: he has been informed there will be no custodial sentence, meaning no jail time.”

For more on this, please see the Turtle Island News article: 1492 Landback Lane’s Skyler Williams appealing court decision ordering him to pay $70,000 in damages.


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.”

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

On December 15, 2022, an Ontario judge granted a permanent injunction to Foxgate Developments that bars land defenders from the site.

At that time, CBC reported: “Haudenosaunee land defenders, who have built structures and planted trees on the property known as 1492 Land Back Lane over the past two years, say they will continue to occupy the land and will appeal the decision.”

We continue to follow this.

Share This Page
Categories: News Updates


Leave a Reply

Avatar placeholder

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *