Riot police keep order at Caledonia protest
Published Saturday, January 20, 2007 11:26PM EST
A shouting match between about 50 non-aboriginals and 100 aboriginals at the site of an ongoing native occupation in Caledonia, Ont., appeared to be the only tense moment at a protest on Saturday.
Some 30 police riot squad officers kept a close watch as the two groups engaged in the half-hour argument and stare-down outside a private home.
OPP Commissioner Julian Fantino said the non-aboriginals, mainly there from outside the area, were there "to cause nothing but trouble."
"All of this is so counterproductive . . . we wish they would just stay home,'' Fantino said at a nearby command post.
As they had promised, the protesters brought Canadian flags to the housing development in southwestern Ontario.
The event was organized by Toronto-area resident Gary McHale, a 44-year-old bookkeeper and website creator who was arrested during a similar protest he orchestrated last month.
"The Supreme Court ruled in 1993 that we have the right to put flags up on those hydro poles down there," he said. "The OPP knows this, Fantino admitted it, but yet they'll arrest us if we try to do that."
Ontario Provincial Police apprehended McHale and Mark Vandermaas for trying to cross a police barrier and attempting to erect a flag at the site on Dec. 16. Police said they were breaking the peace.
McHale said the flag-raising act is a protest to what he calls two-tiered justice. He claims aboriginals are treated differently under the law.
"Do you think that I'm dangerous? Do I look dangerous? Vandermaas asked reporters on Saturday. "The danger is down the street."
Some aboriginals said the protests are racially motivated. "There's a lot of racial discriminatory things being said and it's unfortunate," said Hazel Hill.
While McHale's group planned to erect a Canadian flag, Six Nations residents had already hoisted one the day before along with an American flag and traditional aboriginal ones as a show of good faith.
McHale, of Richmond Hill, also organized a protest last October that ended peacefully. He has been criticized as being an outsider whose rallies only serve to inflame tensions.
Six Nations protesters have occupied the site since February claiming the land was wrongly taken from their ancestors 200 years ago.
Several violent altercations have erupted between locals and aboriginals during the land claim dispute.
With a report from CTV's Alex Mihailovich and files from The Canadian Press