Caledonia Suspects May Be Holed up on Reserve
Police are seeking seven suspects on Sunday as aboriginal leaders denounce several violent incidents in a southern Ontario town that is the site of a three-month standoff in a land-claim dispute.
The seven — who were mostly local aboriginal protesters but included a woman from Victoria — have left a native-led occupation at a housing development near Caledonia, CBC reporter John Northcott said from the site.
The violent incidents, which occurred Friday, were the latest to break out since protesters from the Six Nations of the Grand River Territory reserve near Brantford occupied a construction site on Feb. 28, saying the subdivision was being built on land that belongs to them.
Native leaders said Six Nations police were helping the Ontario Provincial Police track down the seven suspects.
"Reading between the lines, there's a pretty good possibility they're on the reserve" and the Ontario Provincial Police are negotiating their surrender, Northcott said.
The OPP have a protocol not to enter the reserve, he said.
Among the allegations, one of the suspects is accused of stealing a police vehicle on Friday night and using it in an alleged attempt to run down an officer, who was injured.
The OPP said the suspects were being sought on charges that include attempted murder, assault, forcible confinement, motor vehicle theft, robbery, intimidation and assault causing bodily harm.
Tempers in the dispute seemed to have cooled of late as the provincial and federal governments negotiated with native leaders — until the flareup on Friday.
"The OPP investigated three violent altercations that took place within an hour of each other in the south end of Caledonia," Ontario Provincial Police Deputy Commissioner Maurice Pilon said Saturday.
The Six Nations Confederacy said the suspects were known to them and had been asked to stay away from the occupation at the construction site for the Douglas Creek Estates.
Police alleged stolen car, nearly runs down officer
In one incident, U.S. Border Patrol officers who were visiting the area to observe how provincial police were handling the standoff were swarmed by people, who pulled them out out of the car and drove off.
"An OPP officer [was] deliberately driven at by the stolen vehicle. Other officers at the scene, fortunately, pulled him to safety," Pilon said.
"The officer was hurt but treated and released. The car was recovered."
In another clash, demonstrators surrounded the car of an elderly couple who were visiting from Simcoe, Ont.
Camera operators say they were assaulted
In a third dispute, two camera operators from the Hamilton-based CH Television alleged that native protesters attacked them and demanded their video footage as they tried to talk to the couple.
"One [camera operator] was swarmed, assaulted and had his camera stolen," Pilon said.
Debbie Walker, a managing producer at CH Television, said one of the camera operators was taken to hospital with cuts and bruises to his head. Nick Garbutt needed a couple of stitches to close a head wound.
His colleague, Ken MacKay, suffered minor injuries after he was kicked and punched.
The incidents spurred an angry response from townspeople, who gathered by the hundred to form an angry crowd that demanded police crack down on the native protesters.
Six Nations Confederacy denounces violence
Native leaders from the Six Nations Confederacy — also known as the Haudenosaunee — condemned the alleged incidents, saying they found them "disheartening."
"The Haudenosaunee are a people of peace and do not condone violence of any form," the confederacy said in a statement issued on Saturday.
"Our prayers and concern are with those who were injured during the outbreaks today. A peaceful co-existence with our neighbours and the safety of all remain at the paramount of our concerns."
The group also said the incidents were "reflective of the misjudgment and reactions of a limited few."
"The individuals who were involved in these incidents have been removed from the reclamation site [in Caledonia] until our investigation is complete."
The protesters are arguing that the Douglas Creek Estate is being built on part of the 380,000-hectare tract of land along the region's Grand River, granted to the Six Nations in 1784. The protesters say the building site was apparently leased — but never officially transferred — to non-natives.
Six Nations have filed a land claims over much of the area. The claims are "based mainly on alleged failure to receive proper compensation for the lands surrendered to the Crown or otherwise alienated," a federal government website says.
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