Saturday, February 28, 2009
'We're just worried about the land' Posted By SUSAN GAMBLE, EXPOSITOR STAFF Friday night's TRUE meeting seemed to be a meeting of the minds. Four representatives of the Haudenosaunee Men's Fire offered a history lesson and an explanation of why land under construction by Empire Homes off Conklin Road and other properties in Brantford are so critical to the Six Nations people. And Caledonia resident Ken Hewitt -- once the spokesman for the Caledonia Citizen's Alliance -- explained why he's seeking a public investigation into a "two-tiered justice system" that he says favours natives. Hewitt has about 7,000 signatures on a petition calling for an Ipperwash-style inquiry into OPP actions. Hewitt said mistakes have been made on both sides and he feels the OPP have been victims of confused leadership. Haldimand-Norfolk MPP Toby Barrett, who supports the petition, told more than 100 people at Laurier's Odeon building that he doubts his private member's bill demanding an investigation will pass second reading in March. Also in the audience was Haldimand County Mayor Marie Trainer. The Men's Fire representatives -- Gene Johns, Stan Farmer, Wes Elliott and Kelly Curley -- worked to explain to the crowd that they operate under treaty law rather than Canadian law. The group, a traditional gathering that can include all men and is charged with the duty of protecting the land, the women and children, says it was reignited during the Douglas Creek Estates protest in Caledonia after being dormant for years. The protests at Empire Homes in particular are due to the land being part of the Clench tract, said Johns, which is a matter under litigation in the courts. "Everybody is worried about their home and getting eviction notices," said Johns. "Tell everybody their house is fine. We're just worried about the land." Johns -- who has been arrested for his part in trying to stop construction at the Conklin Road site -- encouraged people affected by the Empire protest or concerned about their own house to contact the Men's Fire representatives to talk. Farmer said the men were compelled to try and stop houses from being built on land they consider theirs as a way of protecting the remaining greenbelt areas. "Hamilton is having a problem with coyotes but you've interfered with their business, just like us. The animals need to have a place to hunt and fish, just like us." Audience member Gary Horsnell questioned why the Men's Fire is protesting at land it has no chance of having returned, according to the government. But Curley said that's the reason they protest at sites before houses are erected. "The federal government says it won't displace people, so if there's no house on the land, we have a right to that land." Farmer appealed to the non-natives in the crowd to consider the commitment and lack of sleep many of the protesters endure for their cause. "Don't look at me as a warrior or terrorist. I'm an individual born to an obligation. We're trying to keep the treaty of peace," said Farmer.