Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Haldimand "Protest Stays Peaceful"

Protest stays peaceful
July 1, 2009

The quiet town of Cayuga was full of action last Tuesday (June 23) as people came from communities as far away as Toronto. They gathered to protest or observe a controversial first meeting of the "Caledonia Peacekeepers" taking place inside the Cayuga Lion's Club Hall.

After a week of speculation and media frenzy into the apparent forming of a "militia" group in Caledonia, the facts came to light just hours prior to a meeting on Tuesday organized by Doug Fleming of Caledonia and Gary McHale from Binbrook.

The press release read; "At no time was Doug Fleming's new group going to be called 'Caledonia Militia'. It should be apparent to everyone that the word 'militia' was used to get media attention. It is unfortunate in Canada that media will not cover a story unless you use such a word, but the fact that Doug Fleming called it an unarmed militia meant that it wasn't a militia. The name of the group has been a closely guarded secret to ensure max. Media coverage. The name of the new group is the Caledonia Peacekeepers"; Gary McHale signed this press release, media relations for the Caledonia Peacekeepers.

The normally quiet street was lined on both sides with vehicles as far as one could see. Media were there in full force speculating on a clash between the "peacekeepers" inside and the protesters outside. People gathered in small groups. Some were residents who live on the street and surrounding area. Others were from Six Nations who are the target of the "peacekeeping" initiative.

The situation escalated when about 125 protesters from CUPE 3903 First Nations Solidarity Working Group lead by Tom Keefer announced they would attend in protest of the proposed "militia."

Pat Hebb from Hamilton and Margaret Munday from Hagersville were part of the crowd that gathered Tuesday night outside the Lion's Hall. Both ladies own trailers at Conway Park in Cayuga and walked over to see first hand what was going on. "I don't blame them, the protesters or the people inside. I blame the government. They (the government) need to get off their asses and settle this," said Hebb.

The group from CUPE 3903 chanted "Go away KKK" and had signs that read "Canadians Don't Want Anti-Native Vigilantes," "Klan Meeting in Progress," "Militia Go Home".

Niki Thorne, a York University student and member of the First Nations Solidarity Working Group was one of the speakers. "We oppose the threat of violence and escalation of the problem: "This is a bigger issue. This is not just about Caledonia. We need to settle all land claims in a crisp, peaceful and fair manner."

While protesters were making speeches outside about 26 people filled the Lions Hall. In his opening statement Fleming said, "I'm going to be very blunt here. My grandfather's generation fought a war against Nazi Germany to combat that type of thinking. If any of you here have bought into this racist doctrine, I just want you to know this: I despise your beliefs. I couldn't disagree with you more, and this is not the group for you." Fleming went on to say that he personally knows people who have suffered for the last two years and feels compelled to do something about it.

McHale, media relations for the Caledonia Peacekeepers, was the speaker for the rest of the evening. McHale went into detail about issues such as the "race-based policing" of the OPP and how the new group would carry out citizens arrests.

In an interview Monday morning with The Chronicle, Keefer expressed his personal opinion that the renaming of the Caledonia Militia to the Caledonia Peacekeepers is nothing more than "more classic McHale double talk."

"The bottom line is that the forming of this militia is only going to escalate things and could lead to violence. There is no positive outcome to this," said Keefer


    Jordan University