Members of a Six Nations land reclamation camp have appealed two court injunctions ordering them to vacate a housing development in Caledonia, Ont.
Skyler Williams, a spokesperson for the group and defendant in the case, said Thursday that he filed an appeal in Ontario Superior Court to fight the injunctions.
“We chose to engage in a process, a process that is not our own, to try and move it forward,” said Williams during a media update Thursday. “For us the issue of the land here is still before the courts and certainly needs to come to a nation-to-nation discussion.”
The occupation of the McKenzie Meadows development, dubbed 1492 Land Back Lane by demonstrators, has stretched on for months, and has included blockades across area roads, court orders to remove people staying there, and dozens of arrests.
Last month, Justice John Harper ruled that the activists had to vacate the land where Foxgate Developments planned a housing complex. The Six Nations group says the property is unceded Indigenous land and has been occupying it for 131 days. Harper ordered the Six Nations members to vacate on Oct. 22.
Williams said Thursday that he’s retained lawyers Barry Yellin and Wade Poziomka from the Hamilton firm Ross & McBride LLP. If the appeal is successful, he said, Foxgate Developments and Haldimand County will have to restart the permanent injunction proceedings.
“The filing by Ross & McBride LLP focuses on the failure of the court to distinguish between contempt and abuse of process, a procedural issue,” the 1492 Land Back Lane group said in a media release.
“The issue is that Williams’s pleadings and evidence were thrown out by Justice Harper in error contrary to the law, procedural fairness, and the rules of civil procedure. If successful in the appeal, the matter would be returned to superior court before a different judge, and all of Williams’s pleadings would be reinstated in his defence.”
The appeal, Williams said, is “an honest effort to engage in the legal system at a time that I was unrepresented in the court process.”
Harper said last month that Williams has shown “contempt” for the court by refusing to obey previous, temporary injunctions, and by insisting the Cayuga, Ont., courtroom was part of the “colonial” court system.
Harper said the court must acknowledge the “abuses that have been put upon the Aboriginal community,” but “claims and grievances in our society … must be done respectfully, must be done in compliance with the orders.”
The Six Nations Elected Council signed a deal in 2019 with the developers for $352,000 and 17 hectares of land in exchange for support of the two housing projects. Williams said Thursday that the elected council has expressed “tentative” support for 1492 Land Back Lane.
Six Nations’ traditional government, the Haudenosaunee Confederacy Council of Chiefs, supports the reclamation camp.
The group has been calling on the federal and provincial governments to step in and work with their representatives toward a peaceful resolution.
Despite a pledge from the office of Carolyn Bennett, minister of Crown-Indigenous relations, that government officials “look forward to meeting with the community at the earliest opportunity” and are “committed” to addressing longstanding land claim issues, Williams said negotiations have yet to begin.
“They’ve said over and over again that they want to be at the table, that they’re working on it … and here we are. This is three-and-a-half months later,” said Williams. “Apparently it takes a long time to get here from Ottawa.”