UPDATED 1224 EST Nov 14/07
I am very pleased to report that Gary McHale and I were honoured by an invitation by Dr. Andrew Houston, to speak to a Drama class at the University of Waterloo on Nov 01/07 in order to present our perspective on the effects the Caledonia occupation is having on its residents. The class is conducting extensive research into the issue as preparation for a production scheduled to take place in mid-February 2008.
One of the most promising indications that this project could help move the Caledonia situation closer to a truly just resolution is how serious this class is about researching and understanding the issues; in addition to being the first learning institution to invite us to share our knowledge, the class has already visited Caledonia several times, including a trip to the Stirling Street protest after Sam Gualtieri was beaten.
After expressing my gratitude for the invitation to speak, and admiration for their willingness to understand the issues via in-depth research, Gary led with a Powerpoint presentation showing some of the photos of the violence and destruction, and went on to explain that some of the blame for delays in some land claims must be shared by native bands themselves due to their need for consensus among various factions, elected and non-elected, a fact that Haldimand Mayor Trainer has expressed frustration over in the past; who, exactly does one negotiate with on Six Nations?
I then provided an overview of the Ipperwash legacy, its overarching influence in Caledonia, and how Two Tier Justice is victimizing native and non-natives alike. In light of the unexpected level of the class’ knowledge I asked a key question:
“Imagine if the government invested $20M and 3 years on an inquiry into Caledonia, but refused to allow a single resident to testify, and went out of its way to exclude every shred of evidence of native violence and crime against them. What if this inquiry was then used to justify a ‘hands off’ policy towards native lawlessness in another town? That’s the legacy of the Ipperwash Inquiry for Caledonians.”
I wanted these students to understand that legislation and policing policies are being made based on an Inquiry that deliberately covered up the truth of what happened to people in Ipperwash, that not a single recommendation was made by the Inquiry with respect to preventing violence against innocent residents during land claims because evidence the issue was never explored.
I talked about Dancer, Sam Gualtieri, Dave Brown/Dana Chatwell and Mary-Lou LaPratte from Ipperwash, and about how native people themselves were being victimized by the failure of the OPP to enforce the law. I then closed with a summary of our key points:
a. Laws created and/or enforced on the basis of race have no place in a democracy.
b. The rule of law is an inviolate foundation of democracy, and must be upheld. OPP failure to enforce the law allows situations to escalate into extreme violence. Not all land claims are valid.
c. Land claims are being hijacked by demagogues and criminals (Mohawk Warriors) who falsely claim to speak for all native people, but are treated by police and government as if they do.
d. Those who victimize others in the name of correcting past injustice will themselves be victimized. How many native youth have been lured by visions of glory into committing acts of violence and injustice against innocent human beings only to discover that ‘no rules’ means that their own lives and those of their loved ones have no value to those they sought to emulate?
e. Relationships with native peoples must be based on truth. The official Ipperwash Inquiry denied all Canadians the opportunity to learn meaningful lessons from the Ipperwash tragedy with respect to preventing violence during land claims.
In additon to presentation notes, we gave each student a CD-ROM containing the following supporting evidence:
1. Video: Mary-Lou LaPratte – Ipperwash Papers news conference, Queen’s Park, March 14/07
2. Video: Mark Vandermaas – Ipperwash Papers news conference, Queen’s Park, March 14/07
3. Video: 14 year old ‘Dancer’- FantinoGate news conference, Queen’s Park, April 17/07
4. Video: Chris Syrie incident, Jan 10/07
5. Photos: Sam Gualtieri – beaten by natives in Caledonia
6. Western Standard magazine, July 02/07 – Protection Racket (expose of Ipperwash Inquiry)
7. Mary-Lou LaPratte – submission to Ipperwash Inquiry, June 23, 2004
8. Mary-Lou LaPratte – Notes for Ipperwash Papers news conference, March 14/07
9. Mark Vandermaas – Notes for Ipperwash Papers news conference, March 14/07
10. Mark Vandermaas – Summary of Evidence, The Ipperwash Papers
11. 14 year-old ‘Dancer’ – ‘Road of Hope’ project
12. Brown/Chatwell $12M statement of claim against OPP/Ontario gov’t
13. Turtle Island News, May 16/07 – violence on Douglas Creek Estates
14. Turtle Island News, May 23/07 – shooting of native man
15. Turtle Island News, May 30/07 – assault on native media
16. Turtle Island News, Aug 15/07 – rapes on Douglas Creek Estates
17. Mark Vandermaas speech, Oct 08-07 – Natives are victims of Two Tier Justice, too
‘Rule of Law’ in the curriculum?
After our presentation we answered questions, some students staying well after class to speak to us. One educator introduced herself and asked if she could stay in touch because they may wish to include study of the issues raised during our presentation in the curriculum one day.
What a great thing it would be if the suffering of Caledonia served a greater purpose in educating students about the importance of settling land claim issues while preserving the rule of law so there would be no more innocent victims of landclaim lawlessness.
Interviewing Caledonia residents
Dr. Houston and his class have already interviewed residents in Caledonia, including Merlyn Kinrade, and we have – with the permission of various residents – provided provided their contact information for future possible interviews. Mary-Lou LaPratte has also agreed to be interviewed should they wish to do so.
The UoW project is exciting on several levels: One, it means that we have been able to bring the story of Caledonia’s victims to an entirely new group of ‘outsiders’ who can share those stories with other students and educators.
Two, the influence of a prestigious university – located within the Haldimand Tract – committed to teaching the truth of what has happened from the perspective of both native and non-native residents would be a great asset in influencing policy makers, public opinion and media for the better. In light of OPP Commissioner Fantino’s recent false and malicious attacks on those who have attempted to expose Caledonia’s story via peaceful means, the value of such an asset cannot be underestimated.
Dr. Houston and his students – we believe – have a sense of their responsibility to history and to the truth. Time will tell if our faith is well-founded, but we are very hopeful. We would urge any resident who is asked to participate to give UoW your full co-operation, and drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org to let me know what you thought.
Our sincerest thanks to Dr. Houston and his class for conceiving of this project, and for their willingness to listen.
‘Envisioning a positive future’
After our presentation I thanked Dr. Houston in an email and shared with him a dream I had that somehow seemed just a little closer to realization after meeting him and his class. For some time now, I have thought that it would be a great contribution to Canada if the Douglas Creek Estates could one day be the site of a world class centre devoted to the study of two subjects: aboriginal history, and the rule of law with native and non-native instructors cross-trained in both subjects. I have alluded to such a centre in several VoC articles and in my October 8th speech [dial-up] at the ‘Remember Us’ March in Caledonia:
“My hope is that one day people will come to Caledonia, not to study the destruction caused by those who would do evil to other human beings for their own selfish purposes, but to learn about your culture, about the damage that was done to it, and how Caledonians – native and non-native – came together as one in the dark days to peacefully proclaim Six Nations and the rest of Haldimand County as a sanctuary from that evil.”
(VoiceofCanada to native reader, Jan 12/07)
I also explained to Dr. Houston that I had not publicly talked of my vision for DCE because Gary McHale had wisely said to me many months ago that it is not up to us to offer solutions to Caledonia. It is our role to expose the truth and to encourage leaders to use the tools they already have to do the right thing. Dr. Houston kindly replied to me, “I can relate to the cautionary note about not rushing to solutions, but I think it’s important to envision a positive future and try to realise this vision as best you can.”
Yes, indeed, let us envision a positive future and try to realize it. After our day at the UoW, and a little encouragement from a very good prof, Gary and I both agreed that perhaps it was time to share this one.
Mark Vandermaas, Editor
Co-founder, Canadian Advocates for Charter Equality