The federal government has made an offer of $125 million to Ontario’s Six Nations to resolve four outstanding land claims. This offer sends a message to natives everywhere in Canada that the rule of law will not be enforced and that occupations will end with a cash offer. With June 29th looming, when native communities have planned a national day of protest, governments should make it clear that they will not negotiate with occupiers. A starting point would be to present the Six Nations a bill for the costs incurred during the Caledonia standoff.
Six Nations protesters have been occupying the disputed Douglas Creek Estates land development project since February 2006. Police tried and failed once to remove the protesters. Since then, no further effort has been made to remove occupiers and taxpayers have been left on the hook for tens of millions in related costs. Governments need to send a strong and clear message that they are serious about settling outstanding land claims. But they must also make clear that they will not negotiate with occupiers, that the rule of law will be enforced and that costs will be taken out of settlements. If they don’t, the national day of protest may become a national day of fear.
Civil disobedience is one thing, but it comes with consequences. And those consequence should be enforced. The Six Nations should be no exception. In the future, occupations should be treated the same everywhere and the rule of law enforced equally.