McGUINTY FUMBLES AT CALEDONIA

When is the last time there was a decent Liberal leader in this country? It sure hasn’t been in my lifetime. No wonder there always seems so much to be done when a Conservative government comes to power.

Watching the Michael Coren show earlier this week, I was happy to see somebody trying to explain and expose just what is going on at Caledonia, Ontario. As somebody who lives east of Toronto, I have no indepth understanding of the causes and underlying issues surrounding the native protest at a housing project in that town and welcomed a show that would perhaps shed some light on the history of the land at the centre of the dispute.

I was somewhat surprised when Michael had to explain to us, the viewers, that he had scheduled guests from the first nations people involved in the land dispute, but none had bothered to show up. After confirming their appearance and then reconfirming and changing some of the names, Michael was finally assured that his guests were on their way.

By start time, still no confirmed first nations guests. Instead, the show commenced with a member of the Caledonia Citizens group and a few other assorted guests, including a Liberal MPP. What ensued was a frank discussion of the issues at hand and how there has been absolutely no assertive action by the government, either federal or provincial, in the opinion of the Caledonia citizen present.

The one facet of the issue that stood out was the fact that the Ontario government of Dalton McGuinty has not only dropped the ball, but does not want to pick it back up.

Reports of harassment and intimidation of Caledonia residents are not being acted on as someone has instructed the police to be, for the lack of a better term, peace keepers. We don’t want to upset lawless individuals. Maybe if we ignore them, things will cool down. Is that the new law of our land?

After the melee that ensued at the beginning of this month in which several cameramen were assaulted and a police officer shot at, police laid charges of assault and attempted murder on several native protesters. Dalton McGuinty’s office stated that they would not come back to the negotiating table until those sought had been arrested and until the native’s barricades were taken down. Dalton McGuinty’s government, never known for its integrity, blinked last week and resumed talks with the native protesters even though some arrests were still forthcoming. As a result, the government has lost a great deal of credibility.

Finally fed up with the inaction and the pace at which things were moving along, a busload of Caledonia residents headed to Toronto Wednesday to get the attention of Mr. McGuinty as he attended the Premiers Conference in Toronto. After 116 days, the residents have had enough.

When pressed about progress at Caledonia and whether the government was getting anywhere, the premier said that “progress has been slow but it is undeniable”. The message from the residents having to endure harassment and racial discrimination is that progress has been undeniably slow.

Six Nations Confederacy spokesperson Janie Jamieson has, as of today, officially rejected Dalton McGuinty’s call to leave the former residential development site. (It is now the former site as Ontario has come to an agreement with the title holder of the land which will see the provincial government buy back the property.)

Janie has said that they won’t really know the government is serious until their title and jurisdiction is reinstated. I would suggest that maybe removing the protesters by force with the help of something called tear gas would also convince her.

Instead, the province continues to cower in the face of controversy and confrontation and shows no sign of assuming a leadership role any time soon. After all, we wouldn’t want to make it look as though Mike Harris had the right idea now, would we?

Speaking of which, I wonder how the Liberals finally solved the Ipperwash crisis? It’s the strangest thing. The Provincial Parks website says it is still closed today. What is that now, a decade?

With so much inaction, the message that is being received by first nations people is that occupation works in Ontario. I wonder where the next one will occur.