Natives want lumber for houses

By Daniel Nolan
Hamilton Spectator

CALEDONIA (Aug 30, 2006)

Natives are appealing for lumber donations to finish about a dozen unfinished homes on a disputed housing site so they can be used during the winter months for the occupation.

The appeal has outraged Haldimand Mayor Marie Trainer, who said work on the homes would violate the Ontario Building Code, but native spokesperson Janie Jamieson said title has not been settled and its either finish building the homes, tear them down or let them rot.

Meanwhile, provincial negotiator Jane Stewart and her team from the Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs is knocking on doors of Caledonia residents seeking input on the impact of the six-month occupation of Douglas Creek Estates. The former federal Indian Affairs Minister and Brant MP and her team began their quest yesterday and plan to knock on about 90 doors surrounding the disputed Argyle Street South property.

Jamieson said the state of the homes has been talked about at the negotiating table with Stewart and federal representatives in terms of site beautification. She said leaving them the way they are is not consistent with the native view of the environment and the occupiers have no intention of leaving until the land issue is settled.

"If we have that opportunity to finish them so our people won't have to sleep in snowbanks, I'd really like to see that," Jamieson said yesterday.

Trainer said proposed native work on the homes is inappropriate, given that Douglas Creek Estates is now owned by the province, which bought out developers Henco Industries Ltd.

"If the Ontario government wants to build anything on that site, they'd have to follow the Ontario Building Code," the mayor said. "There's checks that have to be followed. Our bylaw people should be enforcing it, but we're not going to tell them to go out there and put their lives at risk."

Aboriginal Affairs Minister David Ramsay was unavailable for comment. "Current and future use of the property is a subject for the negotiating table. I'm not going to get into it any further than that," spokesperson Anne-Marie Flanagan said.

She did say, however, that there is a deal in the works to compensate the six builders who built some of the homes. She expects final details to be known this week, plus a final tally in compensation awarded to Henco for selling the site. The preliminary figure earlier this summer was over $12 million.

Meanwhile, Jamieson is taking a dim view of the Catholic school board building a privacy fence between Notre Dame School and the housing site in order to shield its 500 students from seeing the occupation.