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Court orders protesters off disputed land before constitutional arguments heard

An Ontario judge has once again ordered protesters to leave a construction site at the centre of an Indigenous land dispute, saying it must be left empty before constitutional arguments can be heard on the case.

Justice John Harper delivered the order on Friday afternoon, the latest development in a legal battle over McKenzie Meadows.

Protesters argue that the housing development near Caledonia, Ont., and Six Nations of the Grand River First Nation is on unceded Indigenous land.

They say the development violates the sovereignty of the Haudenosaunee people.

Haldimand County and Foxgate Developments both asked for injunction orders that a court granted on Aug. 25, barring everyone from the land until the matter could be resolved.

But Indigenous individuals who set up a camp on the site in mid-July have continued to occupy it, and nearly two dozen people have been arrested in relation to the dispute so far.

On Friday, Harper heard arguments from a man named Skyler Williams, who was listed on the injunction on Aug. 25.

Williams, who is representing himself, has submitted documents saying that the dispute is a constitutional issue. He also said he would continue to ignore Harper’s order from Aug. 25 to leave the site.

Harper found that Williams is a “protest leader,” citing Williams’s social media posts from the demonstrators’ camp.

The judge said that Williams cannot participate as a litigant if he doesn’t recognize the court’s authority and continues to ignore its orders.

Harper then ordered all protesters to leave the McKenzie Meadows site before any constitutional arguments are heard.

After the judge delivered his order Williams argued that he can’t be held responsible for the actions of other protesters if they refuse to leave the site.

Officers have been charging those at the camp at McKenzie Meadows since Aug. 5, mainly with mischief and disobeying a court order.

Police also say that seven people, including Williams, were arrested, released, and then arrested again for occupying the camp.

Among those charged are members of the Six Nations of the Grand River First Nation and Tyendinaga First Nation, as well as residents from elsewhere in the province.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 9, 2020.

John Chidley-Hill, The Canadian Press

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