A planned subdivision at the centre of an Indigenous land dispute near Caledonia, Ont., and Six Nations of the Grand River First Nation won’t go ahead, a developer behind the project confirmed on Friday.
The news comes almost a full a year after a group of Haudenosaunee people began occupying the development site, arguing it is on unceded Indigenous land.
Losani Homes, a developer behind the McKenzie Meadows project, said Friday that deposits on properties, ranging from $21,000 to $88,000, are being returned to homebuyers in full.
Company vice-president William Liske said buyers were notified this week that "the sale agreements had been frustrated."
He said factors behind the cancellation include the long duration and more permanent setup of the occupation at the site.
He said the move was also stemmed from "the lack of any conformity with or enforcement of the court’s orders, and the failure of either government (provincial or federal) to even respond to our requests for help or intervention."
The group of land defenders has maintained a presence on the land since July 2020, despite a permanent injunction that was granted last fall and dozens of arrests.
Central to their claim is a 1784 agreement with the British, promising lands along the Grand River that the Haudenosaunee people maintain were never surrendered.
Skyler Williams, a spokesman for the camp known as 1492 Land Back Lane, said the cancellation doesn't go far enough but it marks "a small step in the right direction."
"I'm happy and excited about the announcement," Williams said Friday. "We do need to take time to celebrate these wins when we have them."
The camp set up on the proposed development site has grown to include tiny homes, community spaces and gardens, now 350 days after the occupation began.
Williams said the group plans to maintain that growth, "to make sure that our people are going to be able to be there for the foreseeable future."
He also noted that the officials from the provincial and federal governments have not attended the site to work toward a resolution in the heavily policed dispute.
"The absolute lack of leadership from both the province and the feds has been the one big slap in the face in this last year," he said.
Ontario's ministry of Indigenous Affairs and the federal ministries of Indigenous Affairs and Crown-Indigenous Relations did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 2, 2021.
Holly McKenzie-Sutter, The Canadian Press