Things have been quiet at 1492 Land Back Lane, the planned subdivision in Caledonia that has been occupied by Indigenous land defenders since July 2020.
But the legal dispute between Foxgate Developments and the Haudenosaunee-led group continues, with the developers set to return to court on Monday seeking to reclaim the 25-acre property on which they had planned to build over 200 homes.
The site has seen clashes with police by land defenders who claim the territory as unceded Haudenosaunee land on the Haldimand Tract — a claim the developers reject.
The OPP has arrested dozens of supporters who visited the disputed property, most of whom have had their charges dropped. These days, about 20 people live on the land in tiny homes set up near community gardens and young trees.
“It’s still about giving space for Mother Nature to do her work,” Land Back Lane spokesperson Skyler Williams of Six Nations told The Spectator.
“It’s quite the thing to be able to build and grow a community around this movement.”
Monday’s Superior Court hearing at the Cayuga courthouse is essentially a legal do-over of an October 2020 hearing that saw Justice R. John Harper grant Foxgate a permanent injunction barring unauthorized personnel from the McKenzie Road site.
An appeal court later determined Harper erred by barring Williams from the proceedings. The higher court ordered a new hearing, which will be led by a different judge.
Williams and his lawyers, Meaghan Daniel and Aliah El-houni of the Community Justice Collective, are expected to argue the Canadian Constitution guarantees Indigenous treaty and inherent rights, and governments have corresponding duties to First Nations where those rights are engaged.
Legal submissions are also expected from Foxgate, Haldimand County and the province.
The federal government was invited to participate but chose not to, which Williams found disappointing.
“Canada has continued to stay mute on the entire subject,” he said. “Money talks. So these big developers and this pro-development Ford government is continuing to push for our lands to be developed.”
A spokesperson for the developers previously told The Spectator that Foxgate “has never opposed” Williams’ participation in the hearing.
“The completion of a final judgment in the injunction proceedings is an important step to definitively proving Foxgate’s legal right, title and ownership of the lands,” said William Liske, vice-president and chief legal officer for Losani Homes, one of the companies in the Foxgate consortium.
The two-day hearing could have broader ramifications for other Indigenous land defence actions.
“If the injunction isn’t granted, this could be a very significant precedent,” El-houni told The Spectator, explaining that the court could confirm the Crown’s duty to consider Indigenous rights before deciding whether to grant developers permission to build.
“All of this could have been avoided if our community had been consulted with in a real way,” Williams added, noting Foxgate only consulted with “the pro-development group, which in this case is band council.”
If, however, the court grants Foxgate the injunction, Williams said he and others at Land Back Lane are worried about the police again trying to clear the site as they did in August 2020, when officers fired at least one rubber bullet while making arrests.
“There’s definitely some nervousness, knowing what transpired last time,” Williams said.
“There’s a pathway towards peace here, and it doesn’t come with a guy with a badge on his chest. It comes with nation-to-nation negotiation.”
J.P. Antonacci, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Hamilton Spectator