Caledonia violence sets dangerous precedent

(Photo by Michelle Drewapic)

Between 2006 and 2008, the small town of Caledonia, Ont. was the scene of massive violence and civil unrest.

The protesters were largely native-Canadian, accompanied by many non-native supporters including students from Laurier and the University of Waterloo.

While it would seem the events of Caledonia are in the past, the Grand River Dispute is still circulating, specifically around the former Douglas Creek Estates property.

With the native population wanting to begin “revitalization projects” on this land, more protests and debates have been sparked.

The original issue involved the Haldimand Tract, land along the Grand River that was given to the Six Nations as a reward for their participation with the British in the Revolutionary War.

Supposedly, this land was unjustly stolen, although historical records show that its native owners sold the land to the Crown in 1841.

The town of Caledonia, which sits along the Haldimand Tract, has been cast in these protests as stolen native land.

Of course, it could be argued however, that the entirety of North America is stolen native land.

As a result, the townspeople of Caledonia were extensively terrorized by violent mobs in which a local bridge was burnt and there were two cases of attempted murder. In 2011, Richard Smoke was given a mere two-year prison sentence for attempted murder.

Ontario Superior Court judge Alan Whitten, who presided over the case acknowledged it as: “Just a notch below culpable homicide.”

Whitten claimed the reason for a reduced sentence was the legacy of residential schools and the disproportionately high number of incarcerated Native Canadians.

Essentially, the crime was trivialized on account of the attacker’s Native background, sending a clear message just short of “two wrongs make a right.”

When Christie Blatchford, the writer of a book chronicling the violence in Caledonia, tried to make an appearance at UW she was booed off the stage with chants from student activists calling her a racist.

This behaviour has been defended on the basis that we hurt native peoples much worse historically.

Thus, “lesser atrocities” of the present day, like what happened in Caledonia, are deemed excusable and even justifiable.

This is quite problematic as it sets a dangerous precedent that effectively declares open season on all non-natives in Canada as legitimate targets for random indiscriminate violence.

Since Kitchener-Waterloo also lies within the Haldimand Tract, the City of Waterloo would have to be considered “stolen land” just as much as Caledonia.

The Laurier and UW students who participated in demonstrations condemning the inhabitants of Caledonia are nothing shy of hypocritical.

Their guilt has taken on a selective form in which inhabitants of Caledonia can be sacrificed as scapegoats for the cause while the rest of us can go on living our lives in peace.

If we are willing to stand idly by and defend or downplay senseless violence and attempted murder, while still maintaining that we don’t deserve to be the recipients of it, we are massive hypocrites.

Many natives are understandably upset given the historical injustices they’ve faced.

But two wrongs do not make a right, regardless of which wrong was greater.

We cannot control the events of the past, but we can control the events of the present.

No amount of unhealed wounds or historical injustice can justify the attacks against innocent people that the Caledonia dispute has seen.

Reconciliation and looking to build a better future for all citizens should be the goal rather than avenging history with further violence.

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