CALEDONIA A Six Nations protester warns a blockade of Highway 6 will recur if there is another flare up between the RCMP and natives protesting shale gas exploration in New Brunswick.
Members and supporters of the Haudenosaunee Men's Fire blocked the highway Thursday for more than four hours to show their anger at the RCMP's attempt to enforce a court injunction on members of the Elsipogtog First Nation.
The move turned violent and the Mounties said at least 40 people were arrested for firearm offences, threats, intimidation, mischief and violating the injunction.
Six Nations demonstrators supported their east coast brethren and were also upset there were women and children caught up in the RCMP action. They began the blockade at about 3 p.m. at Highway 6 and Fifth Line, just south of the Caledonia bypass, but ended it at about 7:30 p.m.
"The RCMP backed off from what we hear, so we made a point," said Kawaowene, a member of the Cayuga nation, as demonstrators piled into cars and left the highway.
"If they do anything more, we're going to do more. We're going to make a more permanent stance on this. If a blockade goes up here again, it won't come down for a long time."
Ontario Provincial Police were encouraging motorists to be patient with traffic delays and to find alternative routes. Police closed the bypass and diverted truck traffic east on to Greens Road, just north of town.
Members of the OPP provincial liaison team also responded to the scene to work toward a peaceful resolution. The team responds to major events involving First Nations issues, visits by dignitaries and situations where there is a potential for conflict.
Constable Mark Foster said the demonstration involved about 40 people, but Kawaowene and some of his fellow demonstrators said a few hundred people filtered through the site throughout the day.
"This whole road was blocked solid and there were cars on both sides of the road," said one man accompanying Kawaowene.
They said the Men's Fire notified the OPP it was going to block the highway in solidarity with the Elsipogtog First Nation.
Members of Six Nations have not been hesitant to demonstrate since natives occupied a Caledonia housing project in 2006, claiming it was built on unsurrendered land. The situation remains unresolved.
Highway 6 was blocked twice in 2008 over the OPP arrest of a native man in Brantford and in support of natives occupying a quarry near Deseronto. The Men's Fire has been involved in a land claims protest in Hagersville.