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Labour and community show solidarity with 1492 Land Back Lane

Union members join solidarity action at 1492 Land Back Lane
By: 
Carolyn Egan

November 9, 2020
On a beautiful Saturday afternoon in Caledonia, Ontario cars began to arrive in a parking lot on Argyle Street South. They came from Brantford, Hamilton, Aurora, Toronto and Kitchener. Members of the United Steelworkers gathered with others from CUPE and the Ontario Federation of Labour to walk past the Ontario Provincial Police cars lined up on the road‎ to a barricade made up of an abandoned school bus and car. It had been set up by Haudenosaunee Land Defenders in a dispute with developers over stolen land.
 
They have been in a stand-off with the OPP fighting for their treaty rights and have suffered arrest and harassment. Their land is a sacred trust handed down to their nation for generations, and they intend to maintain it for their children, grandchildren and generations to come.‎ Labour activists and Caledonia residents came out to show their solidarity.
 
When the trade unionists and socialists walked the kilometer to the encampment that had been set up they were warmly greeted. There were elders, children and people of all ages cooking food, playing games and enjoying the November sunshine. 
 
Skyler Williams is a spokesperson for the Land Defenders who have been occuping the disputed area for over one hundred days. He said that if they leave, they will lose it forever and that they intend to stay until they win. He's a member of the Iron Workers as is his father and uncles. He said, "It's trade unionists and Indigenous people who know what to do with injunctions." His father who was present just received his fifty year anniversary watch as a union member. 
 
Logan Staats, an award-winning singer born on the reserve, gave a concert‎ for those who had assembled. He sang, among other compositions, songs that spoke movingly of his people's struggle and their right to their land. Kahsenniyo Tahnee Williams delivered a powerful spoken word performance, and the National Director of the United Steelworkers, who was urged to attend by rank and file members, was asked to speak. He pledged the support of the union and made a donation to the legal defense fund on behalf of the members.
 
This action and others across the country from coast to coast from the Wet'suwet'en to the Mi'kmaq are part of a growing movement of Indigenous peoples who are fighting for their land and water against big capital. As Merv King, a Steelworker and Algonquin activist said in the car driving back to Toronto, "This is an historic moment. We have to continue to build the solidarity among trade unionists and First Nations. If we do, we have the power to win."
 
• Support for legal fund can be made here: https://www.gofundme.com/f/legal-fund-1492-land-back-lane
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