Last week, church leaders from across Ontario sent letters to the Canadian government and the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) condemning the criminalization of Land Defenders. This open letter is one of many actions that the group, 'Clergy & Laity in Solidarity with #1492LandBackLane', has taken to support Haudenosaunee Land Defenders over the last few months. With the endorsement of nearly 200 ecumenical leaders worldwide, the letter will reach the mailboxes of Justin Trudeau, Carolyn Bennett (Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations), Marc Miller (Minister of Indigenous Services), and the OPP.
The Clergy & Laity group consists of members from Mennonite, Mennonite Brethren, Lutheran, Anglican, United, and nondenominational churches, many of whom live and worship on or near the Haldimand Tract. In 1784, the British promised this region of land, stretching six miles on either side of the Grand River, to the Haudenosaunee. Since Confederation, most of the land has been unlawfully seized or sold by the provincial and federal governments. In July of last year, Haudenosaunee Land Defenders reclaimed land near Caledonia that had been slotted for a housing development project without the consent of the Six Nations community.
Over 200 days later, Land Defenders remain at the site, which they have renamed #1492LandBackLane. Despite raids from the OPP, numerous arrests, and injunctions from the Provincial Court, the Land Defenders continue to resist the occupation of their lands peacefully. Allies are encouraged to donate to their Legal Defense Fund, which has been established to support Land Defenders currently facing charges. In addition to advocacy, the Clergy & Laity Group has been standing in solidarity with the Land Defenders by donating money and delivering meals and supplies since November.
The ecumenical letter calls on the federal government to enter into Nation to Nation dialogue with Land Defenders and the Haudenosaunee Confederacy Chiefs Council. It also openly condemns the OPP’s violent attacks against the Haudenosaunee and the criminalization of all Land Defenders. The Clergy & Laity conclude the letter by articulating a powerful conviction: “As people of faith, we are committed to peace and, therefore, also committed to reconciliation.”
To read the letter from ecumenical leaders, click here.
To learn more about #1492LandBackLane, visit their Facebook page.