Recently a prominent member of the Six Nations business community, who supports the HCCC and HDI said to me, "I used to see you all the time in Zehrs [large grocery store close to the barricade], but I don't shop there anymore. It makes things much easier". I did not bother to respond because there was no use in saying anything. I suspect that the real reason that some do not shop in Caledonia any longer is that since 2006 they feel uneasy about the barricade and DCE - and would not feel entirely welcome at a store so close to the "danger zone". A solution is to pretend they don't shop in Caledonia any longer, but in fact shop there, but at non peak times.
I tend to shop at "odd hours" at Zehrs and most of the people I see shopping there at that time are Six Nations members. Six Nations are well treated in Caledonia. They only have to ensure that they present their "Status Card" prior to the first item being rung in and they get all the tax perks, programmed into the store computers, that most of us only dream about. Six Nations folks at the lower end of the Reserve in particular are not going to give up going to Tim Hortons, or to Canadian Tire, or Shoppers Drug Mart (for example). A few, particularly those who would be instantly recognized as militants, and whose faces have been shown in various YouTube videos, believe that they will not be welcome at any time of the day, so of course do shop elsewhere.
So how about Six Nations businesses? I am not talking about the contraband tobacco shacks - they will continue to do a booming business because as a rule, their non-native smokers customers care about only one thing - price. According to another blogger, the most frequently asked google query that brings viewers to his site: "is there sh*t in native cigarettes". Good question - shows what people think - the potential down side to the low prices.
The following article entitled, Land claims band Caledonia businesses together, appears in the online version of "The Sachem" seen here. It discusses the continuing land dispute at DCE in terms of the effect on businesses locally.
On the Caledonia side of things, the general manager of the Grand Erie Business Centre had the following to say:
“Businesses in Caledonia, especially from a retail perspective, are working more closely together than they ever did before and they have to,” said Wayne Knox, general manager of the Grand Erie Business Centre. “People have re-invented their business. They had to survive and the only way they could do that was to band together.”
Knox said the strong have survived, but not everyone was able to wait for the economic climate to improve.
“Many businesses moved out because they couldn’t wait for business to recover,” Knox said. “I think the trades people are still having to go, to some degree, out of the area to get business that they lost. Even (real estate) lawyers lost business because Douglas Creek Estates never did get developed.”
Many businesses found relief in the Caledonia class action lawsuit, which started in June 2006. But before the $20-million settlement was reached in July 2011, business leaders took matters into their own hands.
Knox said the business centre, along with the BIA, Chamber of Commerce, Caledonia Marketing Collective and Haldimand County, have worked to push the message that Caledonia is open for business.
“It’s our goal to make sure that Caledonia is represented in a proper light and to market Caledonia and area as an opportunity for people to come and shop,” said Ken Parr, president of the Caledonia Chamber of Commerce.
Knox said that while, overall, he believes the Caledonia business community is a stronger community now, “it’s still lacking the extra business from visitors who are still afraid to come to Caledonia.”
But the impact on Caledonia businesses is only one part of the story.
On the Six Nations side of the equation, the same source (Knox) reports, But the impact on Caledonia businesses is only one part of the story.
While business leaders said negative publicity has affected commerce in Caledonia, businesses on Six Nations and Mississaugas of the New Credit have also felt the sting.
“People used to go on the reserve without even thinking about it,” Knox said. “Now, they’re cautious about going on the reserve because they think it’s dangerous and it’s not. And Caledonia is not dangerous.” However, perception is reality!
David Vince, CEO of the Two Rivers Community Development Centre – the business centre that services Six Nations and New Credit, said that businesses “lost a significant portion of their off-reserve customer base.”
Vince said that businesses on the reserves have bounced back somewhat, but those involved in personal services, trade and retail, excluding tobacco, are still feeling the blow from 2006.
“A lot of the customer base has not come back,” he said, adding that demonstrations at Douglas Creek Estates that grab media attention are changing the shopping habits of off-reserve customers.
“We have had (businesses) who have lost up to 50 per cent of their revenue from losing a number of (off-reserve) commercial or larger clients,” said Vince, adding that some bigger businesses are coping by looking for clients in other areas like Hamilton.
But for smaller businesses on Six Nations, those options are not available, he said.
“If people are concerned about visiting Six Nations and New Credit, there’s very little (small businesses) can do to overcome that,” Vince said. “This is going to take a collective political community initiative (to solve).”
So basically businesses, especially at Six Nations and New Credit, have taken a serious hit. There is no use in sweeping the matter under the carpet or sugar coating it. If 2006 could somehow be put behind us .............. But that is not possible. How do you forgive and forget when there has been NO APPOLOGY for the violence and intimidation that was truly gruesome. In my mind, "no apology, no peace". I suspect that I am not the only one who shares this opinion. How can you forgive and forget when every day you see the burned out trailer, the empty power lines, the hideous barricade made of materials stolen from Hydro One, and the provocative Mohawk Warrior's flags which signifies one thing - militancy and violence! The Confederacy flags also remind us, if the "Welcome to Six Nations" sign did not catch our eye, that those behind the barricade believe that the property owned by the taxpayers of Ontario is theirs. Any attempt to place a Canadian flag or an Ontario flag in that location has been met with violence. The source of the problem is the HDI and their supporters, and what the HDI is doing at the barricades is making life quite miserable for business people anywhere in the Haldimand and Brant areas - more so for Six Nations than Caledonia business. Perhaps it is time that the good people of Six Nations say enough is enough and take steps to neuter the group that is taking such a big bite out of their business and hence their family income.
However the HDI is not the group to which Mr. Knox assigns blame, rather it is, “The whole issue hasn’t been created by the natives and it hasn’t been created by the people of Caledonia,” Knox said. “It’s been created by inappropriate political action.”
While a political resolution seemingly remains elusive in the short term, on the ground level, local business leaders are taking it all in stride.
The Councilor for Caledonia weighted in saying, “People need to recognize right across the country that this is not an issue that was brought forward by the residents of Caledonia,” Grice said. “I think if you dig down deeper and really look at the issue and what’s really happening, you can separate the negatives from the positives.”