A photo by Dave Stock shows police Training and Rescue as well as Emergency units responding to the take over of the Wahta Cultural Centre yesterday. (Dave Stock Photo)
A group of protestors who took over the Wahta Cultural Healing Centre says they left the centre nearly 12 hours before police finally removed a roadblock.
The centre was occupied by protestors from the band who are claiming mismanagement of funds in the millions of dollars among other issues at the reserve, which is located near Bala.
The roadblock yesterday on Muskoka Rd. 38 (Doug Crosse)
Dave Stock, spokesperson for The Grassroots People of Wahta told MyMuskokaNow.com that he and the other members of the group left the council chamber of the building around noon yesterday.
The OPP was controlling access to Muskoka Regional Road 38 at Highway 169 in Bala and had the road blocked off completely between Wahta Roads 3 and 5 by early afternoon yesterday. Armed OPP tactical squads responded to the area and established a perimeter. It remained in place until after midnight this morning.
In a brief release to the media issued at 1:40am this morning, the OPP says, “Police have concluded operations for the night and have reopened Muskoka Road 38. The investigation into the persons involved in this incident continues.”
Stock says they had taken over the council office as an unarmed group, but a call to the OPP by a council member indicated his group had weapons.
The OPP responded with an armed tactical unit and closed the road until the early hours of this morning.
Stock says they left when he was made aware of an assault on his wife by Band Councillor Lawrence Schell.
“What happened is one of the councillors came up and assaulted my wife,” claims Stock. “When he assaulted my wife there was all kinds of things that were going to happen.”
In a statement on his Facebook page Stock says in part, “While Band Councils, under the Indian Act, have been empowered by the federal government to deal with matters such as the regulation of bee-keeping and noxious weeds, they have also been given the authority to dispense with our lands and our inherent and Treaty rights. This is not acceptable.”
Stock goes on to paint a picture of financial mismanagement.
“Our action today is occurring at a facility which has undergone over a million dollars in renovations, complete with contracts given to cronies, backroom deals, and cash under the table. It is called a “Cultural Healing Centre” but the name masks the injustice which has been perpetrated here. Band Councils cloak themselves as “First Nations governments” to give themselves a legitimacy which is denied by the people they claim to serve. When injustice occurs, the federal government simply claims that they recognize the right of self-government and look away.
Stock is not revealing his location as he knows he will be arrested. He is facing sentencing for weapons and drug conviction at Bracebridge Superior Court on Monday. He plans to attend that sentencing hearing.