A Monumental Failure:Gary McHale and the ongoing antagonism of Six Nations

By Alex Balch

On the eve of the fifth anniversary of the reclamation of Kanonhstaton (“The Protected Place”) by members of the Haudenosaunee Six Nations, a stand-off occurred between roughly a dozen supporters of self-proclaimed “law and order activist” Gary McHale and a crowd of approximately 100 demonstrators. The larger group had assembled to block McHale from stepping onto the contested area - once envisioned as the future site of the 40 hectare Douglas Creek Estates (DCE) subdivision, but nowadays much more famous for its role as a frontline in the battle for Indigenous rights in Canada.

An outspoken opponent of what he calls Canada’s “two-tiered justice system”, McHale has been involved in agitating around the so-called “Caledonia crisis” ever since shortly after the conflict broke out in 2006. His past stunts have included attempts to put up Canadian flags around the reclamation site, the formation of “concerned citizen” groups such as Canadian Advocates for Charter Equality (CANACE), various rallies and lawsuits, and even the failed formation of a “citizen’s militia” - ostensibly intended to carry out citizen’s arrests against Natives. It was in response to this latter stunt that the Six Nations Solidarity Network (SNSN) and the CUPE 3903 First Nations Solidarity Working Group (FNSWG) first began organizing counter-demonstrations, bringing in non-native supporters from around southern Ontario in order to disrupt McHale’s carefully crafted media portrayal of a victimized white community under siege by lawless Natives.

The latest episode in this saga played out on Feb 27th, when McHale attempted to hold a unilateral “Truth and Reconciliation” ceremony at the reclamation site. This ridiculous misappropriation of language consisted of McHale and his supporters carting out a crudely fashioned “monument to equality” and attempting to place it on the DCE in a cynical effort to promote confrontation for the corporate media cameras. The Stanley Cup-shaped wooden sculpture featured calls for apologies from the OPP and Six Nations to the people of Caledonia, and had a Canadian flag jutting prominently out from its top.

But McHale doesn’t confine himself to traditional appeals to patriotism and justice; his is a [i]progressive[/i] fascism. Evidently reading from the same right-wing playbook as Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck, McHale has consistently misappropriated the language of black civil rights leaders in an audacious effort to frame working class whites as the victims of race-based policing; by branding the occupation of the former DCE as an attack on the people of Caledonia and therefore on Canada’s non-native population as a whole, he is then able to parrot the restoration of “law and order” as the solution to this invented crisis. According to Katherine Milley of the FNSWG, this explains why “right-wing extremists and white supremacists have long been supporters of Gary McHale.”

As evidence, Milley points to the fact that “Paul Fromm, one of the leading white supremacists in Canada, and best known for his support of Holocaust denier Ernst Zundel, has advertised McHale-led events on the neo-Nazi website Stormfront.” She also notes that McHale’s rallies have subsequently been attended by known white supremacists, including Fromm himself, and that CANACE co- founder, and fellow “rule of law” activist Mark Vandermaas has been cultivating ties with the Jewish Defense League (JDL) – a group listed by the FBI as a “right-wing terrorist organization.”

Despite what he may tell the cameras, McHale by no means speaks for the entirety of Caledonia; his efforts to stir up trouble have created mixed reactions amongst the local population. While his message resonates with some folks, many others resent the idea of an outsider (McHale lives in Binbrook, and he is originally from Richmond Hill) coming in and trying to present himself as their unelected spokesperson. The focus of the counter-demonstration strategy has been to deescalate tensions in hopes that the people of Caledonia and Six Nations can join forces to put pressure on the Canadian government to settle the long-standing land claims that lie at the root of the dispute. A leaflet authored by the SNSN, entitled [i]To the People of Caledonia[/i], noted that McHale’s rally on the 27th was nothing more than “an attempt to produce more confrontation and conflict.

“Whenever things quiet down and people attempt to move on with their lives, reconciling and dialoguing with one another in their daily activities, McHale rolls in town to fan the flames of conflict and aggression. Putting up his so-called monument in front of DCE is nothing more than an attempt to antagonize the OPP into arresting him so that he can continue to claim martyrdom, and/or attempt to provoke the people of Six Nations into some act of violence that he can then use to paint them as ‘terrorists’.”

In a growing trend, McHale’s efforts to inflame the situation were largely unsuccessful - though he was granted generous assistance in this regard by assembled media outlets eager to sensationalize the incident. A brief report by CTV framed the gathering as a raucous, confrontational shoving match - before adding the hasty caveat that the day’s events were “largely peaceful”. These types of skewed journalistic practices are, of course, standard fare in our contemporary “if it bleeds it leads” advertisement-driven mediascape; while the corporate media outlets were only too happy to lap up McHale’s incessant talking points and Vandermaas’ failed attempt to place the monument on the reclamation site, they were very selective in their representation of the pro-Six Nations activists. The group of individuals and representatives from CAW Local 27, the Christian Peacekeepers Team (CPT) and No One is Illegal who spoke on the subject of colonialism, treaty obligations, race and privilege didn’t fit into their pre-packaged narrative, and were therefore completely ignored.

In spite of this fact, the day was a resounding success for those who came out to oppose McHale and demonstrate their support for the people of Six Nations. Unable to escalate the situation to a level that would justify his sense of victimization, McHale was left looking like the hysterical shit-disturber that he is. And despite their promise to return in one month’s time, McHale’s supporters looked demoralized -and, frankly, ridiculous - as they carted off their six-foot tall wooden apology box and went home.

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