ONTARIO: Checkpoints go up in wake racial tensions between Indigenous and Middle Eastern students

Checkpoints went up Friday at three intersections leading to an Indigenous community southwest of London, in the wake of racial tensions between Indigenous and Middle Eastern students at a city high school.

At the checkpoints on the Oneida of the Thames First Nation, community “peacekeepers” were checking each vehicle going in. A spokesperson said the checks were prompted by social media posts indicating people were on their way to Oneida to commit arson.

“The social media was they were coming in to burn our houses down,” Darryl Chrisjohn said. “We’re protecting our own.”

The unarmed peacekeepers cautioned drivers to obey the speed limit as vehicles went through the checkpoint at Bodkin and Littlewood roads.

The effort came amid tensions between Indigenous students and those of Middle Eastern background at Saunders secondary school in London, where Oneida students study, that flared in an Oct. 1 fight between two students that prompted the Thames Valley District school board to send a letter home to parents Thursday saying it’s working to resolve the issues.

The clash, caught on video and shared online, started in a school hallway and turned physical in the nearby Westmount Shopping Centre parking lot.

Chrisjohn said he learned of the online threats Friday morning and went to Saunders to bring Oneida students home early. He said buses delivered the students home between 12:30 and 1 p.m.