Dissident Mohawk chiefs extend blockade of road near Oka., Que
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Subject: Dissident Mohawk chiefs extend blockade of road near Oka., Que.
Date: Mon, 31 Mar 2003 20:48:42 -0500
From: "Russell Diabo" <rdiabo@...>
March 31, 2003
Dissident Mohawk chiefs extend blockade of road near Oka., Que.
KANESATAKE, Que. (CP) -- Dissident Mohawk chiefs upset over a policing
deal blocked a major road on Monday near this settlement northwest of
The protesters had been blocking only one lane of Highway 344 since
last Friday, but they extended the blockade later Monday, saying federal
governments officials refused to speak with them.
Federal officials later invited six band council members to a meeting
with federal and Quebec bureaucrats, provided they first dismantle the
Mathieu Alarie, a spokesman for Quebec Transport Minister Serge Menard,
said removing the barricades was a condition of the meeting.
Indian Affairs Minister Robert Nault said he disapproved of the
blockade, without asking that it be dismantled.
"As I have often said, a government must react like a government," he
said in Gatineau, Que. "Erecting a barricade to resolve internal
problems isn't useful."
The protesters are upset that Grand Chief James Gabriel negotiated a
policing deal with Ottawa without consulting the band council.
All traffic was turned back on Monday, other than school buses,
emergency vehicles and local traffic.
Two vans, including one sporting a Mohawk flag, were parked across the
road. A tent was also erected on the site.
Gabriel warned that Kanesatake police officers were ready to break up
the blockade, which he called an illegal act.
"(We'll) put our support behind them (the police) to call in any
reinforcements that are necessary from other First Nations to support
the Mohawk police to control the situation," said Gabriel.
The blockade was put up by a group led by three chiefs -- Steven
Bonspille, Pearl Bonspille and John Harding. It has been manned around
the clock by dozens of members of the Mohawk reserve near Oka.
The policing deal ensures the current Kanesatake police force remains
in place, staffed by Mohawk, Cree and Mi'kmaq officers.
But the dissident chiefs are demanding all police officers who patrol
the reserve be Mohawks, and they want a say in the policing budget.
They also want to renegotiate a number of other deals, including
education and social-service agreements.
"The Canadian government wants confrontation over negotiation," Steven
Bonspille told reporters at the blockade on Monday.
"Confrontation is not my style, but when Canada tells us they won't
speak with the community of Kanesatake, there's nothing left to do."
Gabriel said he may ask Quebec provincial police to help native
officers end the blockade.
"If this continues, John, Pearl and Steve won't be able to control the
people at the blockade," said Gabriel.
"At this point, there's always a risk that the situation will degenerate."
Menard has provided assurances that Quebec has an intervention plan
should the situation continue for a long time, but he wouldn't make that
"We will be ready to act even to unforeseen event," he said.
Solicitor General Wayne Easter said the extension of the police
contract shouldn't pose a problem since it's the same deal that had
already been approved by a majority of the band council.
The blockade is the latest incident in the continuing governance
problems in the Mohawk community that was at the heart of the 1990 Oka
In July 1990, a dispute over a golf course on the reserve triggered a
78-day standoff with armed Mohawk militants.
One Quebec provincial police officer was killed during the dispute,
which saw armed Mohawks square off against police and Canadian soldiers.
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