Quebec Premier’s weapons comment could have ‘damaging effect,’ Mohawks say

Indigenous leaders in Kahnawake and beyond are calling Quebec Premier Francois Legault’s comment about demonstrators at a railway barricade being armed with AK-47’s “irresponsible,” “reckless,” and “worrisome.”

For two weeks, demonstrators have held vigil at a camp running parallel to a CP rail freight line just south of Montreal, shovelling snow onto the tracks, erecting signs and flags, and tending a fire while maintaining they are unarmed and peaceful.

However, those holding place at the protest site were subjected to increased media attention after the Ontario police intervention outside the Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory, especially after the Kahnawake barricade was reinforced with gravel and concrete medians ahead of a possible confrontation with police.

Legault’s comments are only compounding that fear, council chief Kahsennenhawe Sky-Deer said during an emergency press conference held Wednesday night.

“When you make statements like that, they can’t be taken back,” she said, addressing both community members and media.

Earlier that day, Legault told a group of reporters gathered at the National Assembly that the provincial government had safety concerns for the officers tasked with dismantling the barricade, as a “good source” had informed him of the presence of heavy artillery on the territory.

“The police, they have to dismantle the barricades – but they have to be careful,” Legault said. “Because we have some information about the fact that there are some offensive guns that are on the reserve.”

Legault’s office did not respond to a request for comment before deadline, however, both demonstrators and authorities say Legault is inciting fear in order to force an intervention by provincial police.

But it’s the Kahnawake Peacekeepers that have jurisdiction on the territory and who are tasked with enforcing the injunction granted to CP Rail – one that the Mohawk Council says it will challenge.

“People have this persona of us standing there with guns and arms, then the pressure is going to be, well, just do what you did in Tyendinaga on Monday,” Sky-Deer added. “And that’s not what we want to see.”

Ghislain Picard, chief of the Assembly of First Nations Quebec and Labrador, said in a statement that the Premier is “throwing oil on the fire,” while explaining that Legault “continues to favour a confrontational and oppressive approach” as well as an “obvious belief that white people’s law is superior to First Nations.”

Legault isn’t the first Quebecois figure that Picard has chastised for making inflammatory comments as the blockades persist.

Last week he spoke out when Montreal- based radio analyst Luc Lavoie suggested firefight to lift the blockades.

In French, he told colleague Bernard Drainville that a “.45 shot between the eyes will wake [them] up, or put [them] to sleep for a long time.”

First Nations leaders believe Lavoie’s remark constitutes hate speech, and publicly called for his resignation.

Despite a lukewarm apology by Lavoie, leaders say his words, like Legault’s, reek of fear-mongering.

Kahnawake Mohawks are adamant that violence and political ill-will could escalate tensions before land defenders do.

“I have a hard time imagining the Peacekeepers doing anything that would provoke confrontation,” said Kenneth Deer, Secretary for the Mohawk Nation at Kahnawake.

“They’re wiser than some other police forces,” Deer added.

Reporter / Montreal

Lindsay was born and raised on the unceded territory of Tiohtià:ke (Montréal), and joined APTN News as a Quebec correspondent in 2019. While in university, she collaborated on a multiplatform project about the revitalization of the Kanien’kéha (Mohawk) language to commemorate the International Year of Indigenous Languages. Before APTN Lindsay worked at the Eastern Door, CTV Montreal and the Montreal Gazette.


2 thoughts on “Quebec Premier’s weapons comment could have ‘damaging effect,’ Mohawks say

  1. Shooting at our aboriginal groups ain’t doing anything for the province of Quebec Canada or Canada , That’s not the answer , We all need sit down and have a great conference and deal with the solution in the tables , Big Meeting . Federal Government and there Ministries of Province of Canada .

  2. One hopes these demonstrations continue to be peaceful. There is actually a great deal of support for the indigenous resisters among the general population. The numbers of police dispatched to a very, small group of protesters here in Lennoxville (Sherbrooke) last weekend, was generally viewed as overkill by the onlookers, and everyone remained silent watching the protesters being led away to a cruiser, one at a time. No cheering for the police, but words of encouragement for the protesters. The sad reality is, the police have been militarized. I would not say they looked happy about what they were doing. The protesters would be slaughtered in a violent confrontation. History has shown that the agents of power, such as the police, have opted to ‘break ranks,’ and join the protesters. Should they do say, the state is severely challenged, often to the point of collapsing. I am thinking this is a better way to proceed. The general population is also under economic pressures, and the worst is yet to come. Note that the US Fed chose not to pump more worthless money into the ‘Ponzi scheme’ known as the US economy. The amount of worthless, paper money in the system is now 3 times greater than the US GDP. When the US economy collapses, and it will, the imperial empire goes with it. Nothing unites ordinary people more than the specter of hunger. That is the time to make a move against power.

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