‘War’ looms over the fight for inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women: Mohawk

By Kenneth Jackson
APTN National News
Prime Minister Stephen Harper has been warned.

According to Mohawk activist Shawn Brant, Harper has to the end of the month to call a national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women, or face a direct conflict led by the Mohawks of Tyendinaga.

Brant says he’s gathered support from his community, Ontario chiefs, organizations and grassroots activists to pressure the federal government to call an inquiry.

Brant wrote a letter to Harper this week and gave a copy to APTN National News.

“It is our opinion that all diplomatic means to convince you of the need for an inquiry have failed,” wrote Brant. “Further, the tears and sadness of the families left behind have not moved you to any position of compassion.”

Brant doesn’t give Harper a deadline in the letter but told APTN it’s the end of the month. He “sadly” could see this action turning into a “war” with Harper.

Brant is known for blocking rail tracks, bridges, roads and highways.  But Brant says this time, he will push his protests to the limit, because of the importance of an inquiry.

He’s gone to jail before because of blockades and has said he never wants to go back.

In this case, he said there is no option for failure.

“I don’t have the option on that – the door has already been closed. It has to be to a resolution,” he said “If I die on the vine, then I should be happy for such a proper issue.”

It’s not the first time the father and husband has said he’s willing to lay his life down to fight what he believes to be injustices against Indigenous peoples.

But when he speaks of missing and murdered women, he seems especially committed.

“This is an issue where all other issues that people stand for can fall in behind this. If we’re successful in dealing with this, given the disrespect and unwillingness of the government to deal with it in a meaningful way, all other issues will be resolved, as well, including fracking, education and healthcare funding in First Nation communities,” he said.

Brant said the identities of his supporters will be made public as the campaign unfolds. But he’s seen alleged supporters turn their back on him before.

In 2007, he blocked Hwy. 401 for 11 hours in both directions, along with the rail lines and local road, during the so-called national Day of Action.

Brants says the Mohawks of Tyendinaga were the only ones to step forward despites others like former Roseau River chief Terry Nelson saying he’d block rail and roads too in Manitoba.

Instead, Nelson took a land deal offered by the feds and was nowhere to be seen on the day Brant was facing off with police on the pavement of the busiest highway in Canada.

This time around, Nelson, who is grand chief of the Southern Chiefs Organization in Manitoba, says he backs grassroots on thefight for missing and murdered.

“I support activism on this issue but it doesn’t always need chiefs, the people can push issues on their own, not have to wait for permission from anyone,” he said.

The blockade caused about $100 million in “economic damage,” according to a secret 2008 Canadian Security Intelligence Service memo obtained under the Access to Information Act, as previously reported by APTN.

The Assembly of First Nations called for the Day of Action by former national chief Phil Fontaine but pulled away in the lead up to it. Fontaine then disavowed actions like blockades.

In the end, Brant says he and his people were left standing alone.

Gladys Radek has put her support behind Brant after years of trying to raise awareness for the missing and murdered through walks and trips across Canada.

“Joining up with Shawn is the only way of pushing this forward,” said Radek, who’s niece went missing in September 2005.

– with files from Jorge Barrera

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