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UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 MONTREAL 000068

SUBJECT: QUEBEC GOVERNMENT CRITICISED FOR HANDLING


OF DISPUTE AT KANESATAKE RESERVE

1.SUMMARY: The Quebec government of Premier Jean


Charest is facing scrutiny and criticism for its
handling of recent factional disputes at the
Kanesatake Mohawk reserve though a violent clash
was averted (at least temporarily). After the home
of Kanesatake Grand Chief James Gabriel was burnt
to the ground, and some 60 native police officers
were held prisoner in the Reserve's police station
for 30 hours, a group of dissident Mohawks accepted
a compromise brokered by Quebec's Minister of
Public Security Jacques Chagnon. Gabriel, a
reformer who has decried the presence of organized
crime and drug trafficking on the reserve, told the
media he was betrayed by the Quebec government,
which he said had earlier pledged support.
Kanesatake (population 1400) is located 50
kilometers northwest of Montreal, near the
municipality of Oka, the site in 1990 of a 78-day
standoff between armed Mohawk Warriors and police
forces including Canadian Forces. END SUMMARY.

¶2. The burning of Mohawk Grand Chief James


Gabriel's house and the blockade of the Kanesatake
police station were apparently sparked by Gabriel's
decision to fire the Reserve's police chief and
hire some 60 law enforcement officers from 19
native but non-Mohawk tribes. According to press
reports, Gabriel's decision followed a leak that
foiled a scheduled RCMP raid. On January 7, a
communique signed by three dissident chiefs warned
Kanesatake residents that the RCMP would be coming
onto the reserve on January 11. The communique
also accused Chief Gabriel of wanting to shut down
the many tobacco shacks on the reserve where
"duty free" cigarettes are sold.

¶3. At a Montreal press conference 1/13, Gabriel


denied he wanted to eradicate the shacks, which
have mushroomed from a handful to about thirty in
less than a year, noting that in the 1990s when the
tobacco trade was threatened band members turned to
dealing in drugs. Gabriel and Terry Isaac, whom
Gabriel had hired to lead the newly created force,
said that their goal was to battle organized crime,
which they claim has a very strong presence on the
reserve.

¶4. Gabriel had the support of three other Chiefs


on the seven-member Kanesatake Band Council.
However, three dissident chiefs have tried various
means, including a recent referendum, to have Grand
Chief Gabriel recalled. On the basis of his slim
majority in the Council, Gabriel was taking steps
to reform the reserve's police force, which was
under the control of a Police Commission dominated
by dissidents. Gabriel also said he had received
promises of protection and help from the Quebec
Ministry of Public Security. However, with his
house burning, and the newly arrived police
officers held hostage at the Kanesatake police
headquarters by masked, armed men, Gabriel was
forced to flee the reserve with his wife and four
young children. Minister of Public Security
Chagnon negotiated a settlement of the stand-off
with the police commission and reinstated the
police chief that Gabriel had fired.

¶5. Premier Charest and Public Security Minister


Chagnon defended the province's actions, saying
that their first objective was to avoid bloodshed
and a prolonged standoff. Charest and Chagnon both
raised the specter of the 1990 Oka crisis, which
resulted in the death of one policeman, a situation
they didn't want to see repeated. Answering
critics who suggested the Quebec government was
caving in to criminal elements, Chagnon displayed
some irritation with Gabriel for acting too
hastily and for not sufficiently consulting all
stakeholders before bringing in the outside native
police officers. Chagnon implied that Gabriel's
evidence of organized crime operations on the
reserve was insufficient. And Chagnon also
criticized Gabriel for not mentioning to him in a
November 8 meeting that he was about to get
$900,000 from Canada's Solicitor General to help
fight organized crime at Kanesatake.

¶6. Georges Beauchemin, Secretary-general of


Quebec's Public Security Ministry (and a key figure
in resolving the Oka crisis), told Quebec City
Consul General Keogh- Fisher that the situation in
Kanesatake had been very dangerous, "with both
sides armed and ready to shoot." However, he said
that outside intervention by Quebec provincial
police would have been seen as an invasion
and "pushed good guys on the side of bad guys."
According to Beauchemin, Grand Chief Gabriel was
lucky to have escaped with his life. He told the
CG that the progressive elements ("the good guys")
are less organized than the criminal elements.
Somewhat wishfully, Beauchemin suggested that the
Mohawks need a more structured, efficient police
organization which could produce evidence that will
stand up in court in order that criminals in
Kanesatake could be prosecuted. Beauchemin believes
that such a court process would send a message to
other Mohawk communities with similar problems.

¶7. On 1/15, Quebec's top first nations chiefs


gave a press conference throwing their support to
Gabriel. Grand Chief Ghislain Picard, who is
Regional Chief of the Assembly of First Nations of
Quebec and Labrador said the first nations chiefs
were concerned by Quebec government actions, noting
that Quebec had chosen to negotiate with a minority
rather than with the duly elected majority. The
Chiefs also announced that they would be setting up
a special fund to collect money in order to build a
new home for Gabriel. Picard added that organized
crime is a problem many reserves have to confront;
he said Quebec had sent the wrong signal to
all the First Nations by disavowing a Grand Chief
who was working to fight organized crime. He added
that the Grand Chiefs will be less inclined to take
part in future coalition force operations, given
Quebec's handling of the Kanesatake situation. The
chiefs at the press conference stressed the current
situation is very different from the Oka crisis of
1990, which was set off by Mohawk concerns that a
community neighboring the Kanesatake reserve
intended to expand its golf course into a Mohawk
ancestral burial ground.

¶8. Recent newspaper articles report that


marijuana cultivation in Kanesatake is netting
various individuals millions of dollars annually,
because of the blind eyes of native police and the
reluctance of RCMP and Surete du Quebec to enter
Mohawk reserves. According to these reports, the
cultivation is spread out between several
hydroponic installations and outdoor fields. The
hydroponic greenhouses produce five or six harvests
a year and are difficult to detect because they are
heated with gas-powered generators (thereby
avoiding incriminating heavy electricity
consumption).

¶9. Comment: Cynics have suggested that Premier


Charest was anxious to avert a major crisis before
his trip to Davos for the World Economic Forum next
week. (He may have been reminded that the 1990 Oka
stand-off received considerable negative publicity
in Europe, where there is strong public sympathy
and fascination for the culture and plight of North
American native populations.) While the Charest
government's intervention may have precluded a
violent clash this week, the possibility remains
that confrontations have only been deferred. End
comment.

¶10. The Consulate in Quebec City contributed to


this
report.

BALLEN

(Edited and reformatted by Andres for ease of


reading.)