Mohawks blast Quebec premier for false, 'dangerous' claims that Kahnawake protesters are armed with AK-47s
Published Wednesday, February 26, 2020 3:02PM EST Last Updated Thursday, February 27, 2020 11:22AM EST
MONTREAL -- Quebec Premier Francois Legault says the presence of dangerous assault rifles in Kahnawake is a reason for caution in enforcing an injunction to end a rail blockade in the Mohawk community.
Legault told reporters in Quebec City the government has information from what he called "good sources" that there are AK-47s in Kahnawake.
He says Warriors on the reserve are armed, and the situation is very delicate.
The premier says he will leave it to the provincial police to develop a strategy to officially serve the injunction issued Tuesday to people at the blockade.
Legault says he is disclosing the information because he wants the public to understand why provincial police have not yet moved in. He says he does not want to have it on his conscience that police officers were injured in an intervention.
In response, the Kahnawake Longhouse issued a statement calling Legault's comments dangerous and inflammatory. "These accusations are absolutely and totally false," the statement read, declaring that the land defenders at the site of the rail blockade were unarmed.
The Mohawk Council also expressed their "extreme concern" over Legault's comments. "The premier needs to be far more careful in his actions," Ietsénhaienhs Kahsennenhawe Sky-Deer said in a statement. “Once certain statements are made, they often can’t be taken back. Using terms like 'armed' and 'AK-47’s' is extremely inflammatory and, in fact, dangerous. It could be interpreted as an intent to incite a response.”
Former SQ deputy director Marcel Savard told CTV News that he suspects Legault made the comments to explain why the SQ had yet to move in on the barricade. "Personally, this is not the kind of information I would pass directly to the media," he said. "Maybe it's a fact that there are weapons there -- AK-47 weapons. Maybe it's a known fact, but does it serve the solution of the conflict to have this in the media?"
Public figures weighed in on Legault's comments, many suggesting that he should weigh his words more carefully. "Premier Legault is making very dangerous and offensive comments by suggesting the presence of weapons in Kahnawake," said Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador Chief Ghislain Picard in a statement. "He certainly did not consider the consequences of his words for community members who live with the memories of thirty years ago on a daily basis."
The rail blockade on the Kahnawake Mohawk territory south of Montreal was reinforced with concrete barriers and loads of rock earlier Wednesday.
The actions come after CP Rail was granted an injunction on Tuesday to end the blockade that began Feb. 8.
The secretary of the Mohawk Nation at Kahnawake, Kenneth Deer, says the protesters do not intend to end the barricade and they need to be prepared for a possible intervention by outside police.
Grand Chief Joseph Norton has said the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake is considering its options, including challenging the injunction.
Norton has said the injunction would not be executed in Kahnawake, and that the Mohawk Peacekeepers are the only policing agency with jurisdiction in the territory.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 26, 2020.
With files from CTV Montreal.