Kahnawake Mohawks defy injunction

Defiant in the face of recent injunctions Kahnawake Mohawks add cement roadblocks at the entrance to the rail line blockade on their territory across the Mercier Bridge from Montreal, Quebec. February 25, 2020. Photograph by Michael Bramadat-Willcock

The Mohawks of Kahnawake have no intention of dismantling a rail blockade on their territory near Montreal despite an injunction issued on Tuesday that one official called a “provocation.”

Defiant yet seemingly calm Kahnawake Mohawks continued to add cement barriers and bring in supplies to the blockade site.

People came and went from the scene of the blockade. Supporters chatted with Peacekeepers – the Kahnawake Mohawk police force – who were on site.

“Another day, another injunction” said one supporter on the ground. Several freight trucks honked in support as they passed by the blockade.

The Kahnawake blockade, which has restricted freight and commuter train traffic between downtown Montreal and the South Shore since early February, is in solidarity with Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs who oppose the planned Coastal GasLink pipeline that would cut through their traditional territory in northern British Columbia.

“People are still quite clear that they want to continue the blockade in support of the Wet’suwet’en chiefs,” Kenneth Deer, secretary of the Mohawk Nation at Kahnawake, told National Observer in a phone interview.

More Wet’suwet’en solidarity protests sprung up in various locations across Canada on Tuesday, a day after Ontario police moved on a weeks-long blockade by Tyendinaga Mohawks near Belleville that had shut down a major transport route between Toronto and Ottawa and Montreal.

“The whole issue has always been imposition of the will of Canada onto Indigenous peoples and their territory. We have to continue to resist,” Deer said.

Deer said that land is central to the context of conflicts between Indigenous peoples and government in Canada more broadly.

“All of these flashpoints are always about land. It’s our land. It’s our territory. How did all that land become theirs? How did it all become Canada’s?,” Deer said.

“Another day, another injunction” said supporter on the ground at Montreal area blockade. Several freight trucks honked in support as they passed by the blockade.

The prospect of a drawn out confrontation on Mohawk Territory in Quebec brings back painful memories in the province.

The 1990 Oka Crisis, also called the Mohawk Resistance, was a dispute over territory between the Kanesatake Mohawks and the Town of Oka, northwest of Montreal.

Oka planned to develop a golf course and condominiums on land that includes Mohawk burial grounds in an area called the Pines.

The Crisis lasted 78 days, involving Mohawk warriors, the Sûreté du Québec and the Canadian Army. SQ Corporal Marcel Lemay was the lone fatality.

Quebec police moved against several other disruptions on Tuesday, but not in Kahnawake. Injunctions were also issued against protests in Lennoxville in the Eastern Townships region of Quebec and Listuguj, in the Gaspé Peninsula.

Police arrested an estimated 20 people in Lenoxville as they attempted to dismantle a blockade erected on Tuesday morning.

In Listuguj, Mi’gmaq Wet’suwet’en supporters refused to leave after police approached their barricades on a railway line between Quebec and New Brunswick.

Solidarity protests also slowed down traffic during rush hour in Montreal.

Earlier on Tuesday Premier François Legault implied that the Sûreté du Québec provincial police force has been working on a plan to dismantle the barricades but did not provide specifics.

“I trust the Sûreté du Québec to take all steps necessary to act with the Peacekeepers,” Legault said at a Montreal event.

Legault has also stated that some of the Mohawks in Kahnawake are armed and mentioned the Oka Crisis. However no weapons were visible at the site of the blockade and Mohawks categorized the Premier’s statement as inflammatory.

Kahnawake Mohawks stand guard as a man speaks with a Peacekeeper at the entrance to the main rail line blockade on their territory across the Mercier Bridge from Montreal, Quebec. Blockades in Support of Wet’suwet’en have impeded rail movement between Montreal and the South Shore. February 25, 2020. Photograph by Michael Bramadat-willcock

 

The Mohawk Council of Kahnawake is considering challenging the injunction, and has indicated its own police force has no intention of enforcing it.

“First and foremost, we must make it clear to our own people that this injunction will not be executed on this territory,” Grand Chief Joseph Tokwiro Norton said in a statement.

He said it was “truly unfortunate” that Canadian Pacific sought the injunction, which he said “will only add to the problems at hand.”

”History reminds us that the proper approach to addressing issues is through dialogue and discussion – not by sending in police, he said”

The provisional injunction was granted in response to a request from CP Rail by Quebec Superior Court Justice Michel Pinsonnault.

Deer said that the injunction came as a surprise to him since he felt that their previous relationship with the railway had been positive.

He said Kahnawake Mohawk supporters intend to hold their ground and continue the blockade until Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs in British Columbia indicate they are satisfied that their demands have been met.

“They [the hereditary chiefs] want the tactical unit of the RCMP off their territory and they want the pipeline stopped while negotiations happen. That’s what they want and we’re here to support them to get to that point,” said Deer.

Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chief Woos, who also goes by Frank Alec, told National Observer on Monday that the RCMP had said it would take 16 days for them to dismantle a temporary outpost.

Deer said that it is Canada and not the Wet’suwet’en who are breaking the law by moving forward with the Coastal GasLink pipeline project without consent from the hereditary chiefs.

“People like to talk about the rule of law. The rule of the Supreme Court says that the land belongs to the hereditary chiefs […] It belongs to them,” said Deer.

Deer said that the Mohawks of Kahnawake are sympathetic to the people manning the barricades in B.C. and to the Wet’suwet’en chiefs themselves.

“It’s unceded territory. So that’s the rule of law and it’s Canada that’s violating that rule by imposing [this pipeline] on Wet’suwet’en territory without the consent of the chiefs who are the title holders of that land,” he said.

“We’re hoping that negotiations in B.C. will come to a settlement,” said Deer. SOURCE

RELATED:

Mohawks blast Quebec premier for false, ‘dangerous’ claims that Kahnawake protesters are armed with AK-47s

 

Mohawk lawyer says blockade not breaching court injunction

Seventy-nine-year-old elder, identified only as George, sits by the fire at a demonstration by Mohawk members in Tyendinaga. George has been at the blockade near CN Railway tracks since it began February 6. ALEX FILIPE JPG, BI

Tyendinaga Mohawks said in social media interviews posted on YouTube they don’t believe they are breaching a court injunction served Tuesday by a sheriff that asks the demonstrators to cease and desist to allow the CN railway to open once again.

The demonstration east of Shannonville continued into its eighth day in support of the Wet’suwet’en First Nations efforts to stop a $6.6 billion Coastal Gaslink pipeline on their lands in northern British Columbia.

In the video, the local Mohawk’s contingent staging a demonstration along the CN Railway tracks at Wyman Road level crossing, said the injunction states there should be no “damage to the tracks or the mechanisms.”

Nothing is damaged, nothing is blocked,” said the demonstrators who have declined to speak to mainstream media at the site since the political action started Feb. 6, including The Intelligencer.

The demonstration has forced Canadian National Rail and Via Rail to cancel hundreds of trains from travelling along the busiest railway corridor in the country.

In a statement Thursday, Via Rail said it is “cancelling all departures until Friday February 14 end of day on the Montreal-Toronto and Toronto-Ottawa routes in both directions.”

As of 1:30 p.m. on February 12, 256 trains have been cancelled and at least 42,100 passengers have been affected. On the Prince Rupert-Prince Georges route, 30 passengers have been impacted,” Via commented in a statement e-mailed to The Intelligencer.

At the railway crossing in question east of Shannonville, Stephen John Ford, a lawyer and member of the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte, said in a Youtube video he reviewed the court injunction filed by CN and said “from what I can tell here, there is nothing that seems on its face to violate the injunction.”

What they’re [CN] saying is that there can be no obstruction of the tracks or any damage to any of their equipment including the tracks, switches or signals or of that nature,” Ford said.

Other than the fact that there may be some people standing and being within the boundaries of the right-of-way claimed by CN, there is nothing that would violate in my view the injunction,” he said.

This may well indeed be the galvanizing issue that brings First Nations people together in a common cause against the colonization that they suffered under for the last 152 years in this country,” he said.

Support is always warranted, however, there are laws in this country. We don’t want to see people jailed,” Ford said. “And I think the Wet’suewt’en lead is the one to follow, peacefully. Peaceful resistance is the way to go. That’s what I see here.”

In a separate video, a local Mohawk resident noted the First Nations never ceded the land to Canadian National Railway and suggested the railway firm should be paying some kind of toll to Tyendinaga Mohawks for its use.

Thursday marked one week since Mohawk demonstrators occupied space beside a CN railway in Tyendinaga. As some members sat around a fire, others brought fresh firewood to keep them warm as Environment Canada has issued an extreme cold weather warning for Southern Ontario.

Wind chills near -31 were expected to begin overnight and continue on into Friday.

“We are looking at some very cold conditions throughout today and especially tonight and early Friday morning,” explained meteorologist Gerald Cheng from Environment Canada. “We are talking about windchill values reaching -31 overnight. And as people wake up early tomorrow morning, that is the kind of same windchill we are looking at.”

“When we are talking about windchill values of -21 and even lower, there is a risk to exposed skin possibly freezing in 10 to 30 minutes,” explained Cheng. “So in these conditions, we certainly advise people to dress warmly. Cover your fingers, hands, feet and even face so that your skin is not exposed for an extended period of time.”

“Certainly there is a high risk of frostbite and hypothermia as well if you’re outside for long periods of time without adequate clothing,” said Cheng. SOURCE