Saturday, October 11, 2008

Ontario Chiefs to Harper, Charest

Ontario chiefs criticize Quebec police action in blockade

Jorge Barrera , Canwest News Service

Published: Saturday, October 11, 2008

An Ontario chiefs organization has sent letters to Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Quebec Premier Jean Charest condemning the actions of the Surete du Quebec for using force to clear an Algonquin blockade Monday in northern Quebec.

The letters, dated Oct. 10, calls on Ottawa and Quebec City to follow the advice of the Ipperwash Inquiry, which probed the events of a First Nations occupation in Ontario that led to the shooting death of Dudley George, a native protester shot dead by an OPP officer.

"The leadership of the First Nations of Ontario are very concerned regarding the approach taken by the Surete du Quebec against the Algonquins of Barriere Lake," said the letter, signed by Angus Toulouse, Ontario regional chief with the Chiefs of Ontario. "Resorting to aggressive police action is clearly regrettable and further does not address the root causes of this situation."

Toulouse said Ottawa and Quebec City should open talks with the poverty-stricken community of about 650, which is currently embroiled in a leadership dispute.

The Algonquin Nation Secretariat, an umbrella group that represents the Algonquins of Barriere Lake, also criticized police action in a letter to Charest dated Oct. 8.

The Algonquins said a three-year-old girl was hit by a tear-gas canister fired by police during the blockade. They also accused the police of attacking elderly demonstrators.

The SQ said police fired canisters containing a chemical irritant, not tear gas, at the crowd and that paramedics said that no one was injured.

Nine people were arrested and charged with mischief.

The blockade, set up about 300 kilometres north of Ottawa, was organized by a portion of the community in an attempt to pressure the Department of Indian Affairs into backing a new leadership selection process. The group, led by former acting chief Benjamin Nottaway, says current Chief Casey Ratt took power through a flawed process.

The community follows a traditional leadership code.

Nottaway's supporters also want Indian Affairs to honour a signed deal giving the community a say over the development of 10,000 square kilometres of their claimed territory.