Quebec Premier Francois Legault owes the community and people of Kahnawake an apology. The solidarity action taking place at the Adirondack Junction in Kahnawake has been a peaceful one from the very beginning.
For the Premier of Quebec to accuse a peaceful demonstration to be armed is completely irresponsible. He made these comments as a way to deflect to create an excuse for his government’s perceived inaction regarding the blockade in Kahnawake.
The last thing anyone wants is a repeat of the events of the summer of 1990. But for Legault to state that he has confirmed that there are assault riffles, specifically AK-47s, behind the blockade is a sad attempt to change the narrative – and to justify the use of force in our back yard.
Legault’s comments came as he has come under pressure to explain why the Surete du Quebec (the provincial police force) had not yet enforced an injunction to clear the tracks granted to Canadian Pacific Rail by a Montreal Superior Court Judge last week.
The fact of the matter is that under the tripartite Policing Agreement, the Kahnawake Peacekeepers is the only police service with the authority to enforce the injunction in Kahnawake. The Peacekeepers have also publicly stated that they have no plans to enforce an injunction in the community related to the Wet’suwet’en solidarity actions.
“We have no interest in criminalizing people for standing up for our rights,” Peacekeeper Chief Dwayne Zacharie said at last week’s emergency community meeting.
Leaders and spokespeople in Kahnawake were quick to refute Legault’s claims that there are AK-47’s behind the barricade. However, the damage was done, particularly with the French-language media. Claims like these are dangerous because it heightens the tensions of an already tense situation.
What Legault’s comments and the court injunction did was have the opposite effect than intended in Kahnawake. Once the court granted the injunction and Legault said that the SQ would be enforcing it, only served to galvanize the community’s resolve that no outside police force would be invading Kahnawake.
These comments also serve another purpose for Legault. Comments that the “Mohawks are armed” allow Legault to justify an armed incursion into Kahnawake.
Legault’s comments also give people the wrong idea about what the people standing at the Adirondack Junction are standing for. The insinuation that this is an armed protest takes away from the battle that the Wet’suwet’en against the Coastal GasLink pipeline are having, and the support that nation has from Indigenous people across Turtle Island.
Politicians have a responsibility to the public, not just to the people that elected them, to be fair and reasonable and more importantly, not to incite hate. Legault’s comments do nothing to serve the public interest, nor do they serve any purpose in resolving any issues between Quebeckers and Indigenous peoples.
In fact, Legault’s comments do more harm than they do good.