Mohawk political prisoners of Kanehsatake sentenced

Posted by admin on Jan 20th, 2006

Mohawk Nation News. Jan. 20, 2006. The Mohawk political prisoners of Kanehsatake were sentenced on January 20th 2006 in St. Jerome Quebec. A stacked white jury had found them guilty of “rioting and confinement”. They stood up to 67 paid mercenaries who invaded their community on January 12th 2004. A mercenary is a paid soldier. Payment had come through a stolen private corporation illegally funded by the Solicitor General of Canada with Canadian tax dollars. They were hired to make an end run around the legally constituted Kanehsatake Police Commission. Former Public Security Minister, Jacques Chagnon recently affirmed in a CBC Radio interview, “These mercenaries were very heavily armed”.

* Investigations are not complete.

Were those 30,000 bullets or 30,000 rounds of ammunition? There are only 1,500 people in Kanehsatake, including the elderly and newborn babies! How many bullets does it take to kill a Mohawk anyway?

Chagnon was shocked by the arsenal that was later found. A minister has a right to assume that information he is being given is complete and accurate and that operations are being conducted according to the law. He publicly declared that the Kahehsatake raid was illegal and had never given his permission for what happened.

Chagnon raised serious questions. Jeff Boro and Daniel Lighter, the lawyers for the wrongly convicted Kanehsatake defenders, filed a motion asking Judge Duval Hesler to vacate her convictions and re-open the trial because of this new evidence. They pointed out that they had asked on countless occasions for disclosure which was denied them by the Crown, Francois Briere. Chagnon’s announcement was proof that the legality of the mercenary commando raid was in question.

This is what MNN and the audience that filled two courtrooms and filed into the halls saw. The other reporters didn’t seem to see anything. Even though the Liberals are at the point of collapse because of corruption, they did not report on the main issues.

* Solicitor General backed operation

The illegally funded Canadian foreign legion got a $900,000 grant from the Solicitor General’s Office. Their operations were guided by the Quebec Police and RCMP. How deep does corruption go in Canada?

When the interlopers entered the Police Station on that cold morning, they were surrounded by a crowd of elders, women, children and unarmed citizens. At the time none of them knew where the funding came from. But it was obvious that something was fishy. The community’s Police Commission had been completely ignored. The whole situation revived queasy memories of the (Quebec Police) and Canadian army invasion that provoked the Oka Crisis of 1990. Instead of defending law and order and investigating the legitimate concerns of the people, renegade chief James Gabriel got the Crown Prosecutor to lay charges. At the trial the jury let off all the women and went after the men. Now these men are going to jail.

* Supporters filled the court

Hundreds of supporters, student activists, family members and media were there. There were dozens of cameras, radio and television reporters. The defendants arrived in a white stretch limo and waved the warrior flag to the cheers of the crowd as they entered the court house. The area was surrounded with heavy duty police. The doors were guarded by cops with guns and big guts, looking like extras from a “Dukes of Hazzard” remake.

* New evidence presented

Boro started the hearing by providing the Judge with a way out. Chagnon had gone public. Boro pointed out that Judge Duval Hesler could vacate her convictions and re-open the trial to ensure that justice was done. He diplomatically downplayed the Crown Prosecutor’s chronic suppression of evidence. Lighter listed the demands.

Crown Prosecutor, Francois (who has it in for the Mohawks) Briere seems to have found his calling. He once trained for the priesthood, but God wasn’t his thing. Rumors circulate at Kanehsatake that he had worked as an advisor to James Gabriel. If the rumors are true, this could be very partisan indeed.

Lighter concluded that he could cry about the injustice of the convictions if the motion is not granted. Judge Duval Hesler said, “No need. Consider it done”. To her it was just an opinion. Two Gazette newspaper articles and the taped Radio Canada interview of Chagnon were entered as evidence. The mood in the courtroom was hopeful. It looked like the guys carrying their Indian luggage – plastic bags with a change of underwear in case of arrest – were unduly pessimistic.

It was open to Briere to support this move in the interests of justice. The court could then have adjourned and set a new date to review the new evidence.

Instead Briere went for the jugular. He refused to acknowledge the justice of the submissions he had just heard. He claimed his suppression of evidence was irrelevant. It looked like he wanted to avoid hearing from people who knew what had really happened behind the scenes. Briere made all kinds of excuses for his own incompetence by admitting he was disorganized, didn’t have enough staff and had no investigators. “We did our best”, he claimed. Well, he got the results he wanted. Criminal convictions are supposed to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

He whined on and on saying, “We have passed the 11th hour”. By now the crowd was getting nervous. He obviously wanted to throw these guys in jail. The big red lips painted on Judge Duval Hesler’s face spread into a ghoulish grim like the Cheshire cat in “Alice in Wonderland”. The sight drove a dagger into the hearts of the mothers and children in the

Lighter said, “Hey, this is not Texas! Are you suggesting that the switch be pulled?”

* Ignoring due process and new evidence

The need to reopen the trial was obvious. Briere ignored it, even though he had new evidence himself. He read out an internal RCMP “memo” that allegedly showed Chagnon had once supported the operation. Briere claimed this made it a legal attack. He said, “The Minister is not a member of the bar”.

A new trial would have given the court and the jury a chance to review the evidence properly and bring in witnesses for cross-examination.

Lots of new evidence has come to light since the trial. Attorney General of Quebec, Bernard Roy, has signed an affidavit stating that the goons didn’t follow the law. Jacques Beaupre of the (Quebec Police) investigated and reported on the Kanehsatake takeover. He felt that the operation was illegal. Chagnon said it took place without his permission. These are 3 authoritative opinions that this operation violated Canadian law.

Judge Duval Hesler ignored the new evidence coming from both sides. She said that she relies on a Band Council Resolution as the authority for the attack. A BCR is an internal document. By law a warrant is needed for such an operation and they didn’t have one.

It looks like lie after lie to cover up a lie. It’s looking more and more like the final decision for the attack was made right from a building on top of a hill with a good view of the Ottawa River. The Mohawks continue to wonder what’s behind it all. Why were mercenaries sent into Kanehsatake? She ignored the legally constituted Police Commission.

The scales of justice are blind and deaf. A judge is supposed to hold the scales of justice and balance the points of view of all parties. What this judge did was to hop onto Briere’s side of the scale and knocked him right off. Sentences are supposed to be based on precedents so everyone is treated fairly. The most Briere thought he could ask for was 4 to 6 months. Judge Duval Hesler decided that wasn’t enough because the Mohawks were not apologetic. She doubled and tripled the maximum sentences.

* Judge Duval Hesler’s 20 minute sermon (on the mount)

Judge Duval Hesler had pre-written planned out reasons. She sat like a preacher giving a sermon. To the audience it sounded like she was saying, “We colonial settlers won’t accept backtalk from you Injuns. The ex-Minister’s comments don’t mean anything to me. See here, I’m the boss. It’s okay for police to take a “gang busters” made-for-television approach. Yah, it was extreme, but that’s no excuse”.

She said, “This case is not about ethnic conflict. It’s about the rule of law”. We Mohawks agree. What did she think the fuss was about? The goon squad was illegal.

We also agree that it is important to listen to and respect other points of view. This is what our constitution, the Kaianerehâko:wa, is all about. Judge Duval Hesler was completely blind to what things look like from our side of the track. She gave a biased characterization of the events and ignored very significant evidence. She didn’t want to hear about the concerns of the people who were worried about the illegal occupation of their police station.

The Mohawks were reasonable and calmly gathered around the police station to express their concern over the attempted coup. They had no part in the burning of James Gabriel’s house. Her repeated mention of this incident was highly prejudicial. She claimed that the tractors that arrived shook up the whole building. The building is still standing unscathed. Judge Duval Hesler failed to mention that the illegal GI Joes inside were armed to the teeth with high calibre weapons. As Chagnon said, the illegal army had all the weapons. The worse harm she could cite was the interception of a pizza delivery. The protestors paid for the order and ate it. “They were so nasty”, she said.

The back doors were also blocked by heavy equipment. The shovel on the payloaders were pounded on the ground to try to get the attention of those inside. Someone might even have pounded the ground with a baseball bat. There were no injuries and property damage. Judge Duval Hesler did not mention the drumming outside and the singing. People started a fire to keep warm and make coffee. The people acted with impeccable restraint at all times. This is a riot?

The illegal goons didn’t come out for 73 hours. Kanehsatake has been held hostage for over two centuries. Judge Duval Hesler made it clear that the state of siege is not about to end. The local police commissioners went in and out trying to resolve it. Finally the Kahnawake Peacekeepers came in and escorted the legionnaires out. Judge Duval Hesler said, “So the trial convicted 13 out of 19 criminals”. To her every Mohawk is a criminal.

* It goes both ways

If she really believes that respect for the law is fundamental, why doesn’t she look into the mercenaries’ occupation of the police station? If she wants a peaceful and safe society, why did she threaten us by throwing kerosene onto the flames of community discontent?

* They are unremorseful

Judge Duval Hesler accused us of being “rehabilitatable” and “unremorseful”. Is she? She hasn’t shown any remorse for her flagrant racism! She wanted revenge. Because she was in a position of power, she got it. At the last hearing, she wanted them to apologize to those rotten chiefs and their hired guns. They refused.

“These criminals are not open to other points of view. They don’t know how to criticize themselves”. Hey! Look in the mirror, lady. She’s got enough for all of us ten times over. To add insult to injury, she ridiculed one defendant’s effort to heal the wounds in the community. He had put out a one-page photo copied newssheet in Kanehsatake. What did she expect, The New York Times? People in Kanehsatake don’t live on judge’s salaries. Judge Duval Hesler didn’t like the criticism of the illegal council. She should read the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms which guarantees freedom of opinion. She seems to think there’s something wrong with us just because we won’t agree to accept colonial oppression.

The sentences she dished out got heavier as she went on. The first sentences were for unlawful assembly. Some got a conditional discharge and had to make a $500 donation to a legally constituted colonial charity. Others had to do community service and pay fines of $500 to $1000, which could be turned into jail terms if unpaid. She probably wants them to go to her place and clean out her shed and scrub her bathroom floor.

Then she got onto the “rioting and forcible confinement”. She declared, “This shows contempt for legally constituted authority”. She called their actions, “a violent show of force” meant to scare the living Jesus out of these goons. Swearing and sticking your tongue out scared her dear mercenaries who were armed to the teeth with the latest military guns and gizmos. “We could send you away for 10 years”, threatened the power drunk judge. She seems to think that the “might makes right” legal system deserves respect because it has the big guns (Editor’s Note: I’m not a lawyer, but I believe the threat to “send you away for 10 years” refers to the 5 year maximum sentences in the Criminal Code for “rioting” and “forcible confinement” respectively).

There was whispering among the audience, “Gee! Is this what democracy means? That judge makes it sound like a dirty word”.

“There are other ways to be heard without taking the law into one’s hands”, she declared. Sure, you have the big budget public relations company constantly pouring out Mohawk bashing propaganda so no one will listen to us.

* The sentenced

Our convicted and sentenced heroes are: Stewart Conway, Keith Cree, Joseph Daye, Bradley Gabriel, Gary Gabriel, Milton Gabriel, Robert Gabriel, Gordon Lazore, McDonald T. Nelson, Hubert Nelson, Allister Nicholas, Francois Pinsonneault and Terry Yaxley.

Judge Duval Hesler obviously wanted controversy and reaction. She did not take her own advice about following the rule of law. We thought we heard her say, “Don’t you know? There’s a special law for you Injuns.”Sentencing for rioting and forcible confinement were given out in quick succession. Terms were for three, four and six months. When she sentenced cousins, Robert and Bradley Gabriel, to 12 months, the crowd gasped in shock and horror.

The audience jumped up and started yelling. One screamed at Judge Duval Hesler, “You racist bitch”, “Nazi”, “Eva Braun”, among other colorful epithets.

Robert’s 14 year old daughter ran up to kiss her dad good-bye. The guards tried to hold her back. The audience let her through.

The judge’s body guard reached into his pocket for his gun or for comfort. “Are you gonna shoot us?” someone asked.

* Bound but unbowed

As they were escorted from the prisoner’s dock, they remained calm and raised their handcuffed fists over their heads to cheers from the crowd. “Don’t give up the fight” they told us. The audience in both courtrooms broke into cheers and applause.

The Judge turned to our lawyers, “Can’t you control your clients?”

“Our clients arenât out of control”.

Judge Duval Hesler was in over her head. The case was not about “rule of law”. It was about “Might makes right”. The big guns win. She closed the session and then ran out of the court room.

It was to resume in 30 minutes in the other courtroom. One of the fat guards turned to John Harding who had been sitting quietly in the back of the second court and said, “You have to leave”. He left quietly without comment. The white middle class university students were shocked and said, “Is this democracy? This is ridiculous!” They went out and organized a loud rally in the hallway.

In the same courtroom someone said, “Liberal judge! Conservative judge! Any way you look at it, you always get the other end of the stick.” Everyone laughed.

Once the first courtroom was cleared, Judge Duval Hesler reconvened the hearing. She quickly sentenced Gordon Lazore and Gary to 15 months in jail and declared the hearing over. Someone asked a question about the meaning of a “conditional discharge.”

The prisoners and their lawyers were gone. Briere complained that there had been no probation order made against some of the sentences. Boro pointed out that the men in question and their lawyer were absent. Judge Duval Hesler was undeterred. She jacked up their sentences by tacking on probation orders. Does this mean that a judge can tack on anything they please even though a trial is over and you are gone?

During her sermon Judge Duval Hesler had just said “there can’t be reconciliation without introspection” and being open to other viewpoints”. What about you, lady? Let’s put you in the slammer for a while. Maybe you can learn some introspection. Try walking in a Mohawk woman’s s moccasin. Has she ever had 30,000 rounds of ammunition aimed at her children? The nightmares are real for those who live in them.

* The Sentences

For rioting and forcible confinement:
15 months in jail: Gordon Lazore, Gary Gabriel
12 months in jail: Robert Gabriel, Bradley Gabriel
Six months: Hubert Nelson
Four months: Allistair Nicholas
Three months: Terry Yaxley

For unlawful assembly:
$1,000 fine: Francois Pinsonneault
$600 fine: T. Nelson McDonald
$500 fine and 50 community hours: Joey Daye

Conditional Discharge, $500 charitable donation:
Milton Gabriel, Keith Cree, Stuart Conway

* “Unbiased” Comments from Supporters

Ariwahkete said, “It’s a continuation of colonialism.”

Holding a warrior flag in front of them, the Mohawk youth said, “We are the next generation. This is one of the strongest flags you will ever see.”

Another said, “They got the wrong people. These goons came with arms to our community to kill us. It was supposed to be a massacre. Why aren’t they on trial?”

John said, “30,000 bullets divided by 1,500 people! Enough said!”

Sonia from the disbanded Police Commission said, “This is malicious prosecution. There was no disclosure to the defense to prove that this was a legal attack. Even after Chagnon revealed they had a huge arsenal. They had every intention to kill us. They had total disregard for the people. The federal government is responsible. The 67 should be charged criminally, along with James Gabriel, Doreen Canatoquin, Marie Chene and Clarence Simon. This process is complete shit.”

Another said, “Our guys are heroes. (Prime Minister for now) Paul Martin is a terrorist”.

* Crowd control

The crowd chanted, “We demand a public inquiry and an investigation into the whole matter”. An appeal has been filed. A bail hearing is taking place on Monday, January 23rd in the Montreal Court of Appeal.

Judge Duval Hesler wanted to show our young people that colonialism isn’t dead. She’s worried that colonial society’s efforts to colonize us are a dismal failure. “Hey guys! Don’t you feel you’ve done something wrong?” we thought we heard her ask.

The Indigenous Sage, the Great Red-X, has advice for times like this on how to avoid rehabilitation, which is really brainwashing. “Always be true to your own people, no matter the punishment or the foreign laws used to try to kill your spirit. Keep yourself in good condition because the next generation is watching you. They need you to be a good example.”

Our men remained stoic throughout, while we loudly voiced our opinions. Our anger shows our refusal to accept colonial mistreatment was valid, even after Judge Duval Hesler revised her sentences and made them stiffer. We told the system we will keep resisting genocide and will tell the world about it.

If Judge Duval Hesler wanted drama, she got it good. (Black Eyed Peas: Lovely Lady Lumps).

“Hey lady, whatcha gonna do with all that junk, all that junk inside your trunk. Lie, since you won’t listen to the evidence. Whatcha gonna do with all that colonial junk. I am a’gonna get you drunk, make you scream, make you scream”.

* New definition for “rioter”

Jeff Heinrich of the Montreal Gazette is working on a new legal definition of the word “rioter”: “anyone who objects to illegal use of force in the name of the law”. He was either asleep at the wheel or is involved in the plot. He missed the big story. Hasn’t he noticed that the rule of law was trashed by Canadian politicians, cops and bureaucrats?

The Indigenous people are sick and tired of media defamation. Maybe the rule of law is too complex for ordinary Canadians to understand, or maybe it’s the media that doesn’t explain it properly. The media is supposed to educate the public. Instead it’s dumbing them down.

* The end for now

True, the mercenaries did suffer the unrequited lust to disrobe an all-dressed pizza. All she could say was what sounded like, “15 months for you. 9 months for you. 12 months for you. None for me”. 67 cops all crowded into that small police station. Were they going to try out all their new weapons? Is that what it was all about? Or was the pepper spray the spice of choice for their pizza?

Kahentinetha Horn
MNN Mohawk Nation News
Kahentinetha2 at

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