Mohawk Warriors vow to storm border post

Posted by admin on May 30th, 2009

By David Gonczol, Canwest News Service. May 30, 2009

AKWESASNE, Ont. — Mohawk Warriors from the Akwesasne reserve near Cornwall, Ont. say they will storm a Canada Border Services Agency post on Monday and shut down the international border crossing unless their political leaders receive a commitment from the federal government not to arm border guards at the post, which stands on reserve territory. The CBSA started arming guards in 2007, and officers at the Akwesasne reserve, which straddles the Ontario-Quebec-New York boundary, are scheduled to begin carrying 9 mm handguns on Monday. The Mohawks say they don’t want armed guards at the post because it would violate their sovereignty and increase the likelihood of violent confrontations.

“We are going to clear them out,” said Thomas Stacy, a middle-aged former professional wrestler who stood across from the border post with a small group of young men carrying large Mohawk Warrior flags on Saturday.

They kept a low profile Saturday during a peaceful rally organized by the Akwesasne Mohawk Council. About 100 people gathered at the post to demand that the CBSA not arm the guards and that their demand be sent to officials in Ottawa.

“(Sunday) night at 12 o’clock (midnight) we have to have an answer,” Stacy said.

“If that answer don’t come, that’s it. Monday is going to be the worst. That’s the crackdown. It’s going to be over. It’s going to be done. No more signing papers, no more negotiations — nothing.”

Stacy said the reserve’s political leaders have been in fruitless discussions with the CBSA and federal officials.

“We are not getting anywhere with the government. The government is going to come over here and take over everything,” he said.

The Mohawk Warriors are a long-standing group that is separate from hereditary chiefs or more modern elected chiefs and councils. Stacy said they have made it clear to the council and to the Akwesasne police that if the government does not back away from its plan, the Warriors will act.

“What we are waiting for is an answer from Ottawa. We don’t get that answer action has got to be taken by the people,” he said.

Brendan White, a spokesman for the First Nation, said the elected leadership is working toward a negotiated settlement and will “continue to make itself available to have that dialogue with the federal government.”

“We remain hopeful that the federal officials will see the need to address our concerns,” White said. “I guess we are in a wait-and-see mode right now. The community is frustrated.”

After Monday, he said, it will be “in the hands of the community.”

Howard Thompson, chief of the Mohawk Nation Council of Chiefs, representing all Mohawks in Canada, said he was worried about “someone instigating something that would get out of hand.”

“We don’t want to have to come and pick up the pieces later,” he said. “We would rather do it peacefully and negotiate something, rather than doing some kind of physical demonstration.”

“June 1 isn’t the end; it’s the beginning for us to continue to working toward not having armed customs officers here.”

Thompson said he had a three-minute meeting in a corridor on Parliament Hill last Monday with Public Safety Minister Peter Van Loan, hoping the minister would reverse the initiative.

He said the minister made it clear to him that it was an “operational decision” and that Stephen Rigby, the president of the CBSA, has the authority to stop the arming of the guards.

Thompson also met Rigby last Thursday but said it is clear the arming of the guards will proceed as planned.

Chief Larry King also met Thursday with Rigby, who rejected compromises offered by the council of chiefs. The chiefs asked that the policy be delayed for a year or until the end of the CBSA’s arming process in 2016.

“Our priority remains the safety and security of our officers and the public,” said CBSA’s Rick Comerford, in a written statement Saturday.

“As we do every day, we continuously monitor our operation to maintain our commitment to safety and security and to ensure the flow of traffic. Our managers will take appropriate action when necessary — such as additional staff.”

The Akwesasne Mohawks have held a number of rallies opposing the arming throughout the month of May. There is a large tent and a campfire set up by the protesters that will be constantly occupied until at least Monday.

The council has been told that 18 border guards from the Akwesasne post are receiving weapons training and some of them will be ready to carry them.

The Akwesasne leadership has long warned against the move in letters to federal politicians.

“We seriously consider your government’s actions in arming the (CBSA) guards as a direct assault on our sovereignty, which resonates into an act of war against our people,” wrote Grand Chief Tim Thompson in a 2008 letter to Stockwell Day, public safety minister at the time and now minister for international trade.

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