Mohawk chiefs blast Toews over suggestion vigilante gun violence legitimate against smugglers

first_imgAPTN National NewsOTTAWA-Public Safety Minister Vic Toews’ suggestion that citizens living near the Canada-U.S. border around Akwesasne could use armed, vigilante justice if they encounter smugglers has drawn rebuke from Mohawk chiefs.Earlier this month, Toews told property owners along the St. Lawrence River in south-western Quebec that his government was planning to change laws to bolster the right of people to use self-defence to protect their property, according to a report.He suggested they could use a gun if there was a “legitimate” reason, according to the Ottawa Citizen.The Mohawk Council of Akwesasne issued a statement Tuesday saying Toews’ comments were “disturbing.”Akwesasne Grand Chief  Mike Mitchell said the Conservative government should be promoting peace, not vigilante gun violence.“Guns are not the answer,” Mitchell said, in the statement.  “As we have learned in past years, we should be promoting peaceful resolution at all cost.”During the meeting with property owners, Toews heard stories of smugglers burning or vandalizing the property of residents who refused to cooperate, cottages being invaded and smugglers offering large sums of cash to residents to keep quiet, according to the newspaper report.Toews suggested they could use guns on the smugglers if there was a “legitimate” reason.“We’re changing the laws on self-defence and your right to protect your property,” Toews told the gathering. “I’m not advocating that people use (guns) but if there’s a legitimate….”Organize crime groups attempt to exploit the jurisdictional tangle around Akwesasne to move illicit goods north and south across the river.The area is also the epicentre for the black market tobacco trade which carves smuggling routes for drugs, guns and illegal immigrant smuggling.The Canada-U.S. border cuts through the Mohawk community. Some parts of Akwesasne that are in Canada can only be accessed by crossing into the U.S. The Ontario and Quebec border also slices through the territory.Toews, however, has refused to meet with the Akwesasne chiefs who believe they can help control smuggling through their territory, Mitchell said.“Akwesasne has been asking for a meeting with Minister Toews since the beginning of his term, and the answer has been a consistent ‘no,” said Mitchell.  “He has refused, and yet was photographed making statements about Akwesasne for this article just a few miles from our territory.”Toews, however, told the Citizen that Prime Minister Stephen Harper was “personally aware” of the border situation and wanted it “dealt with.”Toews also confirmed that the federal government had decided to move the Canadian port of entry currently in Cornwall, Ont., to Massena, NY.He said the government was in talks with the U.S. on the issue.A U.S. State Department cable released by WikiLeaks revealed that the federal government had asked the U.S. to allow Canada to place its border post on American soil.Canada Border Services Agency shut down the original border post in Akwesasne in 2009 after Mohawks said they would not allow armed border guards on their territory.The border crossing was temporarily shut down for several weeks, severely impacting the economies of Cornwall and northern New York State.The border post is currently operating at a temporary location at the foot of the bridge linking Cornwall to Cornwall Island, which is Akwesasne Mohawk territory.Toews’ office could not be immediately reached for comment.last_img

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