The Electric Pencil

Oh, those uppity Indians!

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Today in La Presse, and on the Cyberpresse site, Denis Lessard signs an article entitled A-30: affrontement appréhendé avec les Mohawks about the Quebec government’s apprehensions over a possible confrontation with Mohawks over the completion of Highway 30 in southern Quebec.

The article is headed by a photo taken during last year’s stand-off betwen Ontario Provincial Police and members of the Six Nations community near Caledonia, Ont. We don’t know if the person, wearing a gas mask, is aboriginal or not, only that a Mohawk flag is flying behind them (image below).

The piece goes on to describe how, after nearly a year of consultations with leaders of the Kahnawake community, construction on the final part of Highway 30 is set to begin. And while the MNA from the area, Jean-Marc Fournier, actually feels the local Mohawk community is in favour of the project because of the jobs and contracts it has created, others in the government, according to Lessard, see ‘flashing red lights’ and a potential for problems.

The thing is, there’s no proof in the article as to why there would be problems, and no response from members of the Mohawk community concerning how they feel about the project. Instead, Lessard proceeds to raise the spectres of the 1990 Oka Crisis and the Caledonia stand-off, without any real reason why we should expect to see any conflict at all. Even more ludicrous is the following:

Déjà, au début de l’été 2007, l’autoroute 30 avait été momentanément bloquée, et les Warriors avaient installé des drapeaux sur la structure du pont Mercier, qui se trouve un peu à l’ouest de la zone sensible actuellement.

Lessard forgets to mention that the actions last summer were part of a National Day of Action called by the Assembly of First Nations. While not all First Nations leaders agreed with the actions, they were hardly spontaneous acts of confrontation. There is no reason to believe that this protest in some way foreshadows any future protests.

What Lessard does point out is that the highway runs through land claimed by the Mohawk nation, and that Andrew Delisle, the chief of the Mohawk Grand Council, has asked the government to come to the table to negotiate aspects of the cigarette trade and online gambling websites based out of Kahnawake. It seems Lessard has seen the letter sent by Delisle: he is able to say it is two pages long and written entirely in English. If there was any kind of threat, we could presume he would mention it, but he doesn’t.

Articles like this are frustratng to read. Not only is it based on so much circumstantial evidence and rumours that it hardly seems newsworthy in the first place, but it plays into a recurring mainstream news stereotype that indigenous communities are irrational and jump for confrontation at the drop of a hat. The result isn’t a better informed public, but one which continues to believe that First Nations communities cannot be trusted.

Written by Tim McSorley

May 16, 2008 at 6:46 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with , ,

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