Quebec Premier François Legault said on Wednesday he has learned from “good sources” about the presence of dangerous assault rifles in Kahnawake as the railway blockade continues.
“We have information that confirms that there are AK-47s, for example,” he alleged. “Very dangerous guns.”
Legault told reporters in Quebec City that provincial police are being cautious about enforcing an injunction to dismantle the blockade for that reason. He described it as a “situation that is not easy.”
“There are people who are armed and it’s delicate,” he said.
The Mohawk Council of Kahnawake expressed its concerns over what it calls Legault’s “reckless statement” that will “undoubtedly inflame a situation that has been peaceful from its very inception.”
“The premier needs to be far more careful in his choice of words,” said Chief Kahsennenhawe Sky-Deer in a statement. “Once certain statements are made, they often can’t be taken back.
“Using terms like ‘armed’ and ‘AK-47s’ is extremely inflammatory and, in fact, dangerous.”
The demonstration is one of many nationwide blockades in a show of support with hereditary chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en Nation in British Columbia who oppose the construction of the Coastal GasLink pipeline through their territory.
While Legault has said he’s worried about the presence of weapons, members of the community south of Montreal have described the resistance as peaceful and called for discussions.
“We are absolutely shocked and totally dismayed by the comments made by Legault suggesting protesters are armed,” said Kenneth Deer, secretary of the Mohawk Nation in Kahnawake.
Earlier in the day Deer said he hopes that the Canadian Pacific Railway will withdraw its injunction to dismantle barricades. He said people do not want to see the ruling enforced.
“I wouldn’t want to see this escalate,” he said.
In Quebec, protests quickly intensified earlier this week after Ontario Provincial Police moved in to enforce an injunction to dismantle the blockade and arrested several people in Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory.
CP was granted its injunction to end blockades in Kahnawake, south of Montreal, and other parts of Quebec on Tuesday. The move was seen by members of the Mohawk community as a provocation.
The railway blockade has halted a commuter passenger train line since Feb. 10 on Montreal’s south shore. Exo, the regional transit authority for trains, is providing shuttle buses in the meantime.
While Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Wednesday that injunctions to clear the tracks “must be obeyed,” he repeated that the responsibility does not fall under federal jurisdiction.
— With files from Global News’ Dan Spector and the Canadian Press