Kahnawake Grand Chief Joe Norton says his community is willing to send in police officers of its own to Wet’suwet’en territory as RCMP step back from their patrols in the region in an effort to calm tensions that have sparked weeks of nationwide protests.
In an interview with The West Block‘s Mercedes Stephenson airing on Sunday, Norton explained the offer as one that could help to keep tensions from escalating as the RCMP and Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs continue with talks aimed at resolving conflicts over a Coastal GasLink pipeline planned through the region.
“The Mohawk Council of Kahnakawe has talked about the possibilities of sending a delegation of our police officers, our peacekeepers, to Wet’suwet’en territoriy to help with policing matters — for a short time period, of course,” said Norton.
“Maybe it’s good to have somebody else, another eyes on the ground Indigenous police force to help calm things down.”
Norton said scenes of what he called “brutality” from the RCMP in how the force arrested activists opposing the pipeline when it carried out an injunction on the traditional territory last month sparked anger among many Indigenous people and that the protests have been responding to that.
He called the current situation “difficult” and said that he continues to hope the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs opposing the pipeline can reach a peaceful solution with federal and provincial ministers on how to move forward.
“A fair and honest, peaceful way of settling matters — that’s what I’m striving for,” he said.
Norton added that recent violence by some activists who lit fires on the railway tracks through Tyendinaga and threw rocks and pieces of wood at oncoming trains are not something he can condone.
“It is dangerous, very dangerous to the individuals themselves, and we hope that would not continue,” he said, noting the actions could cause Ontario Provincial Police to step in and take further action.
“It is also dangerous in terms of derailment or something of that nature.”
His comments come as Crown-Indigenous Services Minister Carolyn Bennett and her B.C. counterpart resumed talks Friday with the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs.
Bennett also appeared to leave the door open to a potential meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, something the chiefs have called for.
While talks had been expected to wrap up on Friday, it’s not unclear if they could continue through the weekend.
Norton also addressed comments made by Quebec Premier Francois Legault earlier in the week that have sparked accusations of racism by some.
Legault told reporters on Tuesday that he had “good sources” that there were “very dangerous guns” in Kahnawake, including AK-47s, and that was part of the reason why police in the province had not moved in to remove the blockade put up by the community.
He did not provide proof for that statement and has refused to apologize for it.
Norton said the accusation is not true and suggested Legault was “beating the drum” for the Quebec National Assembly.
“No, it is not true,” he said.