A decade-long entry to info struggle by Amnesty Worldwide has uncovered paperwork the group says reveal a deep-seated bias in how the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) dealt with the Mohawks land dispute in 2008.
“From the very beginning we think the response to the land occupation and protests in Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory were vastly disproportional to any credible evidence of any threat to public safety,” stated Craig Benjamin, who works for the human rights group.
“Do I really think the OPP are there for public safety? Absolutely not,” stated Dan Doreen, a Mohawk land defender, who was on the frontlines of the land reclamation in Tyendinaga.
“Does public safety encompass Indigenous people? Absolutely not.”
Larry Hay is a Mohawk investigator based mostly in Tyendinaga. He labored with Amnesty Worldwide to look at the OPP actions.
He stated that is nonetheless very a lot a reside problem for his group.
“Why is it important ten years on to move this forward? Because these issues have never been addressed,” stated Hay.
Hay is a former RCMP officer and former chief of the Tyendinaga Mohawk Police.
“What happened here in 2008, here Tyendinaga at the Culbertson Tract turned out to be an example for police of how not to manage an Indigenous protest,” stated Hay.
The Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory, in southeastern Ontario, sits on the shores of the Bay of Quinte, framed by Freeway 401, the practice tracks to the north and two small cities on both aspect.
In 1995, the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte filed a land declare for a 900 acre (364 hectares) space referred to as the Culbertson Tract. Roughly a 3rd of it’s farmland, nevertheless it additionally consists of half of the small city of Deseronto, which borders the reserve.
“All the important part of the town is on stolen land,” stated Doreen.
The land declare continues to be beneath negotiation.
Again in 2007, the Mohawks had already protested a allow granted by the province to an area developer for a quarry within the land declare space.
They occupied the quarry website and shut it down.
Watch: Dan Doreen describes a dialog he had together with his father about shutting down the quarry
That occupation was nonetheless happening a yr later, when one other property developer introduced plans for 200 housing models in Deseronto, in one other space that’s half of the land declare.
“It was always about the land and it was stopping development of the land,” stated Doreen. “And we did that.”
The 2008 protests and police actions largely occurred out of the general public eye.
However by way of freedom of info, Amnesty Worldwide has accessed paperwork together with officer’s notes, briefing books, police interviews, and pictures recorded by the OPP – video by no means earlier than seen by the general public.
“Do you need 200 police officers to address a situation which is at most one of mischief? Or perhaps one where no laws are being broken?” requested Benjamin.
The OPP deployed the Public Order unit, the Canine unit, a helicopter and the Techniques and Rescue Unit (TRU), generally referred to as the sniper squad or swat group.
Watch: Craig Benjamin talks about “disproportionate” and “dangerous” police response
He stated the preliminary determination to take care of such a heavy police presence in Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory reveals bias and a scarcity of neutrality.
“You’re sending a message to your own officers that they are not in a situation where they are providing protection to people who are sincerely trying to assert their rights,” stated Benjamin.
“But you are dealing with potentially violent individuals who require the highest level of police response.”
Benjamin stated the political panorama influenced police actions.
The federal authorities accepted the land declare in 2003. The Mohawks have all the time needed the land returned. However Canada’s coverage on settling claims is to supply monetary compensation.
And so whereas negotiations at land declare tables inched ahead again in 2007 and 2008, authorities’s message to land builders was “business as usual.”
That was clear in an OPP audio recording of an interview with property developer Theo Nibourg in April, 2008.
“Government tells us it’s business as usual and we can proceed as we see fit,” Nibourg advised an OPP detective 10 days earlier than the blockades started.
“The OPP looked at an arbitrary federal policy which was to refuse to take action to return the land. And the OPP interpreted that as being the law,” stated Benjamin.
“To say it was ‘business as usual’ only perpetuated the myth that nothing was going to happen anyway so let’s just carry on and ignore the Mohawks’ concerns,” stated Hay. “And that sets the police up to basically educate their own officers that these Mohawks are law breakers; that they don’t have a right to be there. It’s just wrong to do it like that.”
The OPP’s stability between the rights of personal property holders and Indigenous rights is additional highlighted in an change between Theo’s son, Emile Nibourg, and an OPP detective.
In an audio recording, Nibourg made it clear he wasn’t involved in urgent expenses against the Mohawks for a minor confrontation on April 11, 2008.
“It’s almost like these white people sticking together against the Mohawks and that’s not being objective,” stated Hay. “That’s not a police officer’s role.”
Probably the most critical confrontation occurred days after the blockades ended. The OPP made sudden arrests of Doreen and three different Mohawk males close to the occupied quarry.
The state of affairs turned risky when an OPP officer noticed a younger Mohawk man with a stick, and thought it was a gun.
Standing in his kitchen in Tyendinaga, Hay flipped by means of photographs Amnesty collected by means of its entry to info requests.
They have been taken on April 25, 2008 displaying OPP officers with assault rifles aimed on the Mohawks.
“We came within a hair’s breadth of having a repeat of what happened to Dudley George at Ipperwash,” stated Hay.
In 1995, the Objiway land defender was shot and killed by an OPP police sniper, a member of the TRU group, during a land occupation at Ipperwash Provincial Park close to Sarnia, Ontario.
An inquiry into the demise of Dudley George examined the actions of police and the Ontario authorities. Within the spring of 2007, the Ipperwash Report was launched; it included 100 suggestions to keep away from a repeat of the lethal violence.
Watch: Larry Hay says what occurred in Tyendinaga can be an early check for the OPP. One they failed
The OPP stated it has addressed all of the suggestions aimed toward policing. Particularly to the Culbertson tract reclamation in Tyendinaga, the OPP stated it “recognizes all interests of the involved parties” and the appropriate to lawfully protest.
The OPP supplies coaching for bias-free policing, and cultural consciousness. It employs a framework to information police actions in what it calls “Aboriginal critical incidents.”
However it’s clear from officers’ notes and different paperwork, that the OPP seen the Mohawks as violent criminals, Hays stated.
“It’s been my experience,” stated Hay, “there’s always a heightened threat perception by police the minute there’s an Indigenous protest and particularly when the word Mohawk is used in the same sentence.”
Amnesty Worldwide has requested for a probe or unbiased evaluate of police actions in Tyendinaga.
Each the OPP and the Ontario Ministry of Group Security and Correctional Providers have refused.
The OPP and the ministry additionally refused interview requests from APTN Investigates.
Amnesty Worldwide is pushing for police accountability, solutions, and an apology to the Mohawk individuals concerned.
Dan Doreen isn’t optimistic.
“I can’t thank Amnesty enough for fighting for the answers that we’re never going to get because it puts the story out,” stated Doreen.
“I want the story to be told so that people realize and people know that when they go out and defend the land how they can protect themselves and expect what’s going to happen.”
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