Barriere Lake Chief Casey Ratt’s house was recently burned to the ground in a dispute over power and control of the tiny Algonquin community. It is a method that is not only criminal and stupid, it seems to be the new way to voice displeasure within Aboriginal communities – and that is very frightening.
Although the Surete du Quebec could not confirm which type of accelerant was used until their investigation is complete, there is no doubting that this was done by one or more sick individuals.
Ratt had run-ins with former Acting Chief Benjamin Nottoway ever since he was appointed as hereditary leader of the community in March of this year, making Ratt a target right from the beginning.
The opposition even went so far as to erect a blockade to try to keep Ratt and his opinions out of the community.
The incident, although vastly different in context, was eerily similar to one that happened in the Mohawk community of Kanesatake a few years ago.
On January 14, 2004, 65 Aboriginal police officers from various reserves were held captive for hours inside the local police station by angry protestors. The police were apparently sent to crack down on cigarette shacks and drugs in the community.
The end result was Grand Chief James Gabriel’s house was burned to the ground, forcing him to flee. Luckily, no one was killed.
Thugs who have no regard for human life are responsible for these incidents. They look at public safety as a four-letter word. They turn their noses up at laws created to protect our people – and they get away with destroying people’s lives. It is ultimately one the most callous violations when all of your possessions and mementoes are destroyed because of your beliefs.
Regardless of what people think of both men, the criminal act of burning down someone’s home and destroying their worldly possessions is cowardly
and they should be punished justly. It is important to come down hard on these criminals to set an example that we will not take this type of intimidation.
The 1999 Supreme Court Gladue case compels judges to take into account an individual’s Aboriginal background, but maybe it is time we think long and hard about that decision.
Granted, there are a disproportionate number of our people in jail, but letting everyone back onto the streets if they have committed a serious crime is not the answer. What about the victims? Do they not have any rights? What is their safety and security worth?
Whoever burned Ratt’s house to the ground deserves to be punished swiftly and thoroughly whether he is Aboriginal or not.
How did this become the modern way of intimidation in the first place? It’s gutless, plain and simple.
Some communities have their own ways of meting out justice through healing circles and other traditional ways.
As Mohawks, we used to have the gauntlet. If someone wanted to join the Mohawk Nation, he first had to make it through a long two-sided line of Mohawks, each beating him to near death as he passed by, until he got to the end of it and was either dead or accepted in.
Although that is a little crude by today’s standards, anyone who burns down a family’s home and puts little children’s lives in jeopardy does not deserve much better.
A handful of idiots make our nations look bad. It is time that we, as community members, stand up to this tyranny and let our voices be heard. If anyone has information about this criminal act, call the police.
If the community comes down hard on the criminal acts of individuals who threaten our peace and harmony maybe they will see the path they are on for what it is – the wrong one.