A Mohawk grand chief is calling for an inquiry into a report that Canada targeted Mohawk communities with a spying operation during the Oka Crisis of 1990.

The Nation reported in February that a secretive Canadian government intelligence agency spied on the Mohawks from an Oka-area hotel, according to a former Canadian intelligence officer.

“I’m really surprised to find that out. It is disturbing. It is troubling,” said Grand Chief James Gabriel of Kanehsatake.

“It’s worthwhile looking into whether that in fact has ended. There has to be accountability by these organizations to the public,” he told The Nation.

Fred Stock, who worked for Canada’s Communications Security Establishment, told The Nation that the agency set up a listening post during the crisis to monitor Mohawk communications.

Stock said the operation was illegal. The agency collects signals intelligence – spying on satellite communications, email, phone calls and the like – but is prohibited by law from monitoring the communications of Canadians.

A CSE spokesman refused to comment on the allegations, but insisted the agency does not spy on Canadians.

Other Mohawks said the allegations don’t surprise them. They said Kahnawake and Kanehsatake were targeted by a variety of surveillance operations for several years after the 78-day armed standoff ended.

Kanehsatake resident Ellen Gabriel, who served as a spokeswoman for the barricaded Mohawks, said she got a notice from the Quebec Justice Ministry after the crisis, saying her phones had been tapped.

She kept getting the notices year after year until 1995 or 1996, she said.

Gabriel wasn’t the only one. She said at least four other community members got the same notices until the mid-1990s.

“People thought we were paranoid. But now we know we had a reason to be paranoid that our privacy was being invaded,” she said. “And for what? We were speaking the truth.”

Gabriel said she felt “indignant” and “very invaded” when she got the notices.

“There was no reason for me to be monitored other than that my face was public,” she said.

Gabriel said there were other kinds of surveillance, too.

After the crisis, Kanehsatake residents often spotted police officers sitting in unmarked cars, pointing small satellite dishes at homes, she said. When residents approached the vehicles, the officers would quickly drive away.

The community also discovered at least three community members — and possibly more – were recruited as informers for the police. Gabriel said the informers were easily uncovered in the close-knit village.

“Not much gets past people in this community. Some of them were pretty blatant about it,” she said.

The heavy surveillance took its toll on community members, leading to emotional stress and a siege mentality, Gabriel said. “It wears you down. People start taking it out on each other. They call it low-intensity warfare.”

Kenneth Deer, editor of Kahnawake’s Eastern Door newspaper, said he wasn’t surprised to hear Fred Stock’s allegations.

Deer said he, too, got a “polite letter” from after the crisis informing him his phone had been tapped.

He said the letter was especially strange because the tapping started on June 20. That was the day he left for Geneva to act as the barricaded Mohawks’ representative to the United Nations.

“It was a very curious phone-tap. To me it was a political phone-tap,” he said.

“A lot of people got that letter.”

Deer also said he was followed when he got to Geneva. He noticed a man on foot and a red car that appeared to be tailing him on separate occasions.

Deer took a nonchalant attitude to being followed. “I didn’t care because I wasn’t doing anything wrong. Being followed didn’t bother me,” he said.

“It just shows that someone – and I suspect Canada – was awfully nervous.”

Deer was more concerned about the heavy police surveillance of Kahnawake in the years after the crisis.

One of the results of this, he said, was that hundreds of Mohawks got stopped on frivolous traffic violations. “It was harassment.”