RCMP says Natives armed to the teeth

So what are you hunting with this year? According to an internal RCMP document Southam News obtained under the Access to Information Act, Native “militants” may be using more than the usual hunting rifles.

A brief put out by the RCMP’s Criminal Intelligence Directorate warns the summer of 1998 “has seen the highest number of warning indicators and incidents of unrest since 1995.”

Expect an upswing in Aboriginal “militant action” to pick up in “April of 1999.” Police may be facing assault rifles capable of piercing body armor and light armoured vehicles, medium and heavy machine guns, construction explosives, grenades and light anti-tank weapons.

Compiling this list of potential weapons in the hands of Aboriginal “militants” was the result of nine years of seizures and observations, according to Sergeant André Guertin, an RCMP spokesman.

Guertin stressed the report was not meant to reflect Native people as a whole. “This is a very, very small percentage of Natives,” he said. He also said the report is an in-house report that looked at what potential problems could arise from militant Natives if they take “illegal actions.”

The brief says the success of blockades by First Nations like the Listuguj in 1998 reinforced the notion that violence or the threat of violence works.

The brief seems critical of government responses. “In an effort to avoid a repeat of an Oka-type conflict,” it says, “governments have negotiated with militants while at the same time claiming not to give in to blackmail and terrorism.” It also acknowledges law-enforcement agencies are hesitant in “enforcing the law” when “faced with overtly illegal activity.”

Guetrin said the role of the police is to return a situation to normalcy. “Police are in a hard position from time to time. It’s not easy to deal with this type of situation when there are long unresolved issues.”

The brief says unresolved grievances are part of the reason this year will see more militant actions by First Nations across Canada. Other factors are the success of last year’s actions, recent court decisions and internal community conflicts. This could result in volatile situations and there is a high probability these situations will involve violence or the threat of violence.

The report says the RCMP is in the process of acquiring vehicles that would protect officers from the weapons Aboriginal militants may have. Guertin said the vehicles will not be used only against the Aboriginal population, but would be “used from coast to coast in fulfilling the duties and obligations of the RCMP.”

An official of the Grand Council of the Crees spoke off-the-record, saying this seemed like an attempt to dehumanize Native peoples and make them look like terrorists. “The information is exaggerated and casts the legitimate political, cultural and social aspirations of Native people in a negative light. For the record the Crees have never used violence or the threat of violence to achieve their aims.

“We have used the legitimate methods such as the courts of law and we deplore the government actions in this case.”