February, 2005.

It was just before dawn when Rupert Lameboy yanked the start on his snowmobile, and the sound of the awakening engine, half sick goose, half nasty chainsaw ripped through the Northern bush.

As the machine warmed up, he stowed his backpack under the seat, and after double-checking everything, rode the snowmobile out of his winter hunting camp.

The morning was cold but clear and a new layer of snow lay on the stunted pine and along the narrow trail. He drove slowly through the forest, only speeding up when he crossed the rough ice of a frozen lake.

After half an hour he was almost there, and coasted to a stop on top of a low ridge. Looking out he could see his final destination: a line of hydro towers, striding silently from one horizon to the other, taking the energy from massive dams on Northern rivers and delivering it to traffic lights and toasters, computers and radiators in the south.

When they built the towers, the contractors had clear-cut a 200-foot wide path for the line, but not done anything else.

He parked his snowmobile on the edge of the trees, and walked to the tower. When he got to the base of the tower, he dropped his backpack, took out his CB and radioed:

“Fifteen, here.”

Right now, 20-odd people, mostly Crees but some Mohawks and even a couple of white kids, were doing the same thing at places along the five hydro lines that fed the south. Like Lameboy, they were reaching into backpacks and pulling out three things: a roll of duct tape, a large spool of blasting line and four sticks of dynamite.

Growing up, Lameboy expected his most dangerous tool would be a laptop, not four sticks of high explosives he had managed to steal from an unmanned Hydro-Québec worksite.

Back then, his path had seemed clear. Dad was a cop in his local community, and Lameboy had gone to university down south, first in the family, and picked up a law degree. Then, five years ago, he came back north and settled into a good job with the local government, trying to win more control and more power for his nation through interminable meetings with southern bureaucrats in bad suits.

It was a boring, predictable job, but someone had to do it, he figured. Go to our universities, learn our politics, go to our courts, that was the deal Canada had made with his nation and others. Do all that, and slowly, slowly, you1 II get self-government, you’ll get something better. It was a deal two generations of aboriginal leaders, like him, had bet their lives on, going to university and law school, writing endless action reports, faithfully attending training workshops, pressing on with lawsuits and land claims.

It was all bullshit, he’d eventually decided. And so had most everyone else his age.

The first straw broke in March of 2000. The Crees, fed up with the province walking all over their deal with them, had taken Quebec to court to stop the lucrative forestry industry. Enraged, the province first tried blackmail, suspending funding for schools and roads, and then, when the first judge ruled for the Crees, they convinced the courts to change the judge. Some justice.

There were other things. One night, watching Lloyd Robertson, Lameboy realized he’d never get anywhere haggling with the pasty representatives of a society that was fully aware of yet completely ambivalent to his peoples’ problems, suicide rates 20 times anywhere else, poverty that would shame an African country, health problems that were unheard of down south. Everyone knew about it, few cared. It had stopped even making the news.

While southerners debated clarity acts and constitutional clauses, Lameboy could watch the forestry and energy companies eat his land, justified with laws and treaties and deals no one believed anymore.

Lameboy quit his job the day he found out about a chief who had created a phony company, staffed with all his relatives, while half the community was still waiting for decent housing. By then he’d seen everything in aboriginal politics: corruption and deceit that would make an old union boss blush. Some aboriginal chiefs were bringing booze into dry communities during elections. Gang rapes were hushed up when the right people were involved. Cushy government jobs went to the ones from the right family, the ones who knew the value of getting along.

Somewhere along the line, a political fight had become a crooked industry, rotten to the core.

“We have always been a peaceful people,” an old chief had told southerners after the ’95 referendum, after being asked about the threat of violence. “And we will always be peaceful. But we all have hunting rifles. And we all know how to use them.”

It took about ten minutes for Lameboy to set the dynamite sticks against the tower’s cold steel and hold them with duct tape, two sticks on two of the supports.

He reached down for the radio: “Fifteen. I’m ready.”

Lameboy walked away from the tower, unspooling the blast cord behind him. When he reached his snowmobile, he sat down and waited. Soon, a scratchy countdown came over the radio. When it reached zero, he squeezed the trigger, and, a split second later, heard the dull crack of the blast, and the echoes from across the forest. Slowly, like a drunk losing his feet, the tower toppled away, the power lines stretching then breaking then arcing through the sky.

“There,” he said, as the lights started winking out in Montreal and Quebec City, in Ste-Hyacinthe and Albany, in Burlington and the Bronx.

“Let the bastards freeze in the dark.”

Ed. Note: Sometimes we think in Quebec that no one is listening to the Crees. Then you find out some people are and they sympathize with what is happening. This story appeared in an edition of Hour, a Montreal tabloid. It is given away for free. When we read it we contacted Editor in Chief MJ. Milloy who gave us permission to run the piece. Remember it is fiction….