Mohawk community initiates blockade in attempt to force the Tories to call missing-women probe

Andy Radia
Politics Reporter
Canada Politics

Let the blockades begin!

Members of the Mohawk Community of Tyendinaga are making good on their promise to launch a series of blockades unless the Harper government called a National Inquiry, into murdered and missing Aboriginal women, by the end of February.

According to APTN News, the group has set up shop at "Shannonville road just south of Hwy. 401...20 minutes east of Belleville, Ont. and close to Mohawk territory."

Yahoo! Canada News spoke to organizer Shawn Brant on his cellular phone on Monday afternoon.

"We came in Sunday night. There was about 80 of us that set it up. We were sort of anticipating a confrontation with the police. They've been building up Friday and Saturday so we came in fairly strong to demonstrate that we had good support and good resolve by the men in our community," he said.

"So we hit the lines hard last night and shut them down. Right now we're just in a holding pattern."

Brant says that their location is ideal in that it runs close to both the CN Rail and CP Rail lines. He says he doesn't expect police to try to tear down their blockade anytime soon.

"We don't have a great relationship with the Ontario Provincial Police. So we don't really have a relationship with them...and that kind of frustrates the whole process of talking," he said, noting that there were about a dozen officers onsite.

"We just kind of stay in [our own] corners."

Brant was coy about how long his group plans to be at Shannonville road saying that his goal is to bring focus on the plight of murdered and missing women.

He did say that other rallies are planned across the country and perhaps other blockades.

[ Related: Mohawk community threatens blockades if Tories won't launch missing-women probe ]

Brant, who has a history of confrontation with the OPP, penned a letter to Prime Minister Harper on February 4th.

"In a report, published in September 2013 by MaryAnne Pearce and recently obtained by the RCMP, some 824 First Nations women have now been identified as having been murdered or gone missing, with a majority of those cases documented as having occurred in the past 15 years.

"Your unwillingness to consider this first step at reconciliation is well documented and understood.

"It is our opinion that all diplomatic means to convince you of the need for an inquiry have failed. Further, the tears and sadness of the families left behind have not moved you to any position of compassion.

"We have therefore resolved that we will take whatever and further actions that are deemed necessary, to compel you to call a National Inquiry into the crisis of Murdered and Missing Aboriginal Women and Girls."

[ Related: The future of First Nation relations: peace or strife? ]

While Brant's methods of protest aren't widely accepted, his end-goal is.

All of Canada's premiers, the Assembly of First Nations, Amnesty International and all the federal opposition parties have asked the Harper government for an inquiry.

For their part, the Tories continue to claim that an inquiry is not needed. In a statement to CBC News in September, Justice Minister Peter Mackay's office said it's not interested in more meetings but is taking action.

"This includes creating a new National Centre for Missing Persons, improving law enforcement databases and developing community safety plans specifically designed for Aboriginal communities," said the statement.

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