Native protesters stop building
Installation of police facility delayed ‘until further notice’
Posted By STEPHEN PETRICK, THE BELLEVILLE INTELLIGENCER
Posted Wednesday, September 24, 2008
The installation of a new police building here has been delayed “until further notice,” after a group of band members set up a blockade Tuesday to protest its arrival.
Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte officials were preparing to have a 4,635-square-foot building shipped from a Hamilton-area manufacturer this week and put together on a gravel pit on York Road, just west of Quinte Mohawk School.
But a group of about 50 people were at the site Tuesday afternoon, vowing to block officials from placing a prefab building they feel the community was not consulted about.
“Our people never sanctified it, ratified it or condoned it,” Bryan Isaacs told The Intelligencer from just outside the protest site. “There’s no one in favour in our group because we were never consulted.”
Inside the site, several women were sitting in lawn chairs. They said they were upset the band council made plans for a roughly $1.9-million facility when the money could have been spent to address the lack of safe water in the territory and poor housing conditions.
“You have kids in the school out there without water,” said Evelyn Turcotte, pointing to Quinte Mohawk School. “There are housing issues and mold issues.”
Another woman, who did not give her name, said, “I’ve been buying water for 30 years.”
The group, which identified themselves as the Kanyen’kehaka women of Tyendinaga, also issued a press release calling on Prince Edward-Hastings incumbent Daryl Kramp as well as Minister of Indian Affairs Chuck Strahl and Prime Minister Stephen Harper to listen to their needs.
“Canadians overwhelmingly support clean water efforts, funding for education and safe housing for Native people, and yet, while all of those concerns remain ignored, this multi-million dollar investment proves only to ‘fix’ an otherwise unwarranted problem.”
The comments came as the Mohawk band council gathered for a special meeting to discuss what to do with the facility.
The building has already been put together by NRB, a modular building company in Grimsby, Ont.
The band was expecting it to arrive Monday, but found out Tuesday the trip had been delayed as the company still needed to obtain some Ministry of Transportation permits to make the drive.
Armed with that knowledge, the band requested the company to hold onto the building until the conflict is resolved.
“The council made a decision that it would remain there in storage until further notice,” Maracle said, moments after the meeting.
He also scoffed at comments that band leaders are not making clean water a priority or holding enough consultation on the building.
Had the building arrived Monday, he said, a “community ratification process” would have taken place to determine whether the building meets the approval of band members. It would have sat on the site “unhooked” until at least Oct. 31, Maracle said.
That ratification process, he added, would have followed a series of public meetings on the issue earlier this year.
He also said he agrees with protesters that water quality on the territory needs to improve.
“That’s why I started a water study many years ago — to document the condition of the water so we could make a case to the government for some funding for water,” he said.
He added that Indian Affairs has committed money for a new water treatment plant and project workers are now deciding what technology needs to be used before construction can begin.
The new police building is intended to allow Tyendinaga Mohawk Police Services to expand from eight to 11 officers.
The band is contributing close to $980,000 toward its costs, with the final $900,000 coming from the provincial and federal government.
Despite the commitment, the department will be operated solely by Mohawk people, Maracle said.