Cablegate: Kanesatake Grand Chief Gabriel Frustrated by Law

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

232042Z Jun 04

id: 18097
date: 6/23/2004 20:42
refid: 04MONTREAL874
origin: Consulate Montreal
classification: CONFIDENTIAL
destination: 04MONTREAL68
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
232042Z Jun 04
----------------- header ends ----------------
E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/22/2009
Classified By: Bernadette Allen, Consul General, Montreal, State. Reas
on: 1.5(B)
1. (C) SUMMARY: The Mohawk territory of Kanesatake has
become a haven for marijuana cultivation, drug dealing, arms
possession, and other organized criminal activity, ousted
Grand Chief James Gabriel told Consulate representatives on
June 17. Gabriel, who has not been able to return to
Kanesatake since his home was burned to the ground in
January, said that the specter of the 1990 Oka crisis and
fear of deadly violence, have prevented the Surete du Quebec
and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police from taking action.
2. (C) Accompanied by aid Dean Dussault, Grand Chief James
Gabriel spoke to Consulate officers for over an hour and a
half about the trouble-plagued Kanesatake reserve, one of
three Mohawk territories in the province of Quebec.
Kanesatake (population 1,400) located on the North shore of
the Saint Lawrence river some 50 kilometers from Montreal,
was the sight of the 1990 Oka crisis, in which opposition to
the expansion of a golf course on Mohawk burial grounds led
to a summer-long stand-off between Mohawk warriors and SQ
officers and Canadian Forces and resulted in the death of an
SQ officer.
3. (C) Chief Gabriel said that the narcotics trade in
Kanesatake took off in the mid-1990s. He noted that there
had been an SQ intervention in 1995, led by then Quebec
Public Security Minister Serge Menard, in which 20 to 30
acres and 100,000 marijuana plants were destroyed, yet no
arrests were made. After the raids, marijuana cultivation
moved inside, with as many as five underground bunkers
constructed to house hydroponic grow-operations on the
territory. Gabriel estimated that between five and seven
hundred pounds of marijuana is smuggled off the territory
each week, for export to the United States. Gabriel said
that the drug traffic now also includes heroin and other hard
drug sales. Gabriel believes that an investigation of the
money trail would show that the local bank in Oka sued by
Kanesatake residents, the XXXXXXXXXXX, is awash in large
American dollar deposits.
4. (C) Chief Gabriel identified the leaders of the narcotics
trade as XXXXXXXXXXXX and XXXXXXXXXXXX (both of whom are related to
James Gabriel) and said they are affiliated with the Hells'
Angels biker gang, and to a lesser extent, Chinese and
Russian mafia groups. According to James Gabriel, Robert
Gabriel, has never had a full-time job -- and his wife
recently applied for welfare -- yet Robert lives in a home
worth several hundred thousand dollars and drives expensive
5. (C) Gabriel was first elected Kanesatake Grand Chief in
2001, though in effect he led a minority government as four
of the seven Band Council members were "less than
enthusiastic about law enforcement." However, in July 2003
elections, Gabriel gained a majority; he and three other
Council members took a decision to bring the territory's
ineffective police force "back up to par" and Gabriel began
talking to the SQ and RCMP about support for action against
the criminal elements that had taken root on the reserve.
Gabriel said that plans to replace the police chief and bring
in an outside aboriginal police unit were leaked, however,
and the new force got "boxed in" at police headquarters on
January 12, leading to the 30-hour blockade by masked, armed
men surrounding the station (see Ref. A).
6. (C) Quebec Public Security Minister Jacques Chagnon's
negotiation of a temporary fix -- which reinstated the old
police chief and brought in Mohawk peacekeepers from the
near-by Kahnawake reserve to serve as an interim police force
-- was mainly "an image-boosting" exercise, according to
Gabriel. The peacekeepers did little to police the territory
and ultimately left in March. There has been no real
policing in Kanesatake since January, Gabriel said.
7. (C) The three chiefs on the Band Council who side with
Gabriel, Chiefs Clarence Simon, Marie Chene and Doreen
Canatonquin, remain in Kanesatake but are keeping low
profiles because they face harassment by people loyal to the
dissident chiefs and criminal gangs. Gabriel said that the
dissident chiefs, John Harding, and Pearl and Steven
Bonspile, periodically make appearances in the media,
"wrapping themselves in the cloak of Mohawk sovereignty."
Gabriel said that the whole Band Council never meets; when
decisions have to be taken regarding the administration of
the territory, Gabriel meets with Chiefs Simon, Chene and
Contonquin at the hotel in Laval (about two kilometers from
Kanesatake) where Gabriel has lived since January. The
dissident chiefs have called for an election on July 14 to
choose a new Grand Chief, claiming that James Gabriel has
abandoned the territory. But James Gabriel says that there
is no way a fair election, supervised by an impartial,
outside monitoring organization, can be held in July. James
Gabriel said that any election will have to be delayed;
lawyers have advised him that the current Band Council could
remain in power for a few months beyond their mandate if
conditions do not permit an election.
8. (C) Gabriel has been in continuous dialogue with the SQ
and RCMP to reestablish a police force, but to date, police
officers have only patrolled the highway surrounding
Kanesatake, and not actually entered the territory. The SQ
has been working with a Mohawk police force in preparation to
re-enter the territory, but so far has held back entering
Kanesatake, leading to much frustration on the Mohawks' part.
Gabriel said that there has been friction recently between
the Mohawk police and their SQ sponsors; cooperation has been
threatened by a personnel dispute, and mistrust on both
sides. At bottom, the Mohawk force would like to enter the
territory and begin enforcing the law; the SQ feels the time
is not right, and that violence would ensue if either or both
the SQ and the Mohawk force were to go into Kanesatake.
9. (C) Though it is clear that Gabriel is in close contact
with the Quebec government (which is putting him up in the
Laval hotel), Gabriel expressed deep frustration over the
unwillingness of either the Quebec or federal government to
bring law and order to Kanesatake. Though the Oka crisis has
been repeatedly raised by the Quebec media and government
officials, Gabriel said the current situation is very
different from 1990, when the Kanesatake population and
Mohawks from the other Quebec reserves supported the Mohawk
warriors' stance. He said that the traditional Mohawk
Warrior Society, which stood up during the Oka crisis, and
"the group of thugs" calling itself warriors in Kanesatake
today are different. Other First Nations tribes in Quebec
have been supportive of Gabriel, citing their concern about
the vulnerability of their own native communities to
organized crime infiltration. Gabriel said that the only
support that the dissident Chiefs have been able to summon is
from professional activists like Jaggi Singh and Sean Brandt.
And, contrary to claims made by SQ officials to the Quebec
Consul General in May (see Ref B), Gabriel says there has
been no influx of Mohawks from other reserves, in Canada or
the Untied States.
10. (C) Gabriel is disheartened by the Quebec Security
Minister Jacques Chagnon's repeated characterizations of the
problem as a dispute between Mohawk factions that an election
could resolve. He feels that Chagnon, supported by Quebec
Premier Jean Charest, simply wants the Kanesatake situation
to be "quiet," even if the drug trade and criminal activity
flourish. But Gabriel said that young people on the
territory -- who have few employment opportunities -- are
influenced by the apparent affluence and lifestyles of the
drug dealers and criminals. He believes the criminal
activity problems will only grow worse, as more community
members are drawn into it.
11. (C) Gabriel also cited fears of people "taking the law
into their own hands." He said that people on both sides of
the conflict have arms in Kanesatake. According to (James)
Gabriel, in addition to hunting weapons XXXXXXXXXXXX has
explosives, assault weapons and rocket launchers. "Most of
our community members can recognize the sound of an AK-47,"
Gabriel said. Gabriel and his aid Dussault both emphasized
the difficulty for the "silent majority" in Kanesatake to
speak out in their small community against criminals that
everyone knows and sees often. But given the prevalence of
weaponry on the territory, Gabriel said he is very afraid
that "blood feuds" will surface."
12. (U) Grand Chief Gabriel gave an exclusive interview to
the Journal de Montreal on the same day he visited the
Consulate. During the course of the interview, he revealed
something he had mentioned briefly to us: the fact that for
the past year Kanesatake has been under the administrative
supervision of the Ministry of Indian Affairs, assigned to a
PricewaterhouseCoopers accountant working full-time from an
office in Oka (situated next to the Kanesatake territory).
According to Gabriel, Kanesatake had racked up an accumulated
deficit of C$4 million by 2003. Ottawa had imposed financial
supervision prior to Gabriel's attaining the majority on the
Band Council that year, Gabriel emphasized.
13. (U) The tabloid Journal focused on the fact that part of
the territory's deficit stemmed from mortgage payments made
on individual Kanesatake homes -- including that of Robert
Gabriel -- that the Ministry of Indian Affairs deducted from
Kanesatake's budget. Apparently, the Ministry customarily
co-signs mortgage loans for native applicants. According to
what James Gabriel told Le Journal, when Robert Gabriel was
unable to make payments on his $185,000 mortgage, the
Ministry of Indian Affairs paid the debt in full, subtracted
the sum from the Band Council's budget, and transferred the
property -- a large mansion with a pool -- to the Council's
ownership. However, Robert Gabriel and his family continued
to live there. Robert Gabriel, who has been accused of
participating in the January 12 riot and blockade at the
police station, is under court order currently to stay away
from Kanesatake.
14. (C) Gabriel's story conforms to information gathered
from law enforcement contacts of the Consulate. There is
indeed great concern on the part of both the federal and
provincial police about the arms on the territory, and the
deadly confrontations that could result if a full-scale raid
were to be mounted and a new police unit installed. We
understand that an RCMP force would be prepared to enter
Kanesatake territory if "something blows" and violence
occurs, but for now, both the SQ and the RCMP are holding
back. The fate of James Gabriel and his Mohawk police force
remains to be seen. He told us that he is concerned the
Kanesatake situation will fade from he public eye if
enforcement actions are not taken soon. But he was equally
certain that the territory is a tinderbox, ready to explode.
=======================CABLE ENDS============================

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