October 9, 2009
Protesters win another round in police battle
Posted By W. BRICE MCVICAR, THE INTELLIGENCER
TYENDINAGA TERRITORY -- Another protest at the proposed site of this reserve's new police station has once again delayed its delivery.
The prefabricated building was to be delivered Thursday.
But Tyendinaga Mohawk Police said in a news release that evening the ongoing protest had "created serious public safety concerns.
"The delay will permit open dialogue to continue," the release said.
Protesters have demanded the problem of contaminated water at Quinte Mohawk School be fixed before the building is put in place.
The police press release noted the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte band council had "confirmed that the new chlorination system has been ordered to repair the school water system.
"The expected completion date is in November," the release said. "Once the repairs have been completed the issue of the new police building will be revisited."
A small section of York Road was closed to traffic here after residents protesting the delivery erected a roadblock and remained on the proposed site for the building.
Tyendinaga police also closed a portion of York Road Thursday and redirected traffic after an old car, a mound of dirt and some tires were placed near the western section of the road by protesters.
A few kilometres up the road from the blockade, approximately 30 protesters gathered at the building's proposed destination, promising to remain there until water issues at the school are rectified.
But support for constant protests in Tyendinaga doesn't resonate with the rest of the community, as a group of territory residents gathered down York Road to oppose the protest.
The protesters, however, say they're firm in their resolve.
"We'll be here as long as it takes," said protester Mario Baptiste. "I don't know where else in a democracy they use your kids to blackmail you."
Baptiste and other protesters said they will prevent the delivery of the $1.9 million modular building until water at Quinte Mohawk School is drinkable. The school has been under a boil water advisory since February 2008 though a new chlorination system is expected to be operational by November.
The police building site will remain occupied by protesters -- as it has since October 2008 -- until that system is operating and the water can be consumed, Baptiste said, adding he doesn't believe promises from the band council that the issue is being fixed. The band council has said a number of times the issue falls into the hands of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada as it is the regulatory body responsible for the school.
"That's just their way of getting around jurisdiction, that's all that's about," Baptiste said. "I'll stay here for 10 damn years if I have to, but our kids deserve clean water."
The children at Quinte Mohawk School are getting clean water, said Chief Don R. Maracle. He said the proper process has been followed and a new chlorination system is scheduled to be operating at the school later this fall. Meantime, children at the school are being provided with bottled water and a letter from Dr. Geoff Dunkley, community medicine specialist for First Nations and Inuit Health, indicates the water is safe for hand washing.
In that letter, Dunkley says "water tests at the school have shown elevated HPC (Heterotrophic Plate Count) readings. For children in normal health attending the daycare and school there is no health concern with hand washing in this water."
Maracle said band council is addressing two health and safety issues as the water at the school does need to be improved, but there is also mold at the current police building requiring a new location for officers. Unfortunately, he said, the protesters are delaying the delivery of the police building -- a building the rest of the Tyendinaga community has indicated it wants.
"Council has exhausted all politic channels to resolve the issue. There were three general council meetings about the police building, a few open houses and there was a question and answer period that happened," the chief said. "Council passed a motion to hold a vote in the community to see if residents are satisfied with the delivery of the police building and that vote took place in June and July this year by mail-in ballot and approximately 500 people participated with 87 per cent in favour."
Baptiste, however, claimed the results of the vote should be discredited as there are 2,500 people who live on the reserve and not every household received a ballot.
Just down the road from where protesters occupied the proposed police site, another group of residents gathered at the Tyendinaga Community Centre to voice their concerns over the protesters' actions. The citizens said they are in favour of the new police station and are tired of the protesters' actions and fear tactics in the community.
"People have started saying they don't like what's happening in our community," Sam Maracle said. "They don't like the violence, they don't like the confrontations, they don't like the threats ... and they don't like the feeling of being in their own home and they have to fear being there. The majority of our people don't like living like that."
Maracle said the community was hopeful the vote on the police station would bring some of the "tactics" used by the protesters to an end but, based on Thursday's events, that obviously isn't the case. The police are needed in the community and they need a new location, she said.
"The community voted 87 per cent to bring the police building here," she said. "It doesn't take an Einstein to figure out what they're doing isn't right."
However, she added, the constant stress in the community has brought residents closer together rather than push them apart.
"From my perspective, on a positive note, their tactics are actually bringing the community together more. Everybody has kind of talked about it individually in their homes and amongst smaller groups but, now it seems, people are willing to get more and more together on this and stop it. There's talk of 'How can we stop (the protests) as a community?' That, I'm not going to elaborate on, but they do want it stopped," she said.