CANACE visits Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory

Posted: June 28, 2009 in CANACE, Cindy Welsh, Deseronto, Gary McHale, Headlines, Jeff's Blogs, Native Racist Hatred, OPP

June 28, 2009

For the second time in two years, the Ontario Provincial Police set up the members of CANACE to be physically attacked by a group of Natives who far outnumbered us. This time it was Mohawks in Deseronto instead of Six Nations thugs in Caledonia, but the intended outcome was unquestionably the same.

The last time this happened was December 01 2007 and the result was Gary McHale and I being taken away by ambulance after a protest over an illegal smoke shack in Caledonia. This time was a more elaborate setup but the outcome was certainly intended to be violent. Fortunately for everyone but the OPP, this time it didn’t work.

During the smoke shack protest in 2007, the OPP simply withheld the resources that would have been necessary to control the day and placed a tiny number of officers in the middle of what was to become a riot. The OPP brass then ordered those of us who were assaulted to be investigated for possible crimes while ignoring the dozens of crimes committed by Natives that day.

When we announced that we were going to Deseronto, a more elaborate plan was put in place. The OPP intimidated public venue’s into refusing to rent the space to local resident Cindy Welsh who invited us, sent MELT team members to have a meeting with us earlier in the day to try to give us a false sense of security, and then ordered the event into a local park that was quite secluded so that nobody could find the meeting nor see what was going to take place.

Instead of sending a few officers into what was likely to be an out of control situation, they sent nobody even after a call from a resident asking them to send officers who were hiding about half a kilometre away down to the park. Due to several changes in venue and an unfortunate article in a local paper that mistakenly said the meeting was cancelled, only the Mohawks and a few residents knew where the meeting would be.

With a crowd of approximately 30 Mohawk people and 8 non Natives, the presentation on law and order began. No consideration was given by CANACE to simply walking away from the event as that’s not what we do. Fear has been the primary tool used by the OPP and the Native extremists to control people for the last few years but they are perhaps learning at this point that it won’t work on us.

The intended presentation changed rather quickly as the crowd attempted first to intimidate us into leaving and then resorted to simply screaming filth loudly enough to drown out Gary McHale who stood his ground and calmly refused to be intimidated or agitated even with angry Mohawks screaming in his face. I imagine that these folks were left scratching their heads trying to figure us out as they verbally tossed everything they had at us in an attempt to intimidate or at the very least draw us into a shouting match while we stood our ground with a level of composure I doubt they have ever seen before.

There were many statements and many moments that paint a picture of the character of these people, but none more so than when Gary spoke of the attempted murder of an OPP officer in Caledonia. They clapped and cheered that statement in a display as despicable as anything I’ve seen in my almost 3 years of involvement in all of this. Check out the video below to see for yourself.

Despite the very best efforts of organizer Cindy Welsh, it eventually became clear that this meeting would not be able to succeed at getting out information to those in attendance because the militant Mohawks there were too engulfed in hatred to listen to a word that was being said, and she decided to end the meeting to cheers from the Natives. This is where the OPP plan fell apart.

After being screamed at to leave by the Natives for the duration, we did not leave and no violence took place. Mrs. Welsh clearly had some respect from the Mohawk people as a resident of Deseronto and she was able to salvage the day in a way that left the two sides having potentially meaningful conversations after the meeting adjourned. The Non Natives fanned out and people split into groups who actually talked to one another instead of screaming insults, and we left sometime later without incident to meet up with some residents at the local Tim Hortons for coffee.

Threats were intimated about getting us later on the Seaway Bridge (that Shawn Brant blocked not long ago) but the trip home over said bridge and through Tyendinaga Mohawk territory was uneventful.

It was a fascinating experience being in the backyard of Shawn Brant and in a place that death threats have been issued from toward us for 3 years now, and we will most definitely return to Deseronto when the time is right. The countryside is absolutely beautiful and I certainly understand why so many cottagers set up in that area. Next time I will be sure to take lots of pictures because as both a nature and photography buff, such a place is of great interest to me.

I can not say enough about the courage and grace of local resident Cindy Welsh who invited us into her home and out for an exceptional dinner at a local restaurant. She refuses to ignore the chaos taking place in her home town and has taken her battle to the media and the OPP with a truly admirable determination and a steady hand in the face of a town council who refuse to listen, a police force that doesn’t care, and a group of extremists who would scare most people out of town. Mark Vandermaas gives a more thorough accounting of the courage of the townspeople and his own dealings with them in this VOC editorial.

Also see this page for more details about the CANACE struggle to end race based policing

Despite the best efforts of so many people, the day was a success and I look forward to our next trip to Deseronto. Hopefully those who worked so hard to stop us from coming have learned that they are destined to fail, and will give some consideration to doing the right thing next time, but I won’t be holding my breath.

Jeff Parkinson

UPDATE: A new post with all of the video from Deseronto / Picton is coming soon and will be available exclusively here

  1. Andrew says:

    I have been following a few threads about the Caledonia Militia or Peacekeepers which has led me to this site. It is clear that emotions are high on either side of the debate, sometimes erupting in ridiculous and offensive tyrades; but perhaps more painful are the more level-headed responses steeped in profound anger to the point of hatred. I am a white guy of purely European stock and no experience to speak of with First Nations folks living on reserves, so I don’t expect my opinion means much, but I still feel the need to express it.

    Frankly, I like the idea of a citizen militia stepping in where police has been largely ineffective. If, as you say, the leaders and members are level-headed and committed to justice and peace, and filter out the sort of wing-nuts that will inevitably be attracted to that sort of thing, and you train the peace-keepers well in the applicable laws and appropriate rules of engagement, then I’d say they have a solid plan.

    One thing I wanted to point out from some responses to an article in ‘Shotgun’ and is also highlighted in this article is that talking face-to-face is perhaps the most important part of this.
    The quote from the article is “A Caledonia farmer upset that some natives have erected a smoke shack in his front yard is now furious that townsfolk have proposed a militia in part to protect him.
    “I drank a lot of coffee with the natives and we came to an agreement that they move off my land in a few days,” said Ernie Palmer” Whatever the truth of the matter, I believe is that a good deal of coffee and mutual respect go a long way.

    I would say that if a militia is formed, you should consider active ‘community policing’ and not only exist as a reaction force when bad things happen. Perhaps Caledonia Peacekeeper (CPK) leaders should try to form relationships with leaders within the SN community – not necessarily the ‘terrorist’ type and not necessarily the tribal government (particularly if they are seen as corrupt), but heads of families and businesses or other normal social networks. See what their complaints are and share your complaints with them. We call this “winning hearts and minds” in my line of work.

    If the CPK only shows up to ensure justice is done, then it is doing the right thing… according to law… which is based on our own values… which may or may not be universal or absolute. But if so, then you are definitely seen as the bad guys to the FN people. But if you can get the FN people to see your side while demonstrating that you understand their side, then the ‘terrorist’ types may just start to lose support from within. A book I once read says, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”

    But again, that is just my opinion

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