Native militancy blamed on courts in RCMP report

National Post
Saturday, September 23, 2000


David Sukhdip Hayer comforts a mourner at the funeral of his father, Tara Singh Hayer, the editor of B.C.'s Indo-Canadian Times newspaper, who was shot in 1998. Police believe he was targeted by Sikh extremists.: (Photo ran All but Toronto edition.)

Nick Procaylo, The Canadian Press
Court decisions and corruption on native reserves are fuelling an increase in aboriginal militancy, according to a secret RCMP report on extremism that also warns that anarchists, white supremacists and Tamil separatists are operating in Canada.

Released as native leaders are threatening national action in response to the Atlantic lobster fishing dispute at Burnt Church, N.B., the report cites concerns about rising "aboriginal criminal extremism" that stem in part from recent court rulings on native rights.

Militancy followed the 1998 Turnbull decision that gave New Brunswick natives the right to harvest timber, as well as the Supreme Court of Canada's decision on aboriginal title to Crown land in British Columbia, says the report, marked "Secret -- RCMP Eyes Only."

"The level of aboriginal militant activity in 1998 rose to the highest level in years."

"Court rulings in 1997 and 1998 had a significant impact on these activities," says the intelligence report, released to the National Post under federal Access to Information legislation.

Prepared last year, the report predates the Supreme Court's Marshall decision, which led to the current standoff at Burnt Church over native lobster fishing. But the report predicted militants would continue to exploit aboriginal discontent, which it blamed partly on band corruption.

"Despite billions of dollars going into aboriginal programs, abject poverty remains a fact of life on many reserves, even those which have prospered from oil and gas holdings. Powerful factions control the finances and enrich their families and friends," the report says.

"Communities dependent on government funds also find themselves in this situation. This polarization has led to violence in the past and will likely be played out again in 1999 and beyond. Aboriginal extremists will most likely play major roles in provoking or sustaining militant action in these communities."

The findings suggest that extremists have been turning the confusion that has followed the recent series of court pronouncements on native rights to their advantage, causing concerns for police who fear a repeat of the Oka-type bloodshed of the early and mid-1990s.

Previous RCMP warnings about heavily armed aboriginal militants have been dismissed by native leaders as exaggerations.

Police warned in 1998 that natives had stockpiled grenades, bombs, and possibly even anti-tank weapons in preparation for future confrontations.

Since soldiers stared down camouflaged natives at Oka in 1990, hardline militants have continued to surface across Canada at aboriginal rights actions, such as the 1995 encampment at Gustafsen Lake, B.C.

Violence has also flared at Burnt Church, and there are fears the dispute could ignite into yet another standoff. Federal fisheries officers seized 100 lobster traps in a pre-dawn raid yesterday. In a news release, the Mohawk council of Kahnawake, Que., vowed solidarity with the Mi'kmaqs of Miramichi Bay.

"Any attack by the Department of Fisheries or the RCMP will be considered an attack by all natives in Canada and as such will result in serious actions in support of our people."

A briefing note used yesterday by Herb Dhaliwal, the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, suggested that gunshots may have already been fired in the dispute, The Canadian Press reported.

"Latest reports indicate that at least one non-native boat has been in the Miramichi Bay area and that shots may have been fired," Mr. Dhaliwal's notes read. "The RCMP is being alerted."

The report by the RCMP's intelligence branch examines Canada's underground extremist activity, which it defines as crime committed for ideological purposes. Those singled out in the report include Quebec separatists and "left-wing criminal extremists" -- anarchists, animal rights activists and radical environmentalists.

Extremists such as white supremacists were blamed for "murder, assault and other violent acts and vandalism," and the report notes the close links between Canadian and U.S. racist groups, as well as their continued use of computers for propaganda and recruiting.

The report also warns that Canadian "Tamil separatist criminal extremism" continues to finance a brutal 17-year terrorist campaign in Sri Lanka that has led to more than 60,000 deaths, many of them caused by suicide bombers.

"A number of members of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam are known to be present in ... Tamil communities. Allegations continue that members of the LTTE, using organized crime and charitable organizations, are raising money in Canada for the struggle in Sri Lanka."

The terrorist group is involved in "primarily immigration and passport offences within the ... Tamil communities," the report says.

Punjabi separatists remained active, exemplified by the 1998 shooting of Tara Singh Hayer, editor of the B.C.-based Indo-Canadian Times, the report says. However, "successful immigration interventions have gone a long way to controlling extremist activity in Canada, and apparently, are increasingly accepted in the Sikh moderate community," it says.