RCMP predicted treaty ruling would cause violence

The Ottawa Citizen
Monday, February 21, 2000

The RCMP feared outbreaks of violence between natives and non-natives across Canada in the days after the Supreme Court of Canada upheld treaty rights in the Donald Marshall case, an intelligence report shows.

''Situations in British Columbia and the Maritimes are tense and there is a high probability of violent unrest occurring,'' states an RCMP criminal intelligence report dated Sept. 24, 1999.

''Judicial decisions have unbalanced a number of sensitive situations, provoking conflict between aboriginals and non-aboriginals,'' says the report, obtained by the Citizen under the Access to Information Act.

The one-page ''situation report'' comes from the RCMP Criminal Intelligence Directorate and was among some 150 pages released on the subject of RCMP concerns about unrest over the rights of Aboriginal Peoples. The report cites the controversial Sept. 17, 1999, Supreme Court decision, which upheld the 1760 treaty right of Nova Scotia Mi'kmaq Donald Marshall Jr. to catch and sell fish without a licence.

''This decision has angered non-aboriginals who fish under heavy restrictions. Violence has been threatened,'' the unsigned report states.

It goes on to say the high court's decision in the Marshall case, ''along with fallout from the 1998 New Brunswick timber confrontations, will combine to provoke a backlash among non-aboriginals. There is a high probability this will result in violent unrest this fall or next spring.''

Within days of that report, the Burnt Church reserve in northeast New Brunswick was hit by violence. Native and non-native properties were set on fire. There were also violent confrontations and vandalism on the local wharf and in Atlantic waters, where commercial fishermen damaged native fishing equipment.

Meanwhile, police were investigating a suspicious fire yesterday on the reserve. The fire destroyed the Burnt Church Band Council building early Saturday morning. RCMP said investigators from the Bathurst Major Crime Unit, Forensic Identification Section and the fire marshall's office would examine the scene today after determining the blaze was suspicious in nature.