Opposition calls for crackdown on native road blockade
Last Updated: Thursday, September 27, 2007 | 8:20 AM CT
The Canadian Press
The Manitoba government brushed aside opposition calls Wednesday to crack down on an aboriginal blockade that has left cottagers frustrated.
"They want us to step into the position of police officers, they want us to step into the position of prosecutors," Attorney General Dave Chomiak told the legislature.
The Manitoba government has already faced calls to end the blockade of roads that lead to new cottage developments near the Hollow Water First Nation, 200 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg.
Cottagers and residents in the area want the roadway cleared, and the opposition Progressive Conservatives have backed them up.
"I ask the minister of justice, is he prepared to respect an illegal act, or will he do his duty as minister of justice in this province and enforce [the] law?," Tory justice critic Gerald Hawranik called.
Chomiak said he would not interfere in how the RCMP handles the matter.
The First Nation and the provincial government appear to be at an impasse over negotiations, with the band refusing to remove the barricades until the province negotiates, while Manitoba Conservation refuses to negotiate until the blockades come down.
'Dereliction of duties'
Chomiak also took a shot at former Ontario premier Mike Harris over his handling of the 1995 native occupation of Ipperwash Provincial Park, during which unarmed protester Dudley George was fatally shot by an Ontario police officer.
"I would not want to be in the position of the former Conservative premier of Ontario, who put on his police hat, Mr. Speaker, and went running out.
"If I were to cross that boundary, I would be in dereliction of my duties."
A public inquiry concluded that Harris didn't direct police actions on the day George was killed, but that he probably did utter a racial slur during a high-level meeting called to discuss the occupation.
Hollow Water members set up several blockades on roads near Manigotagan and Seymourville in mid-September to protest Manitoba Conservation's new Driftwood Beach subdivision on the east side of Lake Winnipeg.
The subdivisions are part of the province's cottage lot draw and are on Crown land, but band officials argue the development is on its traditional land and they should have been consulted.
The blockades have delayed or prevented access to about 75 homes and cottages at several developments in the area.