A Conservative MP is calling for authorities to bring a quick end to a bridge blockade in eastern Ontario that was set up Sunday by native protesters.
The blockade was in response to the weeklong standoff between the federal government and Akwesasne Mohawks that has resulted in the shutdown of a Canada-U.S. border crossing.
A group of Mohawks from Tyendinaga, a native community about 185 kilometres east of Toronto, occupied the bridge around 7 p.m. local time Sunday, vowing to stay there until they felt the government has engaged “in meaningful dialogue” with the leadership of the Mohawks in Akwesasne.
The Canada Border Services Agency shut down the Port of Cornwall border post on the Akwesasne reserve, which sits about 100 kilometres west of Montreal, on May 31, after the community said it would not allow the arming of border guards planned for June 1.
Prince Edward-Hastings Conservative MP Daryl Kramp said the blockade by Tyendinaga Mohawks of the Skyway Bridge, which spans the Bay of Quinte in eastern Ontario, is “illegal” and needs to be dealt with. Kramp said his constituency office has received calls from residents who believe a “double standard set of laws” was allowing the bridge blockade to continue.
“There is a difference between having a border-control issue at Akwesasne, versus a bridge in our county which has nothing to do with this. I am, quite frankly, disappointed that it’s still continuing,” said Kramp. “In this case, I really think the law should be respected and upheld.
“Iunderstand the last thing you need to do is escalate a situation and you want to manage the situation to get the best possible result. There is no doubt that people are exercising patience, and I respect that. But there are also limitations.”
Ontario Provincial Police spokeswoman Sgt. Kristine Rae said Monday the force is aware of the situation, but it was being monitored by the Tyendinaga Mohawk Police because the blockade is on Mohawk territory.
One of the protesters at the scene said Monday evening the blockade would continue until they saw results on the Akwesasne border-crossing situation.
“Nothing has changed that would lead us to believe that there has been any talks whatsoever with the government and the leadership in Akwesasne,” said Shawn Brant, a well-known native activist from Tyendinaga. “We are confident that, when that has taken place, then we will be the first ones to pack up and go home.”
Mr. Brant said there were 50 to 60 people currently involved with the blockade, including some from Akwesasne.
The Akwesasne border crossing, which sits on an island in the St. Lawrence River, has remained shut, as have the connections between the island and Ontario and New York State. Akwesasne residents, those who work on the reserve and those on business, are allowed to travel back and forth to Cornwall, Ont. The community has turned to using boats to gather supplies and visit relatives.
The Akwesasne Mohawk Council has said they’ve received only one phone call from a federal official last week to discuss the border-guard issue.
The Akwesasne council also issued a statement of concern regarding the Tyendinaga bridge blockade.
“It never was, nor is it, our people’s desire to act in a manner that would negatively impact our efforts to seek a diplomatic resolution,” said Akwesasne council spokesman Brendan White.
The Tyendinaga Mohawk Council quickly distanced itself from the action, saying it was the work of a “handful” of community members.
“We are in the dark as much as anyone else,” said council spokesman Mr. Brant Bardy. “This is not sanctioned by the council; it is a handful of individuals.”