An investigation was launched Tuesday into criminal acts that may have been committed during a two-day native blockade set up on a busy southern Ontario highway into the town of Deseronto.
“We would be looking at possibly mischief charges and possibly blocking the highway charges,” Ontario Provincial Police Const. Jackie Perry said Tuesday. “Fires were lit on the highway, damage done to property. Those responsible for criminal wrongdoing will be held accountable to the full extent provided by the law.”
The blockade on the two-lane stretch of County Road 2 was lifted without incident Tuesday morning when OPP officers asked the breakaway group of native protesters to leave.
“It was a measured response,” she said. A decision was made [Tuesday] morning that the roads needed to be reopened.”
The protest began early Monday to draw attention to a land dispute with a local developer, Nibourg Developments.
The group of about 75 protesters, some belonging to the Mohawks of Bay of Quinte band, were asked to leave at around 9:45 a.m. Tuesday.
“Upon police intervention, the protesters dispersed without any physical altercation,” Const. Perry said.
The Tyendinaga Mohawk Council, which oversees the Mohawk band, said Monday it did not sanction the blockade which was held to draw attention to the Culbertson Tract — an area of 375 hectares of disputed land between Deseronto and southwest of Napanee, Ont., about 45 kilometres west of Kingston, Ont.
Negotiations over the land are ongoing with the federal government.
The owners of the Kingston-based Nibourg Developments, which claims the land, said they could not enter their business Monday for fear of their safety. They called on the federal government to take responsibility for land-claim issues.
“The inaction of the government is leading to unrest between the natives and non-natives and putting all people at great risk,” said Theo and Emile Nibourg in a news release Monday. “The federal government cannot accept the validity of the land claim and at the same time, not deal with private land owners.”
Last June, native protesters forced the closure of several highways in eastern Ontario and western Quebec, holding a national day of protest. Highway 401 connecting Montreal and Toronto, railway lines and a major Montreal bridge all were closed by Mohawk blockades. The peaceful protests were held to publicize native land claims and other disagreements with the federal government.