Quebec chief says only peaceful actions planned
A Quebec Innu leader says Premier Danny Williams misinterpreted his recent comments about going to "war," stressing he was referring to political and legal action, not violence.
But Real McKenzie said Thursday Quebec Innu could begin setting up barricades at two Labrador mining projects near Schefferville as soon as next month.
"At the political level, if we do make barricades, we're not going to use rifles and this and that," said McKenzie, who is chief of the Matimekush-Lac-John Quebec Innu community.
"It's going to be really pacifist, diplomatic, and we're going to express our disagreement with what the new policy the Newfoundland government was imposing to the mining companies."
McKenzie said Quebec Innu did not get enough jobs and benefits from those mining projects, which instead flowed to Newfoundland and Labrador.
But barricading Labrador resource projects would put Quebec Innu on a possible collision course with the Williams administration.
Natural Resources Minister Kathy Dunderdale said the province has no problem with "legal protests" that expresses a point of view, but would have a "serious issue" if that spills over into what she calls civil unrest.
"If you're going to come in and create blockades or stop legitimate activities that are going on within the province, then it's not going to be tolerated," Dunderdale said.
The two sides have clashed in recent weeks after Quebec Innu killed 250 caribou in a closed Labrador zone, in part to protest being left out of talks on resource projects.
"If they're talking about escalating that activity into further civil unrest, then what we are saying very clearly back to them is we're not going to stand for it," Dunderdale said.
She could not say how the province would respond, noting that it would depend on the actions of Quebec Innu.
Earlier this week, McKenzie told Canwest News Service Quebec Innu could block the development of resource projects in Labrador unless their concerns are assuaged. "It's a war that is getting underway," McKenzie told Canwest. "We are ready to fight."
Comments like those sparked Williams to accuse Quebec Innu of "inciting violence."
Williams vowed "threats to economic development activity such as the Lower Churchill and mining projects will not be taken lightly by our government."
McKenzie stressed Thursday he was not talking about violence.
He said Quebec Innu have been trying to engage in a dialogue with Newfoundland and Labrador for years on resource issues such as the potential Lower Churchill hydro project.
The Williams administration and Labrador Innu recently reached a land-claims deal - called New Dawn - which clears a major hurdle for the Lower Churchill.
The Quebec Innu say their constitutional aboriginal rights in Labrador are being denied.
McKenzie said they are "looking seriously" at court action to potentially block the Lower Churchill.
But Dunderdale said the government has a long-standing policy of not entering into negotiations with aboriginal groups outside the province while land claims remain pending within Newfoundland and Labrador.
She said the New Dawn deal does not extinguish any rights of Quebec Innu, but any such claims would be handled by Ottawa.