Police rivalry wrecks Kahnawake raid.
Rivalries -- jurisdictional and otherwise -- between off-reserve police services and the local Peacekeepers foiled a raid on a warehouse on the Kahnawake Mohawk Territory in early September, a Kahnawake councillor says.
Members of the elected Kahnawake council took action to prevent a joint Royal Canadian Mounted Police/ Montreal Urban Community police operation on their territory, thwarting a raid that the RCMP believe would have yielded important evidence about smuggling and money laundering. The raid was to have been a key part of a massive police operation which resulted in the arrest of 30 people and seizures valued at over $100 million.
An RCMP spokesman in Montreal said that raids scheduled for Sept. 10 on Kahnawake properties owned by Matthew "Watio" Lazare were cancelled after council members told police that news of the upcoming raids had been leaked.
Councillors urged government and police officials to cancel the raids, saying the police officers' safety had been compromised by the leak.
But a Montreal Gazette story published several days after the fact revealed that Lazare and his associate Bryan Jacobs did not know about the planned raid. The story suggests that Chief Joe Norton and his council took steps to prevent the raid for political reasons and misled the off-reserve police services in order to prevent the raid.
The RCMP alleges that Lazare "headed" an organization that was linked to a "major network of Montreal-based criminal organizations."
The Mounties allege that the organizations involved "individuals related to outlaw motorcycle gangs, and dealt with various aspects of organized crime, namely: selling and buying bootleg alcohol, dealing in and possession of stolen goods, fraud, drug importation and trafficking, counterfeiting, bribery of federal public servants, alcohol cigarette and tobacco smuggling."
Because of the huge amounts of money involved in the criminal activity alleged by the RCMP and the appearance that the council shielded Lazare from the outside authorities, the perception is that the council must somehow be involved in some of the criminal activity. The Kahnawake council member who holds the policing portfolio is Chief Phillip Jacobs. He hotly denies the council is shielding Lazare but he said he knows where that idea came from.
"I don't think the mainstream media is ever going to understand us," he told Windspeaker. "We're against criminal activity of any kind. We're not trying to stop anything. We're not protecting criminals. We made a decision that we had to exert our jurisdiction and it leaves us looking like the bad guys."
He said that the outside police forces ignored the terms of a formal policing agreement involving the federal government, the province and Kahnawake and forced the council into a corner. Chief Joe Norton said the blame for that lies solely with the federal minister responsible for the RCMP, Solicitor-General Andy Scott. Jacobs said the outside forces have to learn that First Nations communities are different and that input from local authorities is crucial.
"This community has a long history of disputes with the police. We know our people best. We know how to avoid these headaches. We have to know what's going on. We're responsible. If they don't let us in on what they're doing, how are we going to look? What are we going to tell this community?" Jacobs explained.
Jacobs said the RCMP and MUC scheduled the raid without involving the local police service, the 23 officer peacekeepers. He suspects that was done because the outside forces don't completely trust or respect the peacekeepers.
"They should have at least the respect to talk to our people a couple of days before. If something like this is going to happen they should give our guys some time to have a look at it," he said.
The councillor said that the two-year-old Kahnawake Police Agreement clearly spells out that the peacekeepers have the jurisdiction on the territory and should be involved in-depth in any police operation. However, he added, "certain members of the MUC, the Surete de Quebec and RCMP have a paternalistic attitude towards our police and our people."
After the initial press release announcing the seizures, arrests and charges, the Montreal RCMP refused to comment on related matters and would not reply to the charges made by Jacobs and Norton.
Jacobs said the peacekeepers are maintaining a surveillance of the warehouse and the possibility of a raid is still available to the outside police.
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|Date:||Oct 1, 1997|
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