Monday, April 2, 2007

Oconnor peddles back on radical natives

Final version of terror report will not refer to natives, O'Connor says
BILL CURRY April 2, 2007 TheGlobe&Mail

References to radical natives in the Canadian army's counterinsurgency manual will not appear in the final version of the document, Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor has announced.

The use of "radical Native American organizations" as an example of insurgents in a draft version of the manual has incensed native leaders, who viewed the wording as a threat to their political rights to protest.

Assembly of First Nations National Chief Phil Fontaine said yesterday the inclusion of natives in the manual could threaten the ability of Canadian natives to travel internationally.

But in a written statement, Mr. O'Connor explained that the document was simply making reference to past examples of insurgencies and was not meant to suggest that natives in Canada are a potential military target.

"The draft counterinsurgency manual was produced in September, 2005, under the previous government. The draft manual is not a final document, and continues to evolve and be updated," the statement from the minister said.

"The final version will not contain references to any current aboriginal organizations. The draft manual does not make comparisons between aboriginal groups and any insurgent groups," he stated.

"The draft manual does not state that any other particular group is a potential target of the Canadian military . . . What the draft document does do is use examples of past insurgencies from Canada and abroad to illustrate how some groups have resorted to violence or the threat of violence in the past in order to gain political influence or concessions."

The minister's office said the draft manual has been used to train Canadian soldiers for the mission in Afghanistan. The reference to natives will be removed because the manual is only for use in relation to that mission, a spokeswoman said.

The Globe published a report on the manual on Saturday. The report noted that the Mohawk Warrior Society was involved in the 1990 Oka crisis in Quebec, which spawned a 78-day confrontation with police and the military that left a police officer dead.

The draft manual's 164 pages outline a wide range of measures that could be used to assess, manage and defeat an insurgency.

On the 11th page, under the heading "Overview of insurgencies and counter-insurgencies," a paragraph is highlighted, which states: "The rise of radical Native American organizations, such as the Mohawk Warrior Society, can be viewed as insurgencies with specific and limited aims. Although they do not seek complete control of the federal government, they do seek particular political concessions in their relationship with national governments and control (either overt or covert) of political affairs at a local/reserve ("First Nation") level, through the threat of, or use of, violence."

There is no other mention of natives in the manual, nor does the manual add further context as to why that paragraph is included.

Five pages later, the manual gives other examples of insurgents, listing Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah and the Tamil Tigers.

Mr. Fontaine issued a statement yesterday describing the mention of radical natives as "shocking."