QUEBEC -- Crime can't rule on reserves and aboriginals must unite behind a chief whose house was torched during a policing dispute, the Assembly of First Nations said yesterday. The assembly's Quebec and Labrador chapter said it supports Mohawk Grand Chief James Gabriel, who had fled the Kanesatake reserve near Montreal before the fire broke out, and asked other aboriginals to support him.
The assembly announced it has set up a fund to help Gabriel and his family rebuild their home and replace their possessions.
His home was burned Monday night when tensions broke out between Gabriel and opponents who didn't support his initiative to replace the band's police chief and bring in outside aboriginal officers to fight organized crime, particularly marijuana growing operations.
"We certainly don't endorse crime on our First Nations," said Chief Allison Metallic of the Listuguj nation from Quebec's Gaspe region.
"We cannot let crime rule," Metallic said at a news conference.
Chief Ghislain Picard, head of the assembly's Quebec and Labrador chapter, said Gabriel is still the chief until he is democratically replaced.
"We reiterate our support for Grand Chief James Gabriel," he said.
Picard criticized the Quebec government for the deal it brokered to end the standoff and put the fired police chief back in power.
"It's deplorable and unacceptable that the government of Quebec negotiated with a minority whether they're elected or not," he said.
Picard didn't mention organized crime or marijuana, but he acknowledged aboriginal communities are "vulnerable" to outside influences.
Quebec Native Affairs Minister Benoit Pelletier said yesterday evening he will meet with Gabriel today.
In Kanesatake, west of Montreal, provincial police arson specialists were on hand to investigate the charred ruins of Gabriel's house.