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Canada Army Told to Clear Mohawk Barricades at Oka

From Reuters

Quebec Premier Robert Bourassa revived his order Thursday night to have the Canadian army clear the Mohawk barricades at the town of Oka after last-ditch talks aimed at a peaceful settlement broke off.

The announcement shattered beliefs that the seven-week conflict was on the verge of being resolved after other Mohawks at a reservation south of Montreal agreed Wednesday to help soldiers dismantle a blockade of a commuter bridge.

Bourassa said the negotiators from the Iroquois Confederation, which includes the Mohawk tribe, pulled out of the talks.

“It’s impossible for the government of Quebec to pursue any discussions without these negotiators,” he said.

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Adding to the confusion, Mohawk negotiators who arrived for scheduled talks were informed of the provincial government’s decision by reporters.

“We’re not aware,” said Chief Billy Two-Rivers of the Kahnawake reservation.

It was not clear when the army would move on the barricades at Oka, the resort 20 miles west of Montreal where the conflict began in July when a Quebec policeman was killed during a shoot-out.

The agreement struck between the Mohawks at the Kahnawake reservation and an army commander Wednesday afternoon took the Mohawks at Oka by surprise.

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The standoff began July 11, when policemen stormed a blockade erected by Mohawks to stop the town from extending a golf course onto land they regard as sacred.

In sympathy with their tribal brethren, the Kahnawake Mohawks set up a fortified blockade on the Mercier Bridge linking the island of Montreal to its southern suburbs.

It was unclear whether the collapse of the negotiations regarding the Oka barricades would affect the agreement to clear the bridge.

A solution to the impasse at Oka appeared imminent earlier Thursday. Quebec Indian Affairs Minister John Ciaccia, who met with Indians for 20 hours, reported some progress.

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