A Mohawk chief and opposition politicians expressed outrage Tuesday after a provincial minister said aboriginals were more violent than the rest of Canadian society.
Public Security Minister Jacques Chagnon made the comments in the legislature during remarks about the embattled Mohawk community of Kanesatake, west of Montreal, which is embroiled in a tense policing dispute.
"I don't think it's a secret to anyone that in aboriginal societies and in Kanesatake society, there is a level of violence that is not found elsewhere," the minister said during Question Period.
The minister made similar comments in an interview published Tuesday in Le Journal de Montreal in which he said Kanesatake is "a much more violent community then the rest of society."
Mr. Chagnon also told the newspaper that "when a crow flies by [in Kanesatake]and someone isn't happy, they pull out their 12 [gauge shotgun]and fire at the crow. We don't see that anywhere else."
Mr. Chagnon refused opposition demands for an apology, saying his comments were based on facts.
Kanesatake was the scene of a 1990 land-claims standoff where armed warriors confronted provincial police and an officer was shot and killed.
Grand Chief James Gabriel, who was forced out of the settlement in January when his house was torched by dissidents, said he was insulted by the minister's comments.
"He's treating us like savages by saying that we're more violent than the rest of Canada," Mr. Gabriel said in an interview with Radio-Canada, the French-language service of the CBC.
"If the public security minister...doesn't support us in our efforts to allow Mohawk police to enter [Kanesatake] there will be civil disorder."
Earlier this month, masked protesters wearing army fatigues hurled stones and other objects at recently-appointed Mohawk officers trying to enter Kanesatake.
Mr. Gabriel has been governing in exile since his house was torched during a standoff in the community last January that was touched off when he brought in 50 aboriginal police officers to crack down on organized crime.
The Mohawk officers have yet to begin their patrols, and provincial officers have been policing the community in the interim.
Action démocratique du Québec Leader Mario Dumont said Tuesday he was shocked by Mr. Chagnon's comments and called for Premier Jean Charest to fire him.
"These are preposterous and irresponsible comments," said Mr. Dumont, adding Mr. Chagnon's handling of the policing dispute was a "comedy of errors."
Parti Québécois critic Stéphane Bédard said Mr. Chagnon's comments were a "crude error" that would only inflame an already tense situation.
The minister has taken heat from natives and political adversaries during the five-month dispute.
Earlier this month, he announced that a joint force of the RCMP, provincial and Mohawk police would begin patrolling Kanesatake, but Mr. Gabriel quickly denied the announcement after dissidents warned of violence.