Leaders of the impoverished Innu community of Davis Inlet are outraged that Indian Affairs Minister Ron Irwin cancelled his meeting with Chief Katie Rich without warning.
A reception group waited for two hours at the village's church hall on the morning of Dec. 20 for the new minister, Rich said.
Word that he had cancelled his trip finally came six hours later in the form of a press release that Indian Affairs faxed to the band office.
"I have yet to meet the man," Richard said. "From what I have seen, and I have said this long time ago, I have no faith in any government. What else is new?"
Irwin said he was anxious to discuss health and safety concerns with the chief and see the conditions in the community first-hand but that it was inappropriate to go into the community of 500 "given the current situation."
One of his assistants telephoned Rich to request the meeting to be moved to Goose Bay, 330 kilometres to the south.
The community met on Dec. 19, however, and decided the conference should be held in the inlet, Rich said.
Irwin cancelled his visit after RCMP reported a recent jurisdiction dispute between the village and provincial justice officials had turned violent when a group of about 150 Innu youths gathered and began throwing logs and lumber at the RCMP's patrol building Dec. 16.
The alleged riot erupted after a group of 25 Innu, led by Rich, encircled Provincial Justice Robert Hyslop's bench at the community hall and told him that future court circuits would not be allowed.
Rich said she led the delegation which presented the judge with a letter condemning his court.
Hyslop threatened to charge the group with contempt of court, she said. When the Innu refused to budge, Hyslop excused himself to "make a quick phone call" and did not return.
Several RCMP officers then showed up and began removing court documents.
The Innu gathered outside the RCMP patrol building where Hyslop and six Innu prisoners were waiting to leave for Goose Bay, said Rich. The judge eventually left the community with one prisoner.
While she did not actually see the incident, Rich said there was some pushing and shoving at the airstrip as Hyslop left. When the five remaining prisoners were let out of the patrol building for transport to Goose Bay, the crowd "took them home."
RCMP reported the crowd of about 150 Innu youth then vandalized the patrol building by throwing logs and ripping lumber from the porch.
Some children were throwing snowballs at the building, Rich said. The lumber from the building's porch was taken to make a bonfire for the gathering crowd.
At one point, an RCMP officer emerged, ripped the remains of one railing off
and took it back into the building to keep it from being used as firewood.