The shooting death of a Quebec provincial police officer during the 1990 confrontation at Oka, Que. was deliberate, concluded coroner Guy Gilbert in a 500-page report released Aug. 17.
Gilbert ruled the AK-47 assault rifle that fired the shot which killed Cpl. Marcel Lemay, July 11, 1990 was held by a Mohawk Warrior whose intention was to kill. The round could in no way have come from the officer's own weapon or from another officer's gun, said Gilbert.
At least six warriors in the woods that day had weapons that could have fired the shot, but the coroner was unable to identify the shooter. He did write, however, the order to fire was given by Mitchell Deer as suggested by another Mohawak, Dennis Nicholas. Other Mohawk leaders identified in the report were Denis David, Francis Boots, John Denis Cree, Eba Beauvais, Kenneth Deer and Paul Delaronde.
The sniper was likely lying on his stomach and supporting the weapon with his elbows when the shot was fired. Lemay was standing still and pointing with his left hand. The bullet entered an area below the corporal's left armpit. The ammunition used was manufactured for military sharpshooters and couldn't have been sopped by Lemay's bullet-proof vest.
The coroner's inquest heard from 125 witnesses over a period of 138 days during 18 months. The resulting report was critical of both the Quebec and federal governments for their actions leading up to and during the 78-day stand-off.
Shooting began in response to an attempt by Quebec police to enter the woods to dismantle Mohawk barricades. Mohawks erected the barricades to prevent expansion of a golf course onto Native land.
By attacking the barricade, police became involved in a political battle between the band and the town where there were no lives being threatened and therefore no urgency to intervene, said Gilbert.
The report accused both governments of not taking the crisis seriously and did not develop communications with the Kanesatake band that would have prevented a confrontation with police.
The raid was conducted with no evaluation and analysis of the danger involved and under the assumption the Mohawk warriors would not shoot at police, despite warnings some had received military training in the U.S. armed forces.
When the order came from deputy directory Marc Lizotte at police headquarters in Montreal to enter the woods, there was confusion as to what was actually happening at Oka. The raid was improvised by officers at the scene and no senior officer was in a position to cancel the raid, read the report.
Ottawa has agreed to pay Quebec $50.7 million of the $108-million in expenditures the province was forced to make during the crisis. Costs incurred by the Surete du Quebec include $51.6-million in overtime payments of officers, $45,851 for ammunition and explosives, $72,768 for destroyed police vehicles and $325,550 for rental of cellular telephones.