Police officers display some of the marijuana, weapons and cash recovered from raids in Montreal and the Mohawk communities of Kahnawake, Kanesatake and Akwesasne on Wednesday March 26, 2008. (Ryan Remiorz / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
A massive police raid at three different Mohawk reserves in Quebec Wednesday morning netted $2.5 million in cash and a large firearms cache, including three grenade launchers.
The raids, 15 in total, resulted in the arrests of 29 people whom police allege were part of an international drug ring.
"This is a well-established criminal organization that's been operating . . . and exporting marijuana to the United States for several years," Supt. Steve Covey of the RCMP told CTV Montreal. "Definitely a lucrative organization."
About 110 kilograms of marijuana as well as some luxury vehicles were also seized in the operation.
Police said that they weren't sure the reason why such a large number of firearms, including assault rifles and grenade launchers, were accumulated.
"All the arms will be examined by experts, and we'll try to establish their provenance," Insp. Lino Maurizio of the Quebec provincial police said.
Charges laid after the raid include, conspiracy, drug trafficking, weapon charges and gangsterism.
About 300 police officers from the RCMP, Quebec provincial police, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and Mohawk authorities took part in the raids, which was coined "Operation Cancun."
Police allege that a drug ring was producing and exporting marijuana on the reserves, to be distributed mostly to the U.S.
The raids involved three Mohawk reserves:
Some of the drugs were grown in the Chateauguay and Mascouche regions, outside of Montreal, Maurizio said.
- Kahnawake, south of Montreal;
- Kanesatake, just west of Montreal and most famous for being the site of the 1990 Oka crisis; and
- Akwesasne, which straddles Ontario, Quebec and New York state.
The police investigation has been ongoing for over a year. It is expected to take another two months to wrap-up.
"This was a marijuana production and exporting operation. The pipeline seemed to be from the Mohawk territories here in Quebec across the U.S. border," CTV Montreal's Derek Conlon told Newsnet Wednesday.
Kahnawake is about a 75-minute drive from the U.S. border, and Akwesasne straddles it, he said, adding that Kahnawake appears to be at the centre of the operation.
While there's been ongoing contraband tobacco trade on the reserves, this has been the largest drug-related set of arrests, Conlon said.
Gordon McGregor, president of Quebec's association of aboriginal community police chiefs, said there have been serious problems at these reserves because of the flood of money and drugs.
"Imagine a little community when large amounts of money and drugs coming in like that, the trouble that comes with it,'" said McGregor.
"For us, our priority is drugs. Drug trafficking causes the biggest social problem in our communities.'"
I mean seriously addictive drugs or drugs with some major health concerns, sure.... there'd be an addition problem and perhaps gang related violence and what not.... but it's just dope.
Oh the firearms? Probably got them from the US in trade with some of the drugs.
Oh... did I get enough out there to stir the pot for some?