1984 | 45 min

Incident at Restigouche

by Alanis Obomsawin

In June 1981 a quiet Micmac reserve turned into a battlefield. One hundred and fifty men, and their wives and children, were invaded by 550 riot-equipped officers of the Quebec* Provincial Police. They arrived by air, land and water. Police brutality, arrests and confiscation of property marked the event.
Nine days after the first raid, Restigouche reserve was raided again. At issue were the traditional fishing rights of this small native community located on the Quebec*/New Brunswick border. The film records and reconstructs the raids.
The Micmac were accused of exceeding their quota and depleting salmon stocks. That summer they caught just 6 tonnes of salmon. Across the border and on the same river, the commercial fisheries of New Brunswick took 109 tonnes. And Sports fishermen from Newfoundland to Quebec* came away with a further 867 tonnes. These figures bear ample testimony to the true nature of the conflict. The real issue was, and remains, Indian sovereignty over Indian land.
A highlight of the film is a heated interview with Lucien Lessard, the Quebec* Fisheries Minister who ordered the two police raids. Conducted in the filmmaker’s own home, the interview becomes a confrontation. Obomsawin reminds her guest that the history of Quebec* did not begin with French Canada.
Incident at Restigouche provides an historical perspective through television, film and radio coverage. Men, women and children, some of whom were brutalized and arrested, relate their experiences.
The film puts justice on trial. It points out the irony of a government fighting for its own sovereignty while repressing the rights of its original citizens.