This weekend marks the 30th anniversary of the Oka Crisis. The land dispute between the Mohawk people and the town of Oka, Quebec began on July 11, 1990 and ended on Sept. 26. The SQ, RCMP and Canadian army were involved in the armed standoff at barricades erected by Mohawk land defenders in Oka and on the Mercier Bridge. The crisis resulted in one death and dozens of injuries. Despite the acquisition of the land at the centre of the dispute by the federal governments — the 17th century Mohawk burial ground was going to be developed into an expanded golf course with 60 condos — the dispute over the territory known as the Pines remains unresolved as developers continue to build there.
“Can we settle this? It’s been 30 years,” said Wanda Gabriel, who served as a liaison for the Kanesatake Mohawk during the crisis, to City News Montreal. “Actually, if you think about the land issue in Kanesatake, it’s been 300 years that our families have been taking a stand to protect our territory.”
A developer recently offered “an ecological gift” of part of the Pines to the Mohawks, but Gabriel remains unimpressed. “A stolen piece of land and we’re going to give it to you, with strings attached — that’s not a gift,” she said.
Yesterday, as convoys rolled through Kahnawake and Kanesatake to mark the 30th anniversary of the start of the Oka Crisis, Ghislain Picard, Chief from the Assembly of First Nations Quebec-Labrador, shared an open letter to Quebec Premier François Legault.
“Against all odds, through recent court actions, your government is today challenging the fundamental right of First Nations to be self-governing, our right to take charge of our own services for our families and children.
“Must we remind the premier that denying our right to self-determination will only make us redouble our collective efforts to ensure that Indigenous peoples get the respect they deserve? Putting so much energy and resources into impeding First Nations’ desire to better serve their populations will only exacerbate systemic racism and discrimination.
“It is difficult to be optimistic in the search for constructive solutions when the wounds of the relationship that should unite us are still contaminated by contempt.”
Read Picard’s full letter here. ■
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