Tag Archives: Oka

Grand chief of Kanesatake Mohawks says he’s at an impasse with Oka mayor over proposed land deal

Kanesatake Grand Chief Serge Simon, right, says he will agree to meet with Oka Mayor Pascal Quevillon if he apologizes for comments he made about property values dropping if Oka becomes ‘surrounded’ by Mohawks. (Ivanoh Demers/ Radio-Canada)

Serge Simon brushed off planned meeting with Oka, Que., Mayor Pascal Quevillon on Friday

Kanesatake Grand Chief Serge Simon passed on an opportunity to meet Oka Mayor Pascal Quevillon Friday, after the mayor refused to apologize for inflammatory comments he made about his Mohawk neighbours earlier this month.

Simon said he would meet face-to-face with Quevillon if he apologized for saying property values would drop in Oka, Que., if a proposed parcel of land in the municipality is formally transferred to Kanesatake, leaving Oka residents “surrounded” by Mohawks.

On Friday morning, Quevillon refused to do so — telling Radio-Canada that he would only be apologizing “for telling the truth.”

Speaking after a meeting with representatives of the federal and provincial governments to discuss the proposed land deal Friday, Simon said with no apology forthcoming, he’s “cutting off communication” with Quevillon.

Quevillon is opposed to an offer from a local developer to transfer 60 hectares of land to the Kanesatake Mohawks through the federal government’s Ecological Gifts Program and sell them an additional 150 hectares.

The deal would see Kanesatake take ownership of more of the area Mohawks refer to as The Pines — the same contentious undeveloped property that became the focus of international attention 29 years ago, when a 78-day armed standoff was sparked by the town of Oka’s plan to expand its municipal golf course.

Oka Mayor Pascal Quevillon said Friday morning that he does not intend to apologize for his comments. (Charles Contant/CBC)

In an interview with La Presse earlier this month outlining his opposition to the proposed land transfer, Quevillon said that Kanesatake is plagued by illegal dumps, cannabis and cigarette merchants, and contaminated water.

He said if the day comes that Oka loses jurisdiction over the disputed land to the Mohawks, there could be another Oka crisis — but this time it would be the people of Oka rising up against the Mohawks.

Simon called those remarks “hate-filled” and “racist.”

Treading carefully

Representatives of both the federal and provincial governments are treading carefully, promising to listen to the concerns of all sides in the dispute.

Simon met with Quebec’s Indigenous Affairs Minister Sylvie D’Amours, Montreal Liberal MP Marc Miller and Ghislain Picard, the regional chief of the Assembly of First Nations for Quebec, in Montreal at 9 a.m. ET on Friday.

A separate meeting between those federal and provincial government officials and the Oka mayor was set for 11 a.m.

Simon had said he was prepared to meet with Quevillon in between those two meetings to discuss their differences, if by then he’d received the apology he’s seeking.

Emerging from the meeting at 11 a.m., Simon doubled down on his refusal to meet Quevillon, saying the two are at an “impasse.”

“My council and I decided that we’re not going to give this mayor any more importance than he’s looking for,” Simon said. “He made it clear this morning he’s not going to apologize.”

Simon said that he’s not planning on cutting ties with any other mayors in the Regional County Municipality (MRC) of Deux-Montagnes, a wide swath of territory that includes Oka, all of which is part of the Kanesatake Mohawks’ unsettled land claim. He said other mayors in the MRC are more “respectful.”

Seven of those MRC mayors, including Quevillon, held a meeting by telephone conference Thursday, passing a resolution in support of the town of Oka. They called on all levels of government, including the community of Kanesatake, “to work in close collaboration in order to plan for the land use and development of the territory in a harmonious, reconcilable and coherent fashion.”

Grand Chief Serge Simon met provincial and federal politicians, along with the Quebec regional chief of the Assembly of First Nations, Ghislain Picard, in Montreal on Friday. (Kate McKenna/CBC)

No place at table for Oka, says AFN chief

After Friday’s meeting, Picard said questions around the proposed land transfer should only be a matter of discussion between the Mohawk Council of Kanesatake and the federal and Quebec governments.

The municipality of Oka has no place in those talks, Picard told reporters.

“Municipalities in Quebec are governments of proximity, and they’re not in a position to interfere.”

As for the mayor of Oka’s suggestion that the land transfer could trigger another crisis, Picard called that misinformation that’s simply exacerbating tensions.

Ghislain Picard said called the suggestion that the land transfer could trigger another Oka Crisis ‘misinformation’ and ‘propaganda’ that’s simply increasing tensions. (Charles Contant/CBC)

“I think the only ones speaking about another crisis [are] the mayor of Oka and yourselves, as media,” the AFN chief said.

“We haven’t given that impression or that perception on the part of our communities.”

Picard said the proposed land transfer is being made as a gesture of reconciliation and would be a way to “level the playing field” between Oka and the neighbouring Mohawk community.

“The economic opportunities are not the same, and that has to change,” he said.

Oka seeking compensation

For his part, the mayor of Oka is asking the provincial and federal government for compensation in return for a moratorium on development of the disputed land in order to put an end to tensions over unresolved land claims.

Speaking to reporters before his own meeting with government officials Friday, Quevillon conceded that his choice of words had caused some people to become upset but said he didn’t intend to make amends.

“I maybe didn’t use the words that some people would have liked me to use,” he said.

He seemed unaware of exactly which comments had left Simon feeling hurt and insulted.

With files from Radio-Canada, CBC’s Kate McKenna

CBC News · Posted: Jul 26, 2019


Tensions rise in Oka as mayor speaks of being ‘surrounded’ by Mohawks

Oka Mayor Pascal Quevillon says the village is at risk of disappearing if Kanesatake territory continues to grow. (Matt D’Amours/CBC)

Local developer plans to gift land to Mohawks of Kanesatake through federal program

The grand chief of the Mohawk community of Kanesatake, northwest of Montreal, is demanding the mayor of the neighbouring town of Oka apologize for what he’s calling “hate-filled” and “racist” remarks over a contentious land transfer proposal.

Oka’s municipal council held an information session Wednesday evening to discuss a local developer’s intention to gift 60 hectares of land to the Kanesatake Mohawks and sell them another 150 hectares through a federal program.

The village wants to be consulted on Grégoire Gollin’s proposed land transfer.

While the gesture was made in the spirit of reconciliation, it has also enflamed tensions between Oka and Kanesatake, 29 years after the armed standoff that began over Oka’s plan to turn some of that land in question, known as The Pines, into an expanded golf course.

Kanesatake Grand Chief Serge Simon says recent comments by Oka Mayor Pascal Quevillon will not help the two parties reach a compromise.

Speaking with La Presse columnist Isabelle Hachey, Quevillon said that he was concerned that the village would become “surrounded” by Kanesatake territory.

He said the Mohawk land is plagued with illegal dumps, cannabis and cigarette merchants and contaminated water.

“The day that enters the village, it’s certain that no one will want to come live in Oka. Our homes will lose value. [Mohawks] will buy them at a discount,” he told La Presse.

He said that if that day comes, there may be another Oka Crisis — but this time it would be the people of Oka rising up against the Mohawks.

Speaking on Radio-Canada’s Le 15-18, the mayor repeated his criticisms and said that Simon did not have control over the people of Kanesatake.

He said what citizens of Oka see does not match the picture that Simon paints of the community.

Members of the Mohawk community sing outside the church where the Oka municipal council information session took place. (Radio-Canada)

Mayor says he wants to avoid another Oka Crisis

Members of the Mohawk community drummed and sang outside the church where the meeting was held, and others, including longtime activist and artist Ellen Gabriel, sat inside and listened.

Quevillon told the audience he wants to meet federal and provincial representatives right away, and that he, too, wants to avoid another Oka Crisis.

In a show of displeasure, three Oka councillors walked offstage during the meeting, saying they don’t agree with Quevillon’s rhetoric.

Before the meeting, Simon said the mayor was spreading hatred by saying properties will lose value if more Mohawks move in and that the community has no intention of erasing Oka from the map.

Simon said development projects would benefit everyone, but as the rhetoric escalates, potential investors will be scared off.

And now, he says, he’s concerned about the safety of his people.

“What if a mob shows up there tonight and decides that they’re going to take it out on them?” he told reporters, pointing to a nearby home where Mohawk elders live.

Kanesatake Grand Chief Serge Simon says the mayor’s recent comments are ‘hate-filled’ and racist. (Matt D’Amours/CBC)

He said some people are considering making a criminal complaint against Quevillon, describing his recent comments as hate crimes.

“What he’s doing here could have an impact across the country,” Simon said.

At a public band council meeting earlier Tuesday, Simon shared the memorandum of understanding signed between the council and Gollin, whose wooded tract includes part of the Pines — the land at the heart of the dispute in the Mohawks’ unresolved centuries-old land claim.

In 2017, Mohawks protested against the clearing of land at the edge of The Pines for Gollin’s Domaine des Collines d’Oka housing development.

Gollin has since said he would freeze land sales, preferring to transfer the land to the Mohawks.

“As a citizen, I don’t have to wait for the government to do my contribution to reconciliation,” Gollin said.

‘We are not the thieves’

Simon said the agreement for the 60-hectare land transfer is not legally binding and that he would consult the people of Kanesatake before any deal is made, through Environment and Climate Change Canada’s Ecological Gifts Program.

The additional 150 hectares of land that Gollin wants to sell to the federal government could be purchased with settlement money being negotiated between Kanesatake and the federal government, Simon said.

The Oka Church was packed with people on both sides of the debate when Oka Mayor Pascal Quevillon took the stage Wednesday evening. (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada)

However, Quevillon said that if that settlement money is paid out, the town of Oka, population 4,000, isn’t big enough to survive.

“We are not the thieves,” he said after the meeting. “For 300 years, you have allowed residents of Oka to live here.”

“We are not being listened to, it’s as if we don’t exist.”

At the heart of that dispute was Kanesatake’s still-unresolved land claim, which includes the municipality of Oka and much of the surrounding land.

With files from Matt D’Amours and Radio-Canada

By: CBC News · Posted: Jul 18, 2019


Developer offers to give land back to First Nation where Oka Crisis happened

Canadian soldier Patrick Cloutier and protester Brad Larocque come face-to-face at Kanesatake near Oka, Que., on Sept. 1, 1990. Now, a Quebec developer is offering to give back land that was at the heart of the dispute. (Shaney Komulainen/The Canadian Press)

Land is a part of The Pines, a forested area important to the Mohawks of Kanesatake

A Quebec developer is offering to give back to the Mohawks of Kanesatake part of a forested area of land that was at the heart of the Oka Crisis.

Grégoire Gollin said he’s committed to transferring around 60 hectares of the forest known as The Pines in the spirit of reconciliation, through a federal ecological gifts program.

“As a citizen, I don’t have to wait for the government to do my contribution to reconciliation,” he said.

“My concrete gesture is to initiate giving back to the Kanesatake this piece of forest I own and they value a lot in their heart because it has been planted by their ancestors.”

In 1990, the municipality of Oka, Que., planned to expand a golf course in The Pines, sparking the 78-day standoff known as the Oka Crisis between the people of Kanesatake, the Sû​ré​te du Québec and later the Canadian military. The area is a part of a 300-year-old land dispute over the seigneury of Lake of Two Mountains.

“At the heart of the Oka Crisis, it was not money, it was the land,” said Gollin.

“I have significant pieces of land adjacent to Kanesatake, so I decided to make my contribution.”

The Ecological Gifts Program is a federal program through Environment and Climate Change Canada. (CBC)

How ecological gifts work

Environment and Climate Change Canada’s Ecological Gifts Program offers a tax benefit to landowners who donate land or a partial interest in land to a qualified recipient, via the Income Tax Act of Canada and the Quebec Taxation Act.

Scott Nurse, a policy analyst with the program, said it’s never been used to return land to a First Nation. In order for the gift to be approved, the land has to be certified by the province as ecologically sensitive, the recipient has to be approved and the land has to be appraised for fair market value.

“Recipients of ecological gifts must maintain the ecological gift and conservation status or receive authorization from the Minister of Environment and Climate Change for changing the use of the property or disposing of the property,” said Nurse.

Gollin has owned a section of The Pines for a number of years. In 2017, his housing project Domaine des Collines d’Oka sparked protests by people in Kanesatake for its proximity to The Pines.

Mohawk activist Ellen Gabriel has long wanted a moratorium on all development within the area under dispute until the land claim is resolved. She said more land has been developed in the area in recent years than what they opposed in 1990.

“Let’s settle the land dispute that was promised during the negotiations in 1990, so people can get on with their lives and we don’t have to keep worrying,” said Gabriel.

“It’s the first stage. The ultimate goal is to live in peace.”

Claim nears settlement

Canada accepted the claim in 2008 under the Specific Claims Policy, and negotiations have been ongoing with the Mohawk Council.

Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada said significant progress has been made since negotiations began, and that it’s currently reviewing a settlement offer. Settlements for specific claims are typically a cash amount and the opportunity to buy land from willing sellers.

In addition to the ecological gift, Gollin is also offering to make around 150 hectares of his vacant land available for purchase by the federal government to transfer to Kanesatake. His commitments to both were signed in a declaration of mutual understanding and agreement with Grand Chief Serge Simon on behalf of the Mohawk Council of Kanesatake in June.

Gabriel is skeptical of the agreement, as little information on its contents has been given to the community by the Mohawk Council.

“Nobody has seen it,” she said.

The agreement, obtained by CBC News, was first reported on by the Eastern Door newspaper in May.

While the agreement says it is subject to final approval by the Mohawk people of Kanesatake, consultation has yet to occur.

Mohawk leader Ellen Gabriel, far left, listens to Oka Mayor Pascal Quevillon during a protest in 2017 at the site of Gollin’s Collines D’Oka housing development. (Matt D’Amours/CBC)

“Gollin was kind of giving me hope that maybe we could progress, but if it’s such a good thing, why wouldn’t the agreement be made public to the community? And why weren’t we consulted on it?” said Gabriel.

She isn’t the only one questioning the agreement. Caitlyn Richard, 25, participated in the protests against Gollin’s housing development in 2017 and said seeing the clearing of the forested area was “scary, knowing that this is where I live and where I plan on living, and we’re polluting it.”

She says Gollin’s offer “sounds too good to be true.”

Kanesatake Grand Chief Serge Simon told CBC News the ecological gift suits the community’s goals with The Pines.

“Our goal has always been to protest the pine forest from any further development that undermines the peace of the region,” he said.

The band council will be seeking direction from the community on whether to accept, reject or seek changes to Gollin’s offer, he said.

Municipality calls meeting

Neither has Oka Mayor Pascal Quevillon, who is calling a meeting for July 17 to discuss the agreement with Oka residents.

According to a July 5 Facebook post, the municipality wishes to be consulted by the federal government before any land is transferred.

“This agreement to transfer vacant land and the federalization of municipal lots adjacent to the neighbouring land are more than worrying for the sustainability of our municipality,” wrote Quevillon.

“This is a file that needs to be taken into consideration today, because important consequences could be felt in the years to come…. Our municipal administration is wondering when we are going to be consulted by the federal government.”

Jeremy Teiawenniserate Tomlinson, 38, is hoping people of Kanesatake attend the meeting. He’s concerned about the lack of information given to his community about the agreement, and also wants residents of Oka to understand the root of the issue.

“Kanesatake is one of the oldest Mohawk communities. We’ve been here for so long and our land has been taken from us,” said Tomlinson.

“We’ve been dispossessed of it over the years, and it still continues after every level of government is preaching about reconciliation.”

Tomlinson, who was nine years old during the Oka Crisis, said he can’t help but feel similarities between then and what’s happening now when it comes to the community’s relationship with the nearby municipality.

“The village of Oka going against the community of Kanesatake and openly trying to mobilize efforts against what we are doing with our land — it’s not too far from what was happening in 1990.”

By: Jessica Deer · CBC News · 


Frustration Mounts as Land Dispute Continues in Oka, Que.

A sign is erected in Kanesatake, Que., where a housing project threatens a piece of land known as The Pines. (Steve Bonspiel/Facebook)

Residents of Mohawk community call on federal government to intervene in dispute over housing development

CBC News Posted: Aug 02, 2017

Frustration continues to mount in Kanesatake, Que., where residents of the Mohawk community are once again rallying to protect a stand of trees known as The Pines from encroaching development.

A protest was held on Tuesday near a housing project, Domaines des Collines d’Oka, about 60 kilometres northwest of Montreal.

The development is on land which is part of the Kanesatake Mohawks’ decades-old unresolved land claim.

The tension comes nearly three decades after an explosive and historic conflict erupted in the same area between the community, Sûreté du Québec and the Canadian Army.

Now, the Mohawks want Canada to intervene.

“The government and all the Crown actors need to act to stop the land fraud that’s been going on for 300 years,” said Ellen Gabriel, a resident of the community who become known to many as a spokesperson during the Oka Crisis in 1990.

“Stop the development that is depriving this generation and will deprive future generations from enjoying our lands as they become privatized and urbanized.”

Minister invited to community

Gabriel said that on July 15, Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett agreed to visit the community, but no date for that visit was set.

According to a news release issued by the Mohawks involved in Tuesday’s protest, “Minister Bennett also stated that she did not know what ‘they could do.'”

CBC News asked Indigenous Affairs if the department would be intervening in the situation at Kanesetake, but has yet to receive an answer.

Mohawk leader Ellen Gabriel, far left, listens to Oka Mayor Pascal Quevillon during a protest on July 12 at the site of the Collines D’Oka housing development. (Matt D’Amours/CBC)

On July 12, the developer said the project is already three-quarters finished and an additional 20 homes are planned for the disputed land.

“[The federal government] is talking about reconciliation, but this is not a good example of reconciliation as far as we’re concerned,” Gabriel said.


Kahnesatake: 270 Years of Resistance (VIDEO)

WATCH: Kahnesatake 270 Years of Resistance

On July 11, 1990, a confrontation between SQ police and Mohawk warriors propelled Native issues in Kanehsatake and the village of Oka, Quebec, into the international spotlight.

This Canadian documentary portrays the showdown between the Mohawk Nation and the predominantly white Quebec town of Oka, which is intent on developing land deemed sacred by the native people.

When members of the Mohawk tribe protest plans to expand a golf course into their territory, they form a barricade, leading to an armed standoff with provincial police that becomes increasingly tense, with the possibility of violence looming over the heads of everyone involved.

Director Alanis Obomsawin spent 78 nerve-wracking days and nights filming the armed stand-off between the Mohawks, the Quebec police and the Canadian army. This powerful documentary takes you right into the action of an age-old Indigenous struggle. The result is a portrait of the people behind the barricades.