MONTREAL — Kanesatake’s grand chief said Monday that his people are not heading towards a second Oka crisis, despite tensions over a land dispute and a highly publicized war of words with the mayor of the nearby Quebec town.
In an open letter published online, Serge Simon said the current dispute over a developer’s intention to donate a parcel of land to the Mohawk community will not lead to a repeat of the 78-day confrontation that shook the region in 1990.
“I want to be clear: as far as I am concerned, there is no ‘Oka Crisis 2.0’ coming our way,” he wrote.
Simon wrote that many things have changed since 1990, including a Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the adoption of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the establishment of negotiations with the federal government.
But he said that doesn’t excuse the failure of governments to settle the questions surrounding the status of Kanesatake’s territory, “which should have been solved long ago,” nor recent inflammatory comments from Oka Mayor Pascal Quevillon.
The recent conflict began when news broke of local developer Gregoire Gollin’s intention to donate the 60 hectares known as The Pines to the Kanesatake Mohawk Council. Gollin said he was also prepared to discuss the sale of an additional 150 hectares he owns in Oka to the federal government to transfer to the Mohawk community.
Quevillon, whose community borders the Mohawk territory, angered many when he raised concerns that the land donation would lead to his community being encircled by Kanesatake. The mayor voiced fears of illegal dumping, lowered property values and an expansion of cannabis and cigarette merchants.
Last Friday, Simon and Quevillon met separately with representatives from the federal and provincial governments in an attempt to resolve the tensions, but they did not speak to each other.