Tensions high as Oka mayor demands consultation on return of land to Kanesatake
The Canadian Press
Published Thursday, July 18, 2019 4:35PM EDT
MONTREAL -- Tensions are high in Oka, northwest of Montreal, over a developer's plan to return land to the Mohawks of Kanesatake.
Hundreds packed a church Wednesday night in the community on the frontlines of the 1990 Oka Crisis to discuss the return of a pine forest as part of an ecological donation.
Oka Mayor Pascal Quevillon says his community wants to discuss the proposed transfer with the federal government and says some in the community share his concerns.
Quevillon has said he doesn't want another Oka Crisis but fears one could be triggered -- this time led by Oka residents worried about encroachment. His comments have drawn criticism, with some Oka residents suggesting his inflammatory rhetoric will do little to help relations.
Kanesatake Grand Chief Serge Simon says he's worried about the tone of the Oka mayor's comments, which he says contain a lot of misinformation.
But Quevillon doubled down, saying the adjacent Mohawk community has illegal dumps and cannabis and cigarette merchants, and he doesn't want those coming into his town.
Gregoire Gollin, a private developer, said he acted in the spirit of reconciliation in an agreement reached last month to cede 60 hectares of forest known as The Pines to the local Mohawk council as an ecological gift through a federal government program.
Gollin said he's 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 -- nearly half of which he said is adjacent to land owned by Kanesatake.