The federal department of Crown-Indigenous Relations says it won’t stop negotiating a land claim deal with a private developer that could see the land transferred to the Kanesatake Mohawk Territory.
The statement comes after the Quebec town of Oka called on the federal government to impose a moratorium on the proposed transfer of lands to Kanesatake.
“We are working collaboratively with the Mohawk Council of Kanesatake, and the municipality of Oka and look forward to continuing these discussions to ensure that there is a positive and respectful relationship between the communities,” said a statement from Crown-Indigenous Relations.
“Our work also includes our deep commitment to the settlement of the historical land claim of the Kanesatakehró:non, the People of Kanesatake, and to resolving past wrongs.”
Oka Mayor Pascal Quevillon is also asking for an RCMP detachment to police the Mohawk community.
The proposals were contained in resolutions adopted Tuesday evening addressed to the federal and provincial governments as well as to the Mohawk Council of Kanesatake.
Quevillon held the first public council meeting since tensions mounted after a local developer proposed returning privately held lands to the adjacent Mohawk community, about 50 kilometres west of Montreal.
Quevillon told the meeting that Oka wants to live in harmony with the neighbouring Mohawk community, saying strong ties between the two have developed over 300 years of history.
But the council is calling on Ottawa to hold consultations that would take into account the concerns of Oka residents over the proposed transfer of land.
The mayor also said an RCMP presence is needed to restore law and order in Kanesatake.
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.
Quevillon has been has been criticized for incendiary language – enough to be considered “hate speech” under the Criminal Code, according to Kanesatake Grand Chief Serge Simon.
But the grand chief has said he worried about the tone of the Oka mayor’s comments.
Quevillon claimed the Mohawk community has 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.
With files from the Canadian Press