Kanesatake Grand Chief Serge Simon has a message about a second Oka crisis: It’s simply not going to happen.
In an open letter dated July 29, Simon clarified half-truths, community complaints, and general murmuring about a possible repeat of the historic 1990 conflict.
Simon says his people are not heading towards a second Oka crisis despite ongoing tensions between his community and the neighbouring municipality of Oka.
“The Mohawks of Kanesatake have no intention whatsoever to live such a crisis again,” Simon wrote in the letter. “We are not for war. We strive for peace and harmonious cohabitation.
“I want to be clear: as far as I am concerned,” he added, “there is no ‘Oka Crisis 2.0’ coming our way.”
In the letter, Simon says the current dispute over a developer’s intention to donate a parcel of land to the Federal government as an “ecological gift” – with possibility of transfer back to the Mohawks of Kanesatake – will not become a violent conflict.
But he does concede there are shortcomings – or “neglect” – on behalf of the governments recently called to intervene in and mediate the dispute.
“The governments need to fix the mistakes of the past and take agreements to correct the long history of Canadian colonialism and healing the wounds that it caused,” Simon said.
But he says that still doesn’t excuse what he calls “inflammatory and racist” language from the mayor of Oka, Pascal Quevillion, who told reporters last Friday he does not intend to apologize for public statements made about Kanesatake.
Quevillion suggested the land transfer will decrease Oka’s property values, encourage the construction of illegal cigarette and pot shops, and disparaged Kanesatake as a place of illegal dumping and contaminated water.
Quevillon also raised concerns that the land donation would lead to his community being surrounded by Kanesatake.
Lack of knowledge
Simon said the mayor’s words are an example of the widespread lack of knowledge that exists about Indigenous history, realities and rights.
He called on Quevillion to stop using “colonialist language” and embrace a peaceful solution.
“The events of 1990 were particularly traumatizing and have left deep wounds,” Simon wrote.
“Rather than opening up those wounds, the mayor should turn to the future and understand that the interest of the community is in social peace, not confrontation.”
With files from The Canadian Press.